Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn will be remembered at his alma mater San Diego State University for his advice about baseball, winning and life. But what many will miss most is his laugh.
"Really the biggest memory we have of Tony is his laugh, his infectious laugh,” said Mark Martinez, the assistant coach for the men’s Aztec baseball team.
“He is such a wise person and honestly one of the funniest people I've ever met. His laugh," said SDSU player Tyler France.
"Probably his laugh is the biggest thing I've come to appreciate,” said Aztec Athletic Director Jim Sterk.
The jovial laugh reflected the approachable, caring Gwynn that his college team and coworkers say they came to know in his nearly 13 years as their head baseball coach.
Hearing about Gwynn’s death Monday morning came as a shock to his players.
"He just signed his contract, so we assumed everything was going great, and to wake up to that was like, ‘Whoa.’ We didn't really know what to expect," said France.
Coach Martinez said he didn’t want to believe the man who meant so much to their program was that sick.
The school offered their head coach a new contract just last week, which he had accepted but had not yet signed.
"The loss is more as a friend and a father to our program and in some cases a grandfather to a lot of us. I mean, he's just a great man that's going to be missed,” said Martinez.
To show what he meant to San Diego State, a member of the baseball program spray-painted Gwynn’s jersey number 19 on their field near second base.
Along the stadium, the flags flew at half-staff, and someone left a Padres baseball cap and bouquet of flowers at the baseball icon’s plaque just outside of the field.
All the gestures honored the man known as “Mr. Padre,” whose life was marked in part by his loyalty to San Diego.
“To play all his time in San Diego both as a collegiate and then as a pro and then come back -- and he didn't have to coach,” said Sterk. “He didn't have to be our head coach at San Diego State, but I think he felt he could bring a level to the program that we hadn't had."
His team will attest that his influence made them hit harder, run faster and field better.
France told NBC 7 Gwynn was a huge part of why he decided to join the Aztec team.
"For me as a hitter, he was easy to talk to, easy to relate to. He made hitting a lot easier than I thought it was because of who he was," he said.
But Gwynn’s sage advice extended well beyond the field.
He strove to teach his players about how to succeed in the real world, demanding honor, respect and class from his team, coaching staff and administration.
“And I think that's one thing that I think Tony is most proud of is that our kids grew up and they became men in our baseball program," said Martinez.
France remembered some of the biggest lessons he learned from his coach.
"Just not to make things bigger than they actually are,” France said. “It's only a game. Slow it down. Even life -- just slow it down. Look at the big picture. Try and make the best out of every situation that you can."
When asked about the future for Aztec baseball, Martinez said “I think just trying to get through today's going to be hard enough, so I think we'll deal with the future of the program later on."
One thing is certain: Gwynn’s legacy will be kept alive through his team as the upperclassmen share his philosophies with new freshmen.
"The older guys will definitely do our jobs of letting know them that hey, he loved to win, and that's what we're here to do, so hopefully it can motivate us,” said France.