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Tony Gwynn was the every person athlete

Tony Gwynn passed away at the age of 54 on June 16, 2014.
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Pepsi MLB Refresh Project

There have been less than 48 hours from the news of Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn's passing, but there have been a number of articles that have discussed the high character of the San Diego Padres legend. His talents as one of the consistent hitters of his generation are mirrored by the humility of the man who was well respected within the game of baseball. A number of factors made Tony Gwynn one of the rare professional athletes that many fans could relate to over the course of his professional career and his life.

When sports fans saw Tony Gwynn during his prime years with the San Diego Padres, he didn't quite resemble the prototype professional outfielder. At 5 feet, 11 inches and weighing 225 pounds, Gwynn's body type was more similar to a fire hydrant than a sculpted statue. Even with his unique physical characteristics, Gwynn was a former college guard at San Diego State and was athletic enough at basketball to be drafted by the NBA on the same day he was drafted into Major League Baseball. Although he later established himself as a "hitting scientist" during his prolific baseball career, Tony Gwynn exhibited even more traits that endured him to both Padres fans and baseball fans across the country.

San Diego, California is known as a beautiful city with constantly great weather but there were many baseball markets like New York and Los Angeles where a player of Tony Gwynn's talent and production would have gotten even more adoration during his playing career. However, Gwynn showed extreme loyalty in staying with the Padres for a 20 year career. Shortly after retiring from Major League Baseball, Gwynn joined his former alma mater San Diego State as head baseball coach in 2002. His loyalty was a big part of his personality as well as his smile, which endeared him to many of his peers and fans.

Like every person reading this article, Tony Gwynn's vice disrupted his personal life in difficult ways. Gwynn, like many professional baseball players then and now, had an affinity for chewing tobacco during his playing career. Sadly, Gwynn died after two surgeries to remove malignant growths inside his right cheek, where the former batting champion said he chewed tobacco while he played. Although Tony Gwynn is no longer with us, he lives behind a legacy of professionalism and humanity that is unique to many pro athletes.