BOSTON — You didn’t have to be close to Tony Gwynn to appreciate the type of player and person the former San Diego Padres outfielder was. Just ask Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Gwynn died of cancer Monday at age 54, sending shockwaves across Major League Baseball. Farrell, who played in the American League during the height of Gwynn’s illustrious career, reflected on his memories of the Hall of Famer before the Red Sox’s game against the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park.
“It’s a sad day for the baseball world with his passing,” Farrell said. “My only interactions with him on the field were in spring training, having had spring training in Arizona with the Indians at the time he was with the Padres. It’s shocking to see a guy of that age be taken from us, but just an incredible figure in San Diego in general, not only with the Padres but a player and coach at San Diego State.”
Gwynn spent his entire 20-year career with the Padres, collecting 3,141 hits, 15 All-Star selections, eight National League batting titles, seven Silver Sluggers and five Gold Gloves. He’s considered by most baseball enthusiasts to be one of the greatest pure hitters in the game’s history.
“You always marveled at what an accomplished hitter (he was),” Farrell said Monday. “He made hitting an art with the way he performed over a long and a really successful career.”
As the league mourns the passing of a legend, there are questions as to whether MLB might become even more proactive in cutting out the use of smokeless tobacco, which seemingly played a major role in Gwynn’s cancer and eventually his death.
“The steps that are taken by MLB just to educate everyone in the game are what we adhere to as well here with us,” Farrell said regarding the use of smokeless tobacco on his team. “I can’t give you an exact number of guys that might choose to use tobacco here. All are assuming a certain level of risk. When something like this happens today with Tony Gwynn, whether or not it’s directly related to smokeless tobacco, it makes everyone in the game I think pause and look at, ‘Does the individual need to make a conscious decision for himself if he uses it?’”
The world lost a great one Monday. No personal interactions are necessary to realize that.