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F ormer major league all-star and San Diego State outfielder Tony Gwynn enters his ninth season at the helm of the Aztec baseball program. His tenure at SDSU follows a standout major league career that saw him inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in January 2007.
An All-American at San Diego State as a collegiate player, Gwynn was named SDSU's head baseball coach on September 21, 2001, and officially took the reins of the Aztec program in July 2002. He had served as a volunteer assistant coach with the Aztecs during the 2002 campaign under former head coach Jim Dietz, who retired at the end of that season.
Gwynn became only the fourth head coach in SDSU history since the sport of baseball was elevated to "major" varsity status in 1936. He succeeded the coach for whom he played for three years during his collegiate baseball career.
It didn't take him long to become acclimated to the college game as he was named the Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year in just his second season after leading the Aztecs to the league's regular-season title in 2004. In 2009 Gwynn led his Aztecs to a 43-21 record and its first trip to the NCAA Regionals since 1991. His eight-year record at his alma mater stands at 242-241 (.501) and his coaching record in league play stands at 124-82 (.602).
The 50-year-old Gwynn concluded a 20-year career with the San Diego Padres on Sept. 30, 2001, as one of only 16 players (including four National Leaguers) to have played at least 20 seasons and spent their entire careers with one team.
Known as "Mr. Padre" both during and after his long and distinguished major league career, the San Diego club retired his No. 19 jersey in ceremonies held at PETCO Park in September 2004. In spring of 2005, the street on which the stadium is located was named Tony Gwynn Drive in his honor. The club also unveiled a statue of Gwynn in the Park at the Park at PETCO Park on July 21, 2007.
A native of Long Beach, Gwynn attended Long Beach Poly High before arriving at San Diego State in 1977 as a highly-recruited basketball point guard. After not playing baseball during his freshman year to concentrate on basketball, he was given a chance to play in 1979 when then-Aztec freshman shortstop Bobby Meacham (a future All-American and major leaguer himself who knew Tony from his prep days) convinced Dietz to give Gwynn an opportunity to compete.
Primarily a left fielder and designated hitter during his three-year baseball career at San Diego State, Gwynn was a two-time All-American as an outfielder after leading the Aztecs in hitting his final two seasons. In 1980, he hit .423 with six home runs and 29 runs batted in. He earned third-team All-America honors from Baseball News at the end of the season.
The following year, Gwynn was selected a first-team NCAA All-American after compiling a .416 batting average with 11 home runs and 62 runs batted in. He was a first-team all-Western Athletic Conference outfielder as well, and his RBI total that season still ranks among the top-10 on the Aztec single-season list.
In addition to three years of baseball, Gwynn was also a point guard for the Aztec basketball squad for four seasons and was named to the all-Western Athletic Conference team on two occasions. He remains the only athlete in WAC history to be honored as an all-conference performer in two sports.
Still one of SDSU's all-time greats at his position, Gwynn tied the school record for assists in a game with 18 against UNLV on Feb. 3, 1980. He also still holds the Aztec records for assists in a season (221) and career (590), and averaged 5.5 per game over the course of his career. His mark of 8.2 assists per game during the 1979-80 campaign is the best ever for an Aztec.
One of Gwynn's legendary feats came during his final season at San Diego State. On Saturday, March 7, 1981, he concluded the basketball season with a 16-point, 16-assist performance at home against New Mexico. Two days later (Monday, March 9), he was on the baseball field for a doubleheader against Southern California College. In that twin bill, he went 3-for-7 with a double, three runs scored, five RBI and a stolen base. He recorded game-winning RBIs in both contests.
On June 10, 1981, Gwynn was drafted by both the San Diego Padres (third round) and the NBA's San Diego Clippers (10th round). After signing with the Padres, he reported to Walla Walla of the Rookie Northwest League, where he earned MVP honors after leading the league with a .331 batting average. He spent the final three weeks of the season at Double-A Amarillo, where he hit .462 over 23 games.
In 1982, he was promoted to the Triple-A Hawaii Islanders of the Pacific Coast League where he batted .328 in 93 contests.
He made his major league debut on July 19 that season, going 2-for-4 with a double, run scored, sacrifice fly and an RBI in a 7-6 loss to the Phillies.
The start of his 1983 season was delayed due to a fractured wrist suffered in the Puerto Rican Winter League. After a Triple-A stint at Las Vegas where he hit .342 in 17 contests, he joined the Padres permanently for the final 86 games of the season, finishing with a .309 average with the big league club.
In his 20 seasons with the Padres, Gwynn compiled a career average of .338, a mark that ranks 17th all-time among major league players. He hit .300 or better against every team in the National League with a high-water mark of .379 against the Colorado Rockies.
