June 16, 2014
Dear Nate, Taylor and Josiah,
I am sad today. Mr. Padre died.
Why am I sad? Because you were born at the wrong time, and never got to see him play; never got to experience him. You see, he retired back in 2001, 5 years before you were born Nate (you are 7 now in 2014).
Anthony “Tony” Keith Gwynn was my favorite baseball player. As you guys know, I grew up in San Diego County, and went to Jack Murphy Stadium to watch the Padres back when I was your age. Tony was drafted in 1981, and started playing for the Padres in 1982 when I was just 6 years old. I got to go to a lot of Padres’ games because my dad’s company (Coors) had great season tickets in Plaza 26, behind home plate. I loved watching the Padres!
And for 20 years, Tony Gwynn held down right field for the Padres. That’s why he got the name Mr. Padre! It’s sad you guys, but nobody plays for one team for 20 years anymore. Tony did. Why did he? Because he loved the Padres, and he didn’t love the money. Nowadays so many professional baseball players play for teams for only a short while, and many will play for 5-6 different teams. There were many times that Tony could have left for a lot more money, but he didn’t. And it wasn’t just because he played so long for the Padres that he got that nickname. It was because of HOW he played and the PERSON he was.
I was lucky enough to meet him a handful of times at The Murph. I got his autograph on things like baseball cards and pictures, to keep them, not sell them! That’s how it was back in the 80s. You met guys like Mr. Gwynn, got his autograph on a ball or a card and put that up on your wall at home. Back in 1986, the season after my dad, your grandpa died, I got to go in to the Padres locker room and meet a bunch of the team! It was amazing. I remember clearly meeting Mr. Gwynn that day. He was such a nice person. Always gracious to sign autographs at the stadium, and to make time for people.
Here’s what I want you to really learn today kids: nobody is calling the radio station in San Diego today and crying because they miss Tony Gwynn the player. They are calling to talk about Tony Gwynn the man, and that’s what is making his friends cry. It’s an amazing lesson for all of us to learn, and to remember.
God gives each one of us talents. And for Tony Gwynn, he gave him the talents to be a phenomenal athlete. You will have a lot of choices on how you go about using that talent. You can use the talent that God gives you to serve only you, or you can use the talent to serve yourself AND others. That’s what Tony did. That’s what made him special. That is why the San Diego Chargers took time out of a busy day today to go down to Petco Park to remember Tony, and to pay their respects to him. That is why the phones haven’t stopped ringing at Xtra Sports 1090 in San Diego today. Because he served others during his phenomenal baseball career. And I want you to serve others in your life too.
I’ll close with this story. In July of 2007, he was inducted in to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. This is the highest honor for a Major League Baseball player. This is a very special day for any baseball player, it is the absolute highlight of their career. And it’s a very busy day for them. A day that is mapped out, and planned out months and months in advance. They spend the entire day doing events, giving a speech, signing autographs, going to parties, etc. But that day, he took some time out of the day all about HIM to think of OTHERS!
You guys know my friend Courtney. She worked for him at San Diego State when he was the Head Baseball Coach there. Isn’t that awesome that she got to work with him?! I was jealous! Well, that morning that he was inducted in to the Hall of Fame, she had a surgery on her hip from many years of being a great athlete. Courtney played NCAA Division 1 basketball. Well, on the most prestigious day of Tony Gwynn’s life, he called her. He took the time to call her that morning. That is how Tony was. There are story upon story today that I’m hearing on the radio station about Tony. He lived his life in such a way that he served OTHERS, not just himself. And this is just ONE story from ONE person about what Tony did for others.
I hope that each of you learn this important lesson from Mr. Padre. Use the talents that God has given each one of you for OTHERS, not just yourself. If you do, you will bless many others, and you will be loved by many others, just like Tony Gwynn!