The legend of Tony GwynnNov 02, 2023
Read time: 3 minutes
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How Tony Gwynn Became A Hitting Legend
On social media lately, I've been seeing several Tony Gwynn posts, and I thought this is a good time to highlight one of the greatest hitters of all time.
One of the things I'm always looking to emphasize to young players is you often underestimate how much work it takes to become the best. Hopefully hearing some of these stories today will help inspire more players.
Hope you enjoy today's newsletter on Tony Gwynn!
Tony Gwynn's name doesn’t just echo through the halls of the MLB because of his high batting average.
It's a testament to commitment, training, and the art of the game.
The Very Beginning
1982 was just a starting point. Drafted by the San Diego Padres, many didn't foresee the looming legend.
Especially given that, in college, his basketball ability overshadowed his baseball potential.
"Basketball was thrill; baseball was soul."
Gwynn's practice sessions were legendary. It wasn’t unusual to find him as the first on the field and the last to leave.
Early and Late Sessions:
Gwynn was notorious for arriving at the ballpark hours before his teammates. He would often be found taking early batting practice, honing his craft when the stadium was near-empty.
Additionally, if he felt off during a game, it wasn't unusual for Gwynn to head to the batting cages immediately afterward, sometimes hitting for hours into the night, determined to rectify any perceived flaws in his swing.
To him, every practice meant getting closer to perfection.
His philosophy: "I looked for the same pitch every at-bat, a strike."
He didn't let pitchers dictate the zone; he commanded his zone.
A technological turn came in the 1980s. Most were using VCRs for movies; Gwynn used them to dissect his art, frame by frame. "Video doesn’t lie," he quipped. This became his secret weapon.
In the 1980s, he carried a Betamax video recorder on road trips to review his swing.
This attention to detail allowed Gwynn to make minute adjustments to his batting technique, keeping him ahead of the competition.
This may not seem like a big deal now with all of the access to technology. However, back in the 80s nobody else was doing this. Tony Gwynn was a pioneer in the game. Always looking for ways to get an edge.
His advice to young players.
"Focus on the ball, not the pitcher"
Against Hall of Fame pitchers: Gwynn batted .331 over his career. This includes .415 against Greg Maddux over 107 at-bats without ever striking out against him.
Consistency: In 19 of his 20 seasons, Gwynn hit over .300. The only season he didn’t was his rookie year.
Low Strikeouts: He never struck out more than 40 times in a season.
Dominance: Gwynn owns eight of the top ten highest single-season batting averages for the Padres.
Multi-hit Games: Tony had 951 multi-hit games in his career. This means that in almost half of the games he played, he had more than one hit.
Few GIDPs: Gwynn grounded into double plays only 4.6% of the times he came to the plate with a runner on first and less than two outs.
Versatility: In his career, Tony Gwynn had nearly the same average against left-handed pitchers (.332) as he did against right-handed pitchers (.338).
Pinch Hitting: As a pinch hitter, he still managed a .306 batting average over 62 at-bats.
Quotes on Gwynn
Gwynn’s insight: "The game is 90% mental. The rest I leave to my bat."
John Kruk: "You’d find Tony with that VCR, analyzing. It wasn’t mere practice; it was a study, a science."
Greg Maddux, a fellow Hall of Famer, once quipped, "You just can't throw Tony Gwynn a fastball and expect to get him out."
Anecdotes and Stories
Gwynn’s son, Tony Gwynn Jr., reminisces, "Dad had an uncanny ability to remember every at-bat, every pitch. It was like a computer."
One story goes that during the 1998 World Series, before facing David Wells, Gwynn precisely predicted how Wells would pitch to him based on their college encounters, years before their professional careers.
Gwynn's story isn't just about talent.
It's about dedication, discipline, and a love for the game that few can match.
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