Strasburg tries to quit chewing tobacco after Gwynn's diagnosis

Mark Townsend
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The news of Tony Gwynn's parotid cancer diagnosis last September shocked a lot of people. But at least one famous player is trying to turn that shock into a positive lifestyle change for himself.

Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg(notes) played for Gwynn at San Diego State and he shares the same unhealthy addiction — chewing tobacco — that Gwynn believes caused his condition.

Strasburg began "dipping" smokeless tobacco during his days at West Hill High School in San Diego. Now, after hearing of Gwynn's battle, he says he's motivated to kick the habit that could potentially threaten his long-term health.

From the Washington Post:

"I'm still in the process of quitting," Strasburg, 22, said. "I've made a lot of strides, stopped being so compulsive with it. I'm hoping I'm going to be clean for spring training. It's going to be hard, because it's something that's embedded in the game."

One has to commend Strasburg for taking those difficult first steps towards putting this addiction behind him, and we wish him well as he continues the fight to preserve his health.

As he said, it won't be easy.

The Washington Post article by Adam Kilgore documents Major League Baseball's attempt to educate players on the effects of chewing tobacco, the league's battle to outright ban its use on its fields, as well the side effects that make quitting the dangerous habit so challenging.

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As with all addiction battles, it's uphill both ways on so many levels. That's something Strasburg seems to understand, and may be why he's not prepared to begin lecturing his peers.

"I'm not going to sit here and be the spokesperson for quitting dipping," Strasburg said. "I'm doing it for myself. I'm not saying anything about anybody else — it's their personal choice. For me, it's the best decision."

It definitely is the best decision for anyone.

And hey, if Strasburg's decision inspires one of his colleagues to reevaluate his smokeless tobacco usage, or sheds enough light on the issue that parents and young aspiring ball players become better educated, he's done more than anyone could have asked for.