Congrats Tony

My grandmother used to always say practice makes perfect. If you practice right, you play right, if you practice wrong, you play wrong.

In 1979, my senior year in high school, I accepted a recruiting trip to visit San Diego State University. Tough
choice, huh?! Anyway, my hosts on the trip were former Yankee shortstop Bobby
Meachem
and former Mariner farmhand Vic Martin (they were both sophomores at
SDSU). Their job, outside of convincing me to attend college there in the fall,
was to introduce me to Tony Gwynn, the best hitter in the nation according to All-American shortstop Meachem. I was excited and I couldn’t wait to meet this so-called "great hitter." The way I saw it, I had a great junior year, I was All-State and I knew I would be a high draft pick that spring. (I would hit .594 in my senior year and be drafted by the Padres in the fourth round.) A little cocky? No, bring on the greatest hitter in the nation, I can’t wait to see him.

Tony_gwynn
We got in the car and headed straight for the arena. The arena?? They don’t play baseball in an arena, they sure don’t. No, I was going to meet this great hitter after his basketball game. You see, Tony Gwynn was the All-Conference point guard on the basketball team at SDSU. Not only could he hit, but he could also hoop. The next year he was drafted by the San Diego Clippers
of the NBA
. I watched in awe that night as Tony, with his afro, picked apart the defense. I kept thinking to myself, "If he’s this good in basketball, he must really be something special on a diamond." He had the ability like most great point guards to read the defense on the fly and make the adjustments. It wasn’t until years later that I saw that same thing perfected by him on the diamond.

It was 1982 and I was in Arizona at instructional league for the
first time with Tony and Darnell Coles. Tony would come to the plate, look around surveying the infield then hit a five-hopper through the infield for a single. After this would happen two or three times, Darnell, playing shortstop, and I, playing second, would look at each other and say, "He’s the luckest hitter in the world." We
would then start moving all over the infield to try and defend him, two steps to the left, three steps to the right and he still would dribble one through. "Lucky chump." "Hit the ball hard." Gwynn: four hits! Gwynn: three hits! Every time we played him he would find the hole. Practice makes perfect.

In 1994, I signed with the Padres, and I finally got to see how this "lucky chump" does it. He had me meet him in the cage every morning at 7 during Spring Training. While most players are still asleep, Tony Gwynn would be hitting in the cage. First off the tee for 30 minutes, then off the machine for 30, all before anyone showed up. Long after Darnell and I had fininished our major league careers, 15 years for him and 12 years for me, we watched from different places in the country as Tony got his 3,000th hit. Shortly after the hoopla, the man who was the best man in my wedding called.

"How ’bout that Tony Gwynn? 3,000 hits — that’s amazing," Darnell said.

I replied: "He’s special."

Darnell said with a laugh: "He’s lucky!"

Practice makes perfect. Congrats, Tony!

9 Comments

Harold – great story! I was the head groundskeeper in salt lake (83) when you were at 2nd, spike at short and bradley in center… had to be the toughest up the middle defense in baseball at the time! I am still doing the field thing. See you around.
http://groundskeeper.mlblogs.com/

Yeah, great story! What do u think about the home run record?

http://baseballstuff.mlblogs.com

Where have you been? Good to see you are still around.

Harold,

It is really great to have you back! You were my favorite analyst on the four letter network, so I was real excited to see you back with MLB.com.

Gwynn and Ripken are both so special for so many reasons.

As a Brewers fan, I am lucky to have Tony’s son in the organization. If he ends up being 1/10th the player and person his dad was/is, he will be one of the more special players Wisconsin has ever seen… that’s how highly I regard his father.

Cal is the same way. I can not think of a bad thing to say about either guy. This class shows exactly that…. class. They may actually be the best pair to go into the Hall of Fame in that respect.

I will try to write an entry over the weekend about them (and may use some of what I wrote here)… so keep an eye on http://mybrewers.mlblogs.com for that!

Again, great to have you at MLB.com Harold… and great story about TG!

Steve

http://mybrewers.mlblogs.com

Harold,

Excellent post. Great to see your commentary once again. Baseball Tonight just isnt the same without you!

Patrick

Harold,

Great to see you back on the air. The Griffey interview was great.

As a guy born in the early 70’s, it wasn’t until the very late 70’s/early 80’s that I really understood the game. Guys like Gwynn & Ripken were heroes. Both were favorites of mine that have given me lasting memories.

The 2007 inductees are above and beyond a class act.

http://theorphan.mlblogs.com

Harold,
Kudos to you on the Griffey interview. Griffey is truly one of the all time greats to ever play. I am also posting because I have started a sports trivia website that has plenty of good baseball questions. The site is called triviafix.com . Check it out and feel free to give me some feedback.

Tony Gwynn is a special person. You know that first hand. I have never seen a person carve up defenses like that before or since. I coached high school baseball for 10 years and would always post a message on my practice plans in the club house. It was saying of John Wooden, “Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” That is how Tony went about everything then and now.

First – great to see you again. I really missed your commentary during the College World Series and will most definitely miss you on the upcoming Little League World Series. It won’t be the same without you. I have always loved your voice. I liked your article on Tony Gwynn because I love to see athlete’s who deserve it, thrive. I have two boys and try to instill these qualities in them but they seem to think it just comes naturally to everyone. You have to really want it and be willing to put the time in.
Again, it’s great to see your face again! Best wishes to you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: