Tony Gwynn Undergoes Cancer Surgery

Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn is hopeful he'll retain all use of his facial nerves after the surgery

Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn is undergoing surgery to remove a new cancerous tumor inside his right cheek.

The former San Diego Padres, now San Diego State University's baseball coach, had previously had a malignant growth removed from the same spot in August 2010.

Gwynn's wife, Alicia, told ESPN that doctors do not believe the cancer has spread outside of Gwynn's salivary gland.

Alicia Gwynn said doctors may have to remove a facial nerve in the process of removing the tumor. If so, they'll use a nerve from his shoulder or his leg in place of the one removed.

"Hopefully, his face will work fine; hopefully he'll be able to blink his eye. They said they will make his face as normal as they can -- and that it might be better than it was," she told ESPN.

A University of California San Diego spokesperson confirmed Gwynn is having surgery done at Thornton Hospital.

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Mark Martinez will take over coaching responsibilities at SDSU while Gwynn recovers.

He said Gwynn let his players know what was going to happen, and told them to focus on baseball and keep a positive attitude.

"The main message he had for our team during this whole thing is let's attack this thing positively,” Martinez said.

“You know we're not going to be negative. We're going to be very positive about it, and our kids kind of latched onto it and so has coach Gwynn."

The coaches and players recorded video messages that they're going to have delivered to the hospital.

“Tony and I have been in continuous communication and I feel comfortable that the program is in great hands with Mark Martinez and Eric Valenzuela during while Tony is recovering from surgery,” SDSU Director of Athletics Jim Sterk said in a written statement.

“Tony has been feeling great and is enthusiastic about coaching. He sees this as a temporary setback and we look forward to having him back in the dugout when he is ready.”

In June, Tony Gwynn talked about his recent radiation and chemotherapy treatment, and he said his test results have come back OK.

"I'm doing good," he said at Dodger Stadium, where he was visiting son Tony Jr., a reserve outfielder for the Dodgers. "I plan on being around here for a while."

Gwynn announced he had cancer in October 2010 and he said he was concerned that it could be linked to his career-long practice of using chewing tobacco.

The cancer was diagnosed after Gwynn had a third round of surgery since 1997 to remove a tumor on the parotid gland. The previous procedures found no malignancies. 

There has not been an announcement on when he may be able to return to coaching.

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Copyright AP - Associated Press
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