San Diego

Tony Gwynn Statue Unveiled in Poway

Tuesday would have been 'Mr. Padre' Tony Gwynn's 57th birthday

Powegians gathered Tuesday to honor 'Mr. Padre' Tony Gwynn on what would have been the sports icon's 57th birthday.

The town unveiled a memorial statue at Lake Poway Park to honor the MLB Hall of Famer who played for the San Diego Padres for 20 seasons from 1982 to 2001.

The piece overlooks the baseball field in the North County community that allowed the baseball legend to be "one of the neighbors," according to Gwynn's wife, Alicia.

She also said the park was a place where her husband would go fishing.

The 11-foot bronze statue, created by artist Seth Vandable, shows Gwynn in uniform, waving his ballcap with his daughter, Anisha, on his hip.

“Tony didn’t like a lot of ceremony and didn’t like a lot of praise. He was a very humble person,” Longtime friend and agent John Boggs said at Tuesday's ceremony. “He would be very touched today and appreciative of this statue ceremony.”

Boggs said Gwynn loved Poway and the community.

"San Diego was always in his heart," he said recalling a conversation he had with #19.

"'Boggs, who we kidding. I don't want to play anywhere but here in San Diego,'" Gwynn's former agent said. "That was vintage Tony."

Sports commentator Dick Enberg said Gwynn’s athletic greatness matched his personal "goodness."

He said he remembered talking with the former Padre about the attention he received in public. “'My goal,’” Enberg quoted Gwynn, “'is that everyone in San Diego County that wants my autograph will get one.’”

“Now that was Tony,” Enberg said.

Gwynn died June 16, 2014 at Pomerado Hospital in Poway after a long battle with cancer of the salivary gland. He was 54 years old.

"That we're here on Tony's birthday is bittersweet but what better day to remember and honor a life well-lived but far, too far, short," said Poway Mayor Steve Vaus.

Gwynn had said he believed the cancer was caused by chewing tobacco, an addiction that started in high school and continued his whole playing career.

The 15-time All- Star's impressive batting average — the league's 18th best of all time — 3,141 career hits, eight batting titles, five Gold Glove Awards and induction into the MLB Hall of Fame in 2007 will remain his legacy.

"While false heroes were falling," NBC 7 SportsWrap reporter Derek Togerson writes, "Tony Gwynn was the reminder that there are still good guys out there who do things the right way."

Read Togerson's tribute to #19 here. Share your own thoughts or memories of "Mr. Padre" on the NBC 7 Facebook page.

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