PHOENIX — For as great as Tony Gwynn the player was — and make no mistake, he was one of the all-time baseball greats — it was Tony Gwynn the person that had the most profound effect on people, including his one-time boss.
“No ego. Very simple man. Family man first. Incredible work ethic. Integrity. Credibility. An icon in San Diego in every sense of the word,” said Kevin Towers, who prior to being the Diamondbacks’ general manager held the same position with the Padres. “I think more people are missing the person and the dad and the family man Tony Gwynn probably now than the player.”
Towers was in San Diego for 12 of Gwynn’s 20 seasons, including the final seven as the team’s GM.
“When I think of Tony, he’s probably the guy that put the Padres on the map,” he said. “I mean the first 11 to 12 years of Padres history, there’s probably not a lot to write about or talk about until he came on the scene. He became ‘Mr. Padre’ at a very young age.”
Upon learning of Gwynn’s passing from cancer at the age of 54 early Monday, Towers called it a kick to the stomach.
Closer Addison Reed, meanwhile, said Gwynn’s death was a shock.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me,” said Reed, who played for Gwynn at San Diego State.
“He gave me a huge hug when I said I committed to San Diego State. That’s something I’ll always remember,” said Reed, who went 8-2 with a 2.50 ERA as a junior in 2010. “Obviously, I wasn’t a hitter in college, but that didn’t stop him from trying to help me and help me just trying to become the best person I can be — not only on the field but off the field. He taught me to be a professional.
“He left a great legacy behind and he’s going to be missed.”
A 15-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove Award winner, Gwynn owned a .338 lifetime average with 3,141 hits and eight batting titles, the latter of which is tied for the second-most in Major League Baseball history.
“He seemed like he had the ability to hit the ball where you weren’t. He’s one of the few guys — Rod Carew was another guy — that was like that in my career,” said D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, who competed against Gwynn and the Padres in the 1984 World Series. “You defend, you move your defense over and he just had the ability to guide the ball where he wanted it to go.
Towers also suggested Gwynn would be even more potent if he were still taking the batter’s box against modern pitchers and defenses.
“(In) today’s era with all the defensive shifts, he would kill it. This guy could manipulate a baseball like nobody I ever saw. This guy just had a knack for barreling up a ball.
“There’s not going to be another Tony Gwynn.”