Last Monday, San Diego lost the greatest professional athlete in its history when Tony Gwynn passed away.
I was driving home around 11pm that night listening to sports radio to hear what they were saying about Tony. Certainly a player as committed as he was to a city (20 years as a Padre!) would draw good commentary and reflection.
And with a deep sports-radio voice, the host said, "We're taking your calls to hear your Tony Gwynn stories." I never call radio stations, but I went for it.
I briefly talked about how I grew up around here and went to Padres games with my family at Jack Murphy, Qualcomm, and Petco. But I really called to talk about how I won a contest to interview any Padre for the Padres Magazine in August 1998, and of course, I picked Gwynn.
The impression he left on me was true professionalism and authenticity. He spent way more than his allotted 20 minutes with me. He didn't have to, but he did. He was in no rush, and after I was done asking him questions, he started asking me questions!
I'd brought a good handful of things to be signed (hard not to do when you know you'll be sitting with a Hall of Famer), and he took his time signing all of them. There wasn't any scribbling going on. These were beautiful, clear, and sincere autographs.
The radio commentators (clearly having muted me at this point) went on to say what I totally agreed with: Tony got it. He was a true professional.
Tony left a great mark on professional sports, and San Diego. Anyone who crossed paths with him here knows how lucky they were to watch him in action.
UPDATE: Watch the ceremony from before last night's Padres game honoring Tony.