Friday, February 13, 2015

San Diego State to retire Tony Gwynn's #19

Tony Gwynn will never be forgotten on Montezuma Mesa, the campus of San Diego State University, where he played college baseball and basketball and later coached the school’s baseball team.
Two Tony Gwynn San Diego State Aztec cards -- 2012-13 Fleer Retro 97-98 Z-Force Rave and a 2013 Upper Deck National Convention.
A two-time All-American as an outfielder, he led San Diego State in hitting his final two seasons. In 1980, he posted a .423 batting average with six home runs and 29 RBI, garnering third-team All-America accolades from the Baseball News. As a four-year point guard for the basketball team, he was twice-named to the all-Western Athletic Conference team and is the only athlete in WAC history to be honored as an all-conference performer in two sports. He still holds the Aztec game, season and career records for assists.

As a 12-year Aztec baseball coach, Gwynn posted a 363-363 record at SDSU, guiding the Aztecs to three Mountain West Championships and a .500 or better record in five of the past seven seasons.

Associate head coach Mark Martinez took over the day-to-day coaching duties for the majority of the 2014 season, as Gwynn’s health deteriorated in his battle against cancer. “Mr. Padre” passed away June 16, 2014 at the age of 54.

The Aztec baseball team will honor the memory of alumni and former head coach Tony Gwynn during their season-opening weekend, Feb. 13-15, when they play host to the Valparaiso Crusaders. Gwynn's No. 19 SDSU jersey will be retired, there will be an Aztecs vs. Cancer event and other activities are planned to memorialize Gwynn.

And just as the San Diego Padres wore a Gwynn “19” commemorative patch on their uniforms during the 2014 season, the Aztec baseball team, as well as several other Mountain West teams, will wear commemorative Tony Gwynn “TG” patches on their uniforms throughout the 2015 season.

Everyone is aware of Gwynn’s 20–year career with the Padres, but how much do you know of his 12-year San Diego State coaching career? He became only the fourth head coach in SDSU baseball history, after being hired Sept. 21. 2001. However, he served as a volunteer assistant coach under Jim Dietz, who was his coach during Gwynn’s collegiate days, before assuming head coaching duties at the end of the 2002 season, when Dietz retired.

Gwynn was named Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Aztecs to the league's regular-season title in 2004. In 2009 his Aztecs sported a 43-21 record and its first trip to the NCAA Regionals since 1991. In 2013, thanks to a pair of wins over 13th-ranked New Mexico, they again earned the MWC Tournament title and another berth to the NCAA Regionals.

San Diego State’s tribute to Gwynn began on Feb. 11, when the baseball team received their 2014 Mountain West Championship rings during halftime of the men’s basketball game. Gwynn’s family members will led the Aztecs’ traditional “I Believe” chant before the game, and then accepted his championship ring at halftime. Gwynn’s daughter, Anisha, sang the national anthem.

The Aztecs also gave commemorative T-shirts featuring Gwynn’s basketball number 24 to the first 2,500 fans at the game.

On Friday, Feb. 13, the Aztecs will host a VIP reception, open to SDSU baseball letterwinners who played under Gwynn, as well as his former teammates and invited dignitaries, at Tony Gwynn Stadium prior to the baseball game. Commemorative Tony Gwynn pins will be distributed to the first 1,500 fans attending the game.

On Valentine’s Day, the baseball team will sponsor an Aztecs vs. Cancer event in Gwynn’s honor. Prior to the game several players will shave their heads in support of Gwynn’s fight against cancer, as well as someone in their lives who has been struck by the disease.

On the final day of the series, Feb. 15, the Aztecs will host the West Covina Little League, an organization that held a special place for Gwynn. San Diego State players and coaches will hold a clinic for the little leaguers following the game.

Gwynn was last with his San Diego State team on March 25, 2014, just before he began his leave of absence. His Aztecs rallied around a Gwynn bobblehead doll they would set near the bat rack during games, enroute to winning the Mountain West Conference tournament and advancing to the NCAA regionals. 

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