By Devon POV Mason | MLBbro.com Contributor
Tony Gwynn was a two-sport athlete growing up in California. The young talent mastered the crafts of baseball and basketball. The teenager that would one day go on to rewrite the book on modern era hitting, attended Long Beach Polytechnic, which was a high-profile and very competitive school for sports.
Gwynn starred on both the basketball and baseball teams.
His individual success couldn’t hide the fact that the baseball and basketball teams were moving in opposite directions during his final two years of high school.
The basketball team went 53-8, while the baseball team went 3-25-2 during his junior and senior years.
Gwynn considered quitting baseball and focusing solely on basketball, but his mom talked him out of it. It turned out to be a life-saver for Gwynn and the storied history of Major League Baseball.
A gaping chapter would be missing in Baseball’s Bible if Gwynn decided to drop the diamond and hit the hardwood full time.
Coming out of high school, Gwynn received multiple basketball scholarship offers, but none for baseball. He eventually signed with the San Diego State Aztecs with the opportunity to play both baseball and basketball.
In college he played four years of basketball and three years of baseball.
Although he was a two-time All-American in baseball, believe it or not, he was even better on the court. He set multiple school records for assists playing the point guard position. He was named All-WAC Second Team twice as a member of the basketball team.
Ultimately Gwynn made the right decision to focus solely on baseball after his four-year hoops commitment to the Aztec program was completed.
He may have had an NBA career if he put the same focus and diligence into hoops as he did into constructing his rise to baseball immortality.
In the end, both sports contributed to his Hall of Fame destination. Playing basketball helped Gwynn’s baseball skills out a lot as far as his agility and developing quick hands.
Gwynn spent 20 seasons in the majors playing for the Padres, he was selected by San Diego in the 1981 MLB Draft. He only spent one season in the minor leagues and made his debut during the 1982 season. He appeared in 54 games and finished with a .289 batting average. It was a solid rookie season with numbers that paled in comparison to the prolific hit totals Gwynn would amass in the future.
By 1984, Gwynn had San Diego in the World Series.
In his third season, Gwynn broke out and put MLB on notice. He made his first All-Star team and won his first Silver Slugger award.
Never a power hitter, Gwynn knew how to get on base and was one of the first players to utilize video to study his own hitting tendencies and that of opposing pitchers and used that to his advantage.
Looking at his career, he never had a full season where he didn’t bat over .300. He was the model of consistency and that’s why the National League Batting crown is named after the eight-time batting champ.
From 1984-1997 it was pretty much Gwynn and then everybody else when it came to diligence, technical hitting prowess and patience at the plate.
Baseball is a sport where many don’t have success, and especially for the length of time that Gwynn did. His baseball career was long and glorious, but his life was cvut short. Gwynn passed away at the age of 54 after battling cancer for years.
During his career he made 15 All-Star teams, and at one point he made 11 consecutive.
He finished his illustrious Hall of Fame career with an impressive .338 batting average, 3,141 hits, 135 home runs and 1,138 RBIs. The stats say it all.
Point blank and period “Mr. Padre” was a “Pros Pro” and a “Professional Hitter.”