Tony Gwynn Jr. and his father, hopefully, got to speak on the phone Sunday on Father's Day. It wasn't clear, based on the feature by Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly, if the Gwynns got the chance.
“I always try to get in an I love you,” the junior Gwynn said. “For a while that was uncomfortable for me, I don’t know why. But since 2010, it hasn’t been uncomfortable. It’s something I want to make sure I get in because you never know what’s going to happen.”
Salisbury's post on the Philadelphia Phillies outfielder and his Hall of Fame dad is wonderful, but it's also sad and eerie, with unfortunate foreshadowing of events that unfolded way too soon.
Tony Gwynn Sr. died Monday at age 54. He had been ill with salivary gland and mouth cancer, which he suspected, true or not, was related to his dipping tobacco. The head baseball coach at San Diego State since he retired from the San Diego Padres in 2001, Gwynn had taken a leave of absence this spring related to his cancer treatment.
Gwynn's son, using Twitter, gave a quick but touching statement that summarized his feelings:
Today I lost my Dad, my best friend and my mentor. I'm gonna miss u so much pops. I'm gonna do everything in my power to continue to...— Tony Gwynn Jr. (@tonygwynnjr) June 16, 2014
Love u pops!— Tony Gwynn Jr. (@tonygwynnjr) June 16, 2014
Make u proud!— Tony Gwynn Jr. (@tonygwynnjr) June 16, 2014
Some of the son's greatest memories of Gwynn came the year he played for him in college because, Gwynn Jr. said, he had his dad with him every day. There were no road trips they didn't share, as when Gwynn Sr. played with the Padres.
And Tony Gwynn's son definitely had to share his dad with the rest of the world.
He is so identifiable with San Diego’s major league baseball team that they call him Mr. Padre. It says it right on the statue outside the stadium.
To Tony Jr., Mr. Padre is just “Pops.”
“My best friend,” said Tony Jr., a 31-year-old outfielder in his eighth big-league season and first with the Phillies. “Just a good dude.”
In 2010, Gwynn was diagnosed with cancer. Since then, there have been some good times, and lots of good conversations on the phone, but lately, they had talked way too much about Gwynn's health and not baseball.
The last few months have not been awesome.
“This has been the hardest of the four years he’s fought it, by far,” Tony Jr. said.
“When I left for spring training he was in a good spot, and now he’s not in that same spot, so from that standpoint I guess it has worsened. But in the big scheme of things, which is getting healthy so he can do the things he wants to do, I see light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t say that he does, but then again he’s the one going through this, and it’s tough on him.”
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