The news of Tony Gwynn’s death struck close to home. Soon after hearing about the passing of one of baseball’s all time best hitters, I received a text from my father: “Tony Gwynn was my age.” The news had shaken him up.
As a son, what do you say in that situation? You can point out the differing health circumstances, but that doesn’t help. Comforting your father is tricky business. When mortality is on the mind, it’s hard to shake. The statement is still out there, nagging and eating away. We were the same age. The fact remains that Tony Gwynn was way too young to die. He had so much life left to live, so much left to do. Yet, death came anyway, as it often does.
Gwynn was a tremendous major leaguer. He had 3,141 hits, good for 19th in MLB history. Gwynn’s lifetime average was .338, and he only batted under .300 once in 20 seasons. He won 8 batting titles and was well-respected by his peers and fans, being selected to appear in 15 All-Star games. Gwynn is known as one of, if not the best, modern hitters. Pitchers couldn’t back him into a corner. He used the entire field. He was also known as a superb defensive player, even with his larger frame in his later days.
Gwynn lost his life after a long fight with salivary gland cancer, which he attributes to his use of chewing tobacco. Chewing tobacco use, while not as common as it used to be in baseball, is still fairly widespread. It’s a shame that we had to lose such a great player so young, and it’s a shame that so many players still dip after seeing what Gwynn went through.
While his son might not be the same prolific hitter, Tony Gwynn, Jr. is still in the Majors trying to do his father proud. Tony Gwynn, Jr. is a year older than I am, far too young to lose your father. Seeing my dad feel that way gave me an awful sense of helplessness. What do you say? What can you say? But then my dad came back saying that every day is a bonus.
That’s the key, enjoy what you have. Tony Gwynn might have died too young, but he lived a full life as one of baseball’s best. Every day is a bonus, so it’s important to make it count.