Hall of Famer Gwynn cancer-free, feeling great and back in charge

SAN DIEGO -- Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn looks great, feels even better and right now is cancer free.

That, hands down, is my favorite sentence that I've typed in a long, long time.

He's back full time as the head coach of San Diego State University's baseball team. He hopes to be back in the Padres television broadcast booth this summer, when the SDSU season is finished. During our visit the other day, he was in full uniform, awaiting the start of another practice, sitting in the sun outside of the university baseball offices.

"I'm doing good," Gwynn said. "This nerve is not going to work for a little while but, hopefully, it will get better. Hopefully, my mouth will work the way I want it to work.

"But right now I can talk, and that's good enough."

A small spot on his right cheek remains partially numb. When he talks and laughs, that side of his mouth sort of remains frozen. But that is the only outward sign of the surgery. Happily, Gwynn is speaking normally, just like he always has. And his signature laugh is the same, too. If you closed your eyes and listened to him, you'd never know the ordeal he's been through.

It was only two months ago that Gwynn underwent a second surgery to remove a tumor from his mouth, this one lasting 14 hours. Among other things, a team of doctors performed a nerve graft, transferring it from his right shoulder into his right cheek.

He told them to take the nerve out of his right shoulder because he still needs his left shoulder to throw batting practice.

Currently, he's going to rehabilitation twice a week, and doing exercises for his shoulder daily. Though he feels good, doctors so far will not allow him to begin working out because with "a whole lot of movement, I get dizzy and can't think square. I'll fall on my face here if I get too active."

The two-hour bus ride to a game at University of California, Irvine, the other night left him more tired than he would like. But he's steadily regained strength, and he sure isn't complaining.

"When I was sitting at home after having this surgery, I was lost for five weeks," said Gwynn, who missed the first month of SDSU's season, returning on March 23. "I could not wait to go. When I came back and we went to Cal Poly [San Luis Obispo], that was six hours and I enjoyed the hell out of it. Being around these guys is great. But, you've got to win.

"I always talk about teaching these young men how to be men. That's my job. I'm trying to do that. But, you know, they focus on Ws and Ls, that's the nature of the beast. We need to get some more Ws. But we're in good shape, we're all right. Two games out with 12 to go. This is one of the best groups I've had."

Overall, Gwynn's Aztecs are 18-21, and they're 7-5 in the Mountain West Conference. Nobody was certain back in February if he'd coach again, let alone when.

"When I woke up, I could talk so I was like, 'Hey, I'm ahead of the game. I can talk,'" Gwynn said.

"Since the moment I woke up, I felt like I was ahead of schedule. And I still do."

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