I'm far from a San Diego Padres fan, but I'm most definitely a Tony Gwynn fan.
I grew up watching Gwynn compete against my Dodger heroes. I respected him as a player, and I recall he played very well in his only shots at World Series titles. I thoroughly remember when all of baseball watched his batting average as he flirted with hitting .400.
In the days since Tony's passing, I've read and heard numerous stories about Tony Gwynn being a kind, personable and all-around nice guy. I'd like to now add my small testimony to that fact.
I actually have one and "a half" stories attesting to Tony's great attitude toward us, the fans. The half story is a simple one. Gwynn was nice enough to sign a couple of cards TTM for me. Not a big deal, really, but a big enough deal for me, a true Gwynn fan.
My other breif brush with Mr. Padre occured a couple of years ago when the All-Star game was held in Anaheim (not Los Angeles - An - a - heim). Although I didn't attend the game, I grabbed the family and we headed out to the All-Star Fanfest held at the Convention Center.
The day we were there, Gwynn was holding a hitting clinic for kids. They had a small baseball diamond set up inside the Convention Center, and although I could see Gwynn working with the kids, he was certainly busy, and there was no way I was going to get close to him.
After a couple of hours seeing the great exhibits and waiting in line for different Fanfest treats, we left the boys to stand in line for something or another, and my old lady and I plopped down at a table in the food court area to enjoy a cold drink and a bit of rest.
Our table was right at the edge of the food court roped off border and close to some rear exit doors leading out of the convention center.
At one point I looked up and who was walking toward those exit doors- and toward us? It was none other than Tony Gwynn (and a few other folks surrounding him).
As the group approached us, I caught Tony's eye and said, "Hey there, Mr. Baseball!" Tony looked over at me and smiled. He slowed a bit and said hello and asked if we were enjoying ourselves. I said yup, we waved so long, and he was on his way past us and out the doors.
It was a small moment in time, a breif encounter with a Hall of Famer, and one that will remain with me for the rest of my life.