Gwynn Statue Reminds Us of Greatness

New honor stirs old memories of a wonderful man

How do you define a life well-lived?
It’s a subjective question, no doubt.
Is it money? Is it fame?
Is it love? Is it clout?

Is it taking care of family?
Is it your number of friends?
Or perhaps how many toys you have
Collected by the end?

It’s a topic we can discuss
Over and over for a while.
But maybe the answer is simple as this:
Did you make the people smile?

Did you leave the people that you met
With a big grin on their face?
If you did that then surely you left
The world a better place.

By that definition (one I fully agree with) Tony Gwynn had a life well-lived. Mr. Padre should be turning 57 years old today. Much has been written about the impact he had on baseball fans and the San Diego community. Tuesday’s unveiling of a new statue in Poway is one more example.

It hurts to think about losing a legend. Every year we re-live the heartbreak. While he was with us he made us laugh. Made us cheer. Made us cry. Tony Gwynn played through the heart of the steroid era and reminded us that athletic brilliance can be achieved through sheer power of will instead of via syringe.

While false heroes were falling, slayed by the Mitchell Report, Tony Gwynn was the reminder that there are still good guys out there who do things the right way.

When we look at the statue in Poway (or the one at Petco Park) I’m sure we will all have a different emotion. Some will be sad thinking about the loss. Some will be happy thinking about the joy of watching him play. Some will be angry that he was taken from us far too soon.

The end note on Tony Gwynn’s life well-lived is his purposeful death. You see, Tony Gwynn is saving lives. Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale says it was Gwynn’s passing that made him stop using smokeless tobacco.

"I quit that day and haven’t touched it since," Sale said at last year’s All-Star Game at Petco Park, a place Tony Gwynn helped to get built. "In a sense, I owe him a huge thank you.”

Several players have echoed that same sentiment and in December, inspired by Gwynn, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed to a new, 5-year collective bargaining agreement that bans smokeless tobacco for all future players (anyone who has even one day of MLB service time prior to 2017 Opening Day is grandfathered in and may dip if they desire).

Not coincidentally, San Diego native Tony Clark is the Executive Director of the MLBPA. His presence and memories of Gwynn no doubt helped the revolutionary ban go through.

Over time the pain will heal. For many it already has. The new statue in Poway is a tribute to the greatest Padre of all time and however you look upon it there is one inarguable fact:

Tony Gwynn gave San Diego something to be proud of. #RIP19

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