Since 1983, when he broke into the majors, my personal hometown hero has been the retired baseball player, Tony Gwynn. He’s currently the baseball coach at San Diego State. Last year he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I wanted to list out the reasons I admire him, so here goes:
- He has an impeccable work ethic. He applied this to baseball skills, especially in the use of video tape to analyze his stance and swing as a hitter.
- Combined with hard work, he found a niche, and worked that niche his whole career. His niche was hitting singles as opposed to home runs. In this era of Moneyball and Sabermetrics, he might have been more appreciated, nonetheless he hit .394 in 1994. This is a feat that might never be replicated.
- He is a genuinely nice guy.
- He has an unabashed love of fast food. He may have to pay for that in old age, but he loved it anyway. Despite being overweight, he generally avoided injury.
- He never had to cheat to excel. While it’s becoming well-known that his peers were looking for shortcuts in the 80s and 90s, Gwynn has never been implicated in any steroid scandals. His lack of power numbers supports that. “But everyone else is doing it” probably didn’t even register.
- He was loyal to the team and the city: He took less money to be happier playing for his hometown.
- He didn’t get a lot of glory as he spent his whole career in a small market (Mexico to the south, water to the west, desert to the east, Dodger Blue to the north).
Adding it all up: This small-market player, who “just” hit singles and doubles, with a taste for Taco Bell, was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, my an overwhelming margin, with a vote total on par with Cal Ripken (another hard worker). Best of luck to Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds in even making it to the Hall of Fame.
I have my Tony Gwynn bobblehead proudly displayed in my cube.