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Sunday
Jun162013

Why Tony Gwynn Is Great

 

     In the winter of 1994, I was an intern for NBC in San Diego. Sports Director Jim Laslavic knew how much I idolized Tony Gwynn, so he sent me out to get a sound byte from my idol — who was giving a hitting clinic at the San Diego School of Baseball.

    As photographer Mike Osment — arm seen in pic — set up, my stomach churned with butterflies; a million thoughts raced through my brain. What do I ask him? About the Padres fire sale? The upcoming season where the Pad's were sure to finish last? How many more batting titles he thinks he can win?  Above all, I was terrified of saying something stupid.

   As I fidgeted, and waited for Mike to say go, Tony was looking at me — curiously — like he was sizing me up. Then, he nodded his head at me. I leaned in. "Are you nervous?" he asked.

   "Yeah, a little." I admitted.

    "Awwww... I'm just a baseball player," he said, belting out an infectious laugh, and flashing that million-dollar grin. "Don't be nervous around me."

    Mike, the photog, laughed.  I cracked a smile, relaxed, and began the first interview of my TV career. It went fine.

    It was an awesome moment I'll never forget. And, to make it even better, the wife of Bob Cluck — the former MLB pitching coach, and owner of San Diego School of baseball — saw the whole thing, snapped a photo, had it framed, and gave it to me as a gift. That framed picture still sits on the top of my book shelf. It's one of my prized possessions. Thank you Mrs. Cluck!

    Almost 20 years later, I smile when I think of Tony Gwynn. Tony told me that he was just a baseball player. He was wrong. He was also one-helluva guy — and the best-damn hitter I ever saw!

 

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