“Prepared, Professional and Personable”
the passing of “Mr. Padre”
By Larry Indiviglia. MA, MBA, TD Platinum Coach
There are moments in life when the world just seems to stop. When something happens that is real, but seems surreal, “no that just did not happen, couldn’t be.” Early this morning at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, AZ I experienced one of those moments. I had thirty minutes or so before my flight to San Diego was boarding so I decided to buy a newspaper. I had been unplugged for two days of mellow-yellow in Scottsdale and wanted to catch up on some news. I picked up the local Arizona paper and there it was on the bottom front cover: San Diego’s Mr. Padre Dies. I dropped the newspaper to the floor, and could not believe what I was reading, “couldn’t be!” For all of us who have been truly blessed to have resided in San Diego since 1982, we know that Mr. Padre is Tony Gywnn, a 20-year Major League Baseball player (with the same team – a rarity) and Hall of Famer. Tony died at age 54, of a rare and aggressive form of mouth cancer. I knew Tony was ill, but did not realize that he was on the verge of death over the past 2-3 months. As was his character, he did not make a “big deal” out of his cancer, just tried to fight it as hard and “workman like” as he did his hitting, which he was the absolute best at, perhaps the best of his generation. I thought of Tony’s family, his son; Tony Gywnn Jr. and his wife train in the offseason at Fitness Quest 10 and are two of the nicest people ever, the apple does not fall far from the tree. As I read the reactions, reflections and reviews of Tony’s life featured in the paper, I jotted down a few thoughts of my own about Tony that I want to share.
In 2009, I had the pleasure of visiting Fitness 1-2-1 in Roseland, NJ, owned by my fellow Platinum Coach and dear friend, Frank Pucher. On my first visit, without a video camera in those days, I got around to asking Frank what made Fitness 1-2-1 so special. Frank openly shared, “Larry, we are a Personal Training studio that specializes in one-to-one Personal Training, and I know that we, I and my TEAM, do three things extremely wellhere: we are Prepared, we are Professional and we are Personable.” And today at the airport I found myself reflecting back and recalling Frank saying thosewords and thinking how PREPARED, PROFESSIONAL and PERSONABLE so perfectly describe Tony Gywnn. As an athlete, a coach, a teammate, a son (he was extremely close to his Dad), a Father (his son Tony says his Dad was his best friend), a husband (he and his wife were really close as well) a friend, and yes I will say it “role model” to a ton of kids here in San Diego, including my son Joe. Tony was a hard-worker, uber prepared and consistently put in the effort to master his craft, which was hitting and fielding a baseball. He wore the Professional Baseball Uniform of the Padres with pride and distinction and was the absolute best player that the TEAM has ever seen. He loved San Diego, was a graduate of San Diego State University and sat in the dugout as State’s head Baseball Coach, his last job. In the end, PERSONABLE may be the word that best defined Tony Gwynn, always available for an interview with all members of the press. He had a great smile and infectious laugh and never forgot who he was and where he came from. Glory, fame and money he did not pursue, but all three found him.
I had only two personal interactions with Tony Gwynn, and I am happy to say they exceeded my expectations of this fantastic player and humble person.
The first was in a strip shopping center one early Sunday morning. I had just finished a run and wanted to get a bagel from a favorite bagel shop. As I left my car and started to walk across the parking lot, I see a black gentleman in a purple warmup suit coming my way. I focused a bit on this guy, and sure enough it was Tony Gywnn with a small bag of bagels in his hand. I said, why not, I am going to do it. I approached Tony and asked him, Tony would sign the bill of my hat, he looked at me and said; “is it a Padre hat?” I said yep. He smiled and said sure. I ran back to my car, retrieved the hat and he graciously signed it and asked me my name. I thanked him, and asked him what his favorite bagel was, he said sesame, he shook my hand and that was it. Could he have ignored me and slide into his car and driven off, sure, did he, NO.
The second meeting was at Qualcomm Stadium, whereTony played all 20 years of his career (not the new Petco Park). I had my son Joe with me, then 7 years old. Joe had his baseball glove with him and a Tony Gwynn baseball card. We arrived early and happily for us some players came out to sign autographs for the fans (kids especially). One of the players was Tony Gywnn. We waited patiently and hoped he would sign long enough to get Joe an opportunity to get his autograph. He did, and then some. Joe presented Tony with his card and a pen and before he could say anything, Tony asked Joe what his name was and where did he get that ring on his finger. In those days, this was nearly 20 years ago, the kids were wearing these small spider-shaped rings and it caught Tony’s eye and he connected with Joe on it. Tony signed, to Joe, Tony Gwynn.
PERSONABLE… and then some.
So as I finish this small remembrance of Tony Gwynn I will say a final “thank You” to Mr. Padre for being authentic and sharing is life, loves, talents and family with us for nearly 36 years. He treated everyone with kindness and understanding, and on the baseball diamond of life that is how Tony will be remembered.
Please view the below video tribute to Tony Gwynn by my great friend and client Paul Rudy at KUSI-TV:
Tony Gwynn Tribute on KUSI