Tony Gwynn got the best kind of tribute from the San Diego Padres on Wednesday — a touching on-field remembrance and a win from the team he gave his Hall of Fame career to.
The former Padres great died this week after a battle with cancer, and in their first home game since his passing the team paid a fitting tribute. Mark Martinez, Gwynn’s top assistant coach at San Diego State, threw out the first pitch to Padres manager Bud Black, who also played with Gwynn at San Diego State.
The team also painted a No. 19 — Gwynn’s number — in the grass.
The Padres then responded to the emotion of the moment, beating the Seattle Mariners 2-1.
“It was a little different today,” Black said. “Even when the game was over. I think everybody handles what has happened with Tony a little bit differently.”
After the win, Padres players and coaches gathered around the No. 19 painted in the grass and observed a 19-second moment of silence.
“It all sort of hit home and I’m sure that the stadium, not just the 25 players, but all of us here in the stadium, have come across Tony,” Black said.
Pinch-hitter Tommy Medica, who had the game-winning hit, said the entire league is mourning the loss of one of its greatest hitters.
“You could see it on the road, even in Seattle, I mean, there were Tony Gwynn jerseys all over the place,” Medica said. “You could see how much he meant to baseball, let alone the San Diego Padres organization. You could see it again tonight, and all the great things he’s done for this team and for baseball. I’m sure he was smiling down after that win.”
The death of Tony Gwynn could have further consequences on the game. His long battle with mouth cancer has drawn attention to the dangers of chewing tobacco, which was prevalent during his playing days but has since been heavily restricted by Major League Baseball. Some believe Gwynn’s death could be the impetus for a full ban from the game.