He hit over .300 for 19 consecutive seasons, surpassing Honus Wagner's National League record set from 1897-1913. The only time he failed to bat .300 at any stop in his professional career was in 1982, when after batting .328 in 93 Triple-A contests, he hit .289 in 54 games for the Padres in his major league debut season.
Gwynn ended his playing days ranked 17th in career hits (3,141). He was also ninth all-time in singles with 2,378, 17th in doubles with 543, and was among the top 75 in runs scored with 1,383.
From 1993 to 1997, Gwynn hit .350 or better, becoming only the fourth player in history to top the .350 mark in five consecutive seasons, a feat previously accomplished by only Ty Cobb (11 straight .350 seasons), Rogers Hornsby (six) and Al Simmons (five). His career-high average came during the 1994 campaign when he hit .394, the highest average in the National League since 1930.
Over the course of his 20 seasons, he struck out only 434 times in 10,232 plate appearances, an average of once every 23.6 plate appearances. With 790 career bases on balls, he drew 1.8 walks for every strikeout. He walked more times than he struck out in each one of his major league seasons except his rookie campaign, when he drew 14 walks and struck out 16 times in 54 contests.
Gwynn won a record-tying eight league batting titles (1984, 1987-89, 1994-97), joining Honus Wagner as one of only two players in National League history to accomplish that feat. The only major leaguer to win more is Ty Cobb, who earned 12 titles in the American League. Gwynn and Cobb share the distinction of being the only players to string together two separate streaks of three or more consecutive batting titles, with Tony earning three in a row from 1987-89, then collecting four straight from 1994-97. He is the only player in major league history to win four batting titles in two separate decades.
Over his 20-year career, Gwynn hit .351 with runners in scoring position, including a .390 mark over his final six seasons. With 200 or more hits in 1984, 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1997, he is one of only 19 players to have reached that milestone in five seasons.
A member of the 3,000-hit club, he achieved that feat on Aug. 6, 1999, at Montreal with a first-inning single to right center off Dan Smith. Only two players achieved 3,000 hits in fewer games than Gwynn and just five needed fewer at bats. Gwynn's first major league hit had come off Philadelphia's Sid Monge on July 19, 1982. His 1,000th hit was against Nolan Ryan in Houston (April 22, 1988), and he got his 2,000th off Colorado's Bruce Ruffin (August 6, 1993).
Gwynn was 16-time National League All-Star and was voted to start that contest 11 times. His 11 starts are the most ever by an N.L. outfielder and equals Reggie Jackson's major-league record among outfielders. He was named to the all-star squad 12 of his final 13 seasons (all but 2000) and 16 of his last 18 campaigns.
Gwynn was named to the Sporting News Silver Slugger team on seven occasions (the most in Padres history) and to that publication's all-league team five times. He won five Rawlings Gold Gloves for defensive excellence and also garnered Padre MVP honors a club-record seven times. He earned five National League Player of the Month awards during his career, also a Padre best.
The list of his honors off the field is just as impressive. Gwynn received the Roberto Clemente Man of the Year Award in 1999 for combining sportsmanship and community service with excellence on the field. He was awarded the 1999 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, presented annually by Phi Delta Theta fraternity to the major league player who best exemplifies the character and leadership of the Hall of Fame first baseman both on and off the field.
In 1995, he was presented the Branch Rickey Award as the top community activist in Major League Baseball as well as the inaugural Chairman's Award, given to the Padre who best exemplifies community spirit. He was inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame in Boise, Idaho, in 1999.
Gwynn has also been extremely committed to community service in the San Diego area. With his wife, Alicia, he established the Tony Gwynn Foundation to help fund many worthy organizations supporting children in need such as the Casa de Amparo, Neighborhood House, YMCA and the Police Athletic League. For the past 14 years, he has hosted the annual Tony Gwynn Celebrity Golf Classic to raise money for the foundation.
He has also been actively involved in the Padres Scholars program, which annually awards college scholarships to 25 middle school students contingent upon their graduating from high school in good standing. In 1997, he was honored as an Athlete Who Cares by USA Today Weekend magazine.
Gwynn and his wife, Alicia, have a son, former Aztec Anthony (28), is currently an outfielder with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and daughter, Anisha Nicole (25), a national recording artist.
His brother, Chris, was an All-American baseball player at San Diego State, a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic team and went on to play with the Dodgers, Royals and Padres. His brother, Charles, was a baseball standout at Cal State Los Angeles and is now a teacher in South Central Los Angeles.