Many with Cubs saddened by Tony Gwynn’s death
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter June 16, 2014 11:04PM
Updated: July 18, 2014 6:30AM
MIAMI — Cubs catcher John Baker spent two seasons in San Diego, where he got to know and appreciate Padres legend Tony Gwynn after having been around Tony Jr. in the minors for years before that.
‘‘I got a firsthand look at their family,’’ said Baker, who got a chance Sunday — Father’s Day — in Philadelphia to ask Phillies outfielder Tony Jr. about his dad. ‘‘He thought he was doing better. And that just makes it so hard, so hard. . . . The day after Father’s Day, that’s the hardest part for me to think about. My heart goes out to [his family]. It’s just a really sad day for baseball.’’
Gwynn’s death Monday after a long battle with cancer reverberated more than 3,000 miles away through a Cubs clubhouse with as many ties to San Diego as almost any non-Padres team in baseball. And anyone with ties to the Padres, it seems, had ties to Gwynn.
‘‘Tony Gwynn was the Padres,’’ said Cubs manager Rick Renteria, who spent the last six seasons on the Padres’ coaching staff while Gwynn worked as a part-time broadcaster for the team and was the coach at nearby San Diego State. ‘‘As much as everybody’s going to miss the baseball player, I think the man will probably be missed even more.’’
That’s especially true of many in the Cubs’ organization, from president Theo Epstein and player-development chief Jason McLeod, who worked for the Padres from the mid-1990s until going to the Boston Red Sox in the early 2000s, to general manager Jed Hoyer, whom Epstein hired away from the Padres in the fall of 2011.
‘‘He was kind of Mr. San Diego,’’ Hoyer said of Gwynn, who spent his college career, entire major-league career and entire post-baseball life in San Diego. ‘‘There’s not many guys that mean that much to a city.’’
And, apparently, to so many individuals he touched along the way.
‘‘All the baseball accolades aside,’’ Baker said, ‘‘he’d still talk to you like a regular person, which I think sometimes doesn’t happen with some of the superstar players, the Hall of Famers. But Tony talked to you about real things. And I really appreciated his presence, him being around.’’