The father sat nervously in the back of the broadcast booth, 15 or so minutes until air time, quietly shelling peanuts.
The son sat calmly downstairs in the clubhouse, eyes locked onto a computer screen, searching the video for clues to aid him in carving up another pitcher.
|Tony Gwynn Jr. is the third major leaguer to play for the team on which his father played 2,000-plus games. (Getty Images)|
The son has been playing for the San Diego Padres now for a little more than three weeks. But this was the first time the father, known around town as Mr. Padre, would view it from a different angle.
This was the first time he would attempt to put his fatherhood off to the side -- that's not even possible, is it? -- and sit in front of the broadcaster's microphone.
A couple of more peanuts met their demise.
"When we get on the air, I'm going to tell people, 'Hey,'" Tony Gwynn Sr. said. "I'm going to tell them, 'I'm going to apologize now because if he gets a knock, I'm not sure what's going to come flying out of my mouth.'"
Time flies. If only life had a pause button that worked like the one on your television remote. But kids grow and then they're gone and, if you're lucky, when Father's Day rolls around each year, you'll have more than a card and a phone call.
You'll have a lifetime shared, filled with snapshots and memories, friendship and admiration.
For the old man -- or shall we say, for the Hall of Famer? -- the crack of the bat has been replaced by the cracking of peanut shells.
It is the son's time now.
"We were in the conference tournament down in Texas and my wife called me up and said, 'Anthony got a standing ovation in his first at-bat with the Padres,'" said Gwynn Sr., who also happens to be the head baseball coach at San Diego State University. "I've cried a couple of times this year already. That night I did. And when I went to see him play for the first time in San Diego, I did.
"The first knock he got, I lost my mind. It just came flying out. I'm so proud of him. He didn't quit. He didn't give up. He didn't get flustered because he didn't get a chance to play in Milwaukee. He just kept working, kept his nose to the grindstone hoping to get an opportunity. And now he's getting it, and on my old team."
Not every son becomes a major league baseball player. But lots of sons and daughters go into the family business every day. From that perspective, maybe a whole lot of folks can relate to the path of Tony Gwynn Jr.
Maybe your father couldn't help teach you to hit a curveball.
But maybe he, too, preached of virtues like "keep working" and "nose to the grindstone", and of tirelessly looking for that "opportunity."
Some truths are universal.
Gwynn Jr. was, as you might expect, a baseball rat from way back. Old-time Padres remember him at 10, 12, always eager to hang around and shag fly balls. Milwaukee picked him in the second round of the 2003 draft. He made his major league debut three years later. But on a Brewers team overloaded with outfielders -- many of them sluggers, a trait that never did run in the Gwynn family -- he ultimately wound up the proverbial square peg trying to fit into a round hole.
So in late May, the Padres, looking to unload payroll, sent Jody Gerut and the $1 million or so they owed him to the Brewers in exchange for Gwynn Jr. Opportunity presented, the kid through this week was hitting .333 with a .432 on-base percentage. In his first game -- the standing O game that made his pop cry -- Gwynn Jr. scored the winning run after drawing a pinch-hit walk. He's taken to San Diego's leadoff role like singles once took to left field off his father's bat.
He's now one of only three players in history to play for the team on which his father played 2,000 or more games, joining Dale Berra (the Yankees, and his father Yogi) and Pete Rose Jr. (Cincinnati, and Pete Sr.).
"The most important thing is I feel extremely comfortable here in San Diego," Gwynn Jr. said. "I think a lot of people thought it would be the opposite, coming home to where my dad played, that I'd be more nervous."
He does not have a concrete answer as to why he is so comfortable.
"I think maybe in my head I feel like a lot of people around San Diego watched me grow up around the stadium, watched me play in college [for SDSU]," he said. "Maybe they have a feel for what my game is. I don't think there's an expectation of go out and be your dad. I think it's more an expectation of, 'Go play your game.'"
He is 26.
At the same age, in 1986, his father, now 49, had one batting title and would lead the National League in hits for a second time. Anthony, as his father has called him since he was born, was only 3½ at the time.
|Gwynn Sr.: 'Father's Day's coming up, and there's nothing else I can ask for. It's been a great, great year.' (Getty Images)|
But perhaps the father's achievement that is at least equal to his Cooperstown credentials -- and let's be real here, maybe this achievement exceeds those -- is a part of why the son feels so at ease and so confident in his own skin.
Keep working? Nose to the grindstone?
Some values are absolute, whatever the family business.
"Work ethic has been probably the biggest thing on the field," Gwynn Jr. said of his father's influence. "Off the field, I think just being a father. Now that I have two children at home [3 years and 1½ months], it's difficult to be a dad and play this sport and be gone 81 games out of the year.
"And watching him balance that I think has helped me tremendously with my two daughters."
Even while attempting to get traction on his own career, the son talks about how "difficult it is to come home after a road trip when you've been gone seven days and you're playing every day and put the same effort into your family.
"You get tired and you want to go lay in your bed and not move for awhile," Gwynn Jr. said. "But when you've got children, they expect some time, too. And your wife expects some time. I think just watching how he did it has helped me a lot as a husband and a father."
Each trip to the plate, the son takes a piece of his father. The "Tony Gwynn" signature burned into the Louisville Slugger actually is his dad's.
"That's pretty cool," Gwynn Sr. said.
So, too, the father thinks, is the son's assessment that dad's biggest impact -- baseball player or father? -- was "50-50."
"The same effort I saw him put into the batting cage and onto the field, he put that same exact effort into his home," Gwynn Jr. said. "And obviously, it takes a team when you have my mom [Alicia] and dad working together the way they did."
Said Gwynn Sr.: "That's kind of cool that he would say that because when I played, I got accused of opening up the ballpark, being the first employee down at the stadium. But a lot of times he was with me."
Close his eyes, and the father can still see former Padres coach Davey Lopes hitting 50, 100 fly balls to the son in center field in old Qualcomm Stadium.
Open his eyes, and the father today sees current Padres coach Rick Renteria hitting the grown son more fly balls.
As with all of us, there is no telling which alleys the future will bounce into, and how it will play off of the wall. Blink, and more time flies by. We do the best we can with what we have. And if we're lucky, Father's Day becomes far deeper than just a couple of words and a quick acknowledgement.
"Let me tell you something," Gwynn Sr. said. "Father's Day's coming up, and there's nothing else I can ask for. I mean, geez, it's been a great, great year. My son gets traded here, my daughter-in-law's at home, my grandkids are close by, I can watch Anthony play every day, the team got to the [NCAA] Regionals, hey, this, this is. ..."
Look out, this is the part where the father has no idea what kind of things might come flying out of his own mouth.
If you're blessed, really blessed, maybe your own father has battled that same fear when telling his pals about you. Or perhaps you have to force yourself to pause sometimes when talking about your own children.
The father cracks another peanut shell.
"I am blessed," Gwynn Sr. said. "Hopefully, he can keep on rolling. This is what he's dreamed about. And the coolest thing is, he ain't worrying about what his dad did or any of that stuff. He's just going out and playing."
And aren't those the best moments of all?