I never had the chance to see Tony Gwynn play in person, but I always considered him as a sort of West Coast version of my childhood idol, Cal Ripken Jr. They were different types of players, sure, but they were both universally respected, spent their entire careers with the same team, retired in 2001, and were enshrined in the Hall of Fame together. Now, after a long battle with cancer, Gwynn is gone at the age of 54.
No current Nationals player was closer to Gwynn than Stephen Strasburg, who played two seasons for Gwynn at San Diego State and considered him a father figure. Former Nationals catcher Brian Schneider will always remember Gwynn as the first player to congratulate him on his first major league hit.
— Brian Schneider (@Schneids2323) June 16, 2014
Gwynn was the second guy to come to bat after Schneider’s first career hit on May 27, 2000. (The leadoff batter that inning, Al Martin, may have forgotten to congratulate Schneider, or didn’t realize he just collected his first career hit.)
“The next inning, Tony Gwynn came up to bat and he said, ‘Congrats,'” Schneider told The Morning Call last year. “When he told me that, it was kind of surreal. It was just cool to have one of the best hitters of all time say that. It put a stamp on the day.”
Several other current and former Nationals responded to the news of Gwynn’s death on Twitter.
“Remember these two things: Play hard and have fun.” -Tony Gwynn R.I.P.
— Zachary Walters (@Zwalters02) June 16, 2014
Sad times. Tony Gwynn was a super hero in a lot of people’s eyes, including mine. Prayers go out to his family and friends.
— Ian Desmond (@IanDesmond20) June 16, 2014
Sad day in baseball..We lost one of the greatest hitters that ever played! Tony Gwynn you will be missed by many! Prayers out to his family!
— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) June 16, 2014
Can’t believe the news about Tony Gwynn. In shock right now!
— Denard Span (@thisisdspan) June 16, 2014
Rest in peace, Mr. Padre. With heavy hearts we join the baseball world in mourning the passing of Tony Gwynn. pic.twitter.com/GBIvFVOMcV
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 16, 2014
Baseball lost a legend today. RIP Tony Gwynn.
— Double M’s (@Mcode38) June 16, 2014
Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who attended the same high school (Long Beach Poly) as Gwynn, shared his condolences on Instagram.
RIP TO ONE OF THE GREATEST HITTERS IN THE GAME !! ALUMI OF LB POLY TONY GWYNN ONLY 54 YEARS OLD !! GOD BLESS HIS CHILDREN & FAMILY !! LIFE IS TO SHORT U NEVER KNOW WHEN UR JOURNEY WILL B CUT SHORT LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST !! 1 LOVE