RIP Tony Gwynn: A Surreal Night at Safeco Field

tony-gwynnOn June 16th, I woke up to the unfortunate passing of one of the greatest baseball players to ever live.  Tony Gwynn was gone too soon at the age of  54 due to cancer.  I’ve penned many baseball blogs and the impact it has played on my life.  When cancer then sneaks into that conversation, it stings me even more; I hate that disease.

Tony Gwynn was a class act.  He played the game the right way.  The baseball world lost a true icon and a member of baseball royalty.  “Mr. Padre” as he was known to many, will never be forgotten.  Greatest hitter during my lifetime.

The Padres just arrived to Seattle for a very brief two game series.  I was a last minute fill-in to work statistics for the Padres broadcast and I knew it would be unlike any game I had ever worked.  I wanted to pay tribute to Tony Gwynn and I knew exactly what I was going to do.

002

I moved into my new house about three weeks ago and I had unearthed my baseball card collection that I had boxed up and put into storage.  I went into my garage, found an old binder and took out two sleeves of Tony’s cards.  I displayed them next to my “desk area” once I arrived at the stadium.

001 I worked for the Padres last summer and they are one of the most energetic and fun crews to work with.  Sadly, the minute I arrived at Safeco Field, I could tell the mood (as expected) was incredibly somber.  That was magnified when legendary broadcaster Dick Enberg came and sat down next to me to chat.

Dick

When I previously worked for San Diego, Mr. Enberg did not make the trip to the Emerald City, so I was unaware until that exact moment that he was there.  I was going to be his stats guy… say what!?  I can’t express properly how unique and blessed I am to say I was given the opportunity to work with him.

With EnbergMr. Enberg gave an incredible eulogy-like moment during the pregame show that I will never forget.  He spoke from the heart and for all of San Diego during their time of grief.  Tony Gwynn was more than just a ballplayer, he was San Diego’s favorite son and a symbol of their beautiful city.  It gives me chills just thinking about that moment in time.

We got into the game and there were many great stories shared about Tony.  It was less about the game and more about him on this night, and rightfully so.  However, in this time of mourning, something unique happened in the 6th inning.

Click on the image below for the video MLB.com provided.

I was in the middle of writing a game note to Mr. Enberg when Seth Smith’s foul ball came right back into our booth.  I came away unscathed but my monitor was hit and broken.

003 004I picked up the ball that had just narrowly missed us, showed it to the crowd and received a nice cheer.  For that moment in time, we got to think about something different and have a laugh.  It was pretty unique.

005  008 007 009I’ve only had one foul ball ever find its way to me (John Jaso – September 2012)… I wasn’t expecting this one at all!  Luckily nobody got hurt and my laptop was 2 feet to the left.

The game carried on and ended in less than 3 hours.  It was a mixed day of emotions but I am thankful I was there to honor Tony Gwynn and provide some incredible stats that supported his Hall of Fame career.  He will be missed.

As I was packing up and getting ready to leave, I found a sheet of thoughts from Mr. Enberg’s piece on the life of Tony Gwynn.  Being the baseball historical buff that I am, rather than throw it away, I grabbed it.  It can live with my card collections.

Note

I’ve never had a night like this in all the years of varying sports events I have worked.  It was sad, it was unique, it was historical.  My career path in the world of sports television may not have gone (or go) in the direction I had once hoped for, but it’s nights like these that make me feel fortunate to work in this industry.

The game of baseball has meant so much to me and has given me so many things, I can honestly say that despite the sadness of June 16th at Safeco Field, it was unlike any other day.  It was surreal.

My thoughts are with the Padres for their irreplaceable icon.  RIP, #19.

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