The emotions all came pouring out at Petco Park on Wednesday night. After spending the better part of two days coming to grips with the reality that Tony Gwynn, the franchise's greatest player, a baseball Hall of Famer, and, most importantly, a kind and wonderful human being, was gone after a four-year battle with cancer, the city of San Diego and the Padres franchise were finally able to come together to grieve his death and celebrate his life.
Gwynn's No. 19 was visible everywhere. From right field, where he spent the majority of his career roaming on the field, to behind home plate, the scene of his greatest moments, Gwynn's memory was marked by that number. The Padres were also wearing a patch with No. 19 inside a home plate logo on their jerseys over their hearts, and received permission from MLB to wear a special cap honoring Gwynn. Again, the No. 19 was featured along with the home plate logo.
For one night anyway, Gwynn's famous number stood out above the rest.
The on field tributes included a special video chronicling Gwynn's amazing 20-year career in San Diego. It was also a cool moment when the San Diego State baseball team, where Gwynn played his college games and then coached for 11 years following his MLB career, surrounded the mound for the game's ceremonial first pitch. Executive head coach Mark Martinez made the delivery.
“It’s extremely humbling for them to even think of me and the Aztec family,” Martinez leading up to the honor. “Tying the two together is such an honor for all of us to be a part of that.
To close out the pregame ceremony, the Padres players all surrounded the No. 19 that had been painted in the grass in right field to bow their heads and pay their respects. It made for a visual that was both heart-wrenching and heart-warming.
Following San Diego's 2-1 victory against the Seattle Mariners, the fans then took over where the Padres left off and paid tribute in their own way.
A man that has meant so much to baseball and to the world in general is gone, but it's assured he'll never be forgotten.
On behalf of the Gwynn family, the Padres also announced that a free, public memorial will be held on Thursday, June 26, at 7:19 p.m. local time at Petco Park. Of course, that's 19:19 in military time, which is fitting for San Diego.
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