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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Q&A; with Tony Gwynn

    Major League Baseball Hall-of-Famer and current San Diego State head coach Tony Gwynn meets the Arizona coaching staff before Tuesdays 3-2 Wildcat win at Sancet Stadium. Gwynn was once a standout baseball player before playing for the San Diego Padres for 20 years.
    Major League Baseball Hall-of-Famer and current San Diego State head coach Tony Gwynn meets the Arizona coaching staff before Tuesday’s 3-2 Wildcat win at Sancet Stadium. Gwynn was once a standout baseball player before playing for the San Diego Padres for 20 years.

    MLB Hall-of-Famer and current head coach of the San Diego State baseball team Tony Gwynn was in town this week to face the UA. The Arizona Daily Wildcat caught up with Gwynn yesterday to discuss college baseball’s new schedule, playing basketball and watching his son, Tony, Jr., play in the big leagues.

    Wildcat: (Arizona baseball head coach) Andy Lopez has been very vocal regarding his distaste for the NCAA’s new schedule this season. What are your thoughts on this new condensed schedule?
    Gwynn: Well, (college baseball) is about education. That’s what they tell us. But they’re making it very difficult for our kids to go to school and that’s the negative. Overall, I don’t like the fact you have to play 56 games in 13 weeks. I think it’s too difficult. I think the length of 56 games is fine but it’s this universal start date is what’s getting me. Because on Feb. 22, I doubt if Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa State and some of those schools above the Mason Dixon line are playing home games. They’re in Florida, Texas or Arizona. Just because we changed it from the end of January to almost the end of February, they’re still not playing home games. … It makes it more interesting for the kids to get that feeling of repetition and get that feeling of doing it everyday and I actually think some kids find themselves earlier than on the four-day plan. But I’m interested to hear what other people say because I believe there are going to be some changes.

    W: Lopez has also mentioned how hard it is to attract teams to play in Tucson because of the geographical location. What was the decision like for you and your program to make the trip down here?
    G: Well we want to play the best schedule we can play, and being in the Mountain West Conference, you have to win the conference tournament to get in (the postseason) most years. But being in the (Pacific 10 Conference), you can play anybody on a Tuesday because the conference (ratings percentage index) is three or two and you don’t have to win your conference to get a bid. So for (Arizona), I’m sure it was just easier (to play us) but for us, it was just the luck of the draw.

    W: Moving from college baseball, but staying in Tucson, the spring training teams are threatening to leave. As a former MLB player, what was the thought around making the trip to Tucson?
    G: The thought prevalent in many clubhouses was, “”Ah man, I don’t wanna go down there.”” But I knew it might be the only time we go down there and the people there wanted to see some of the other players so I always came – I came down every year. But I understand the problem. It’s nice when you can go somewhere, play somebody, then come back and if you have work to do, do it. But when you come (to Tucson), you play, then it’s a two-hour drive back, but all of that is kind of weak excuses. I’m not really buying that argument.

    W: You were a two-sport athlete in college and even got drafted in basketball. What made the decision for you as far as choosing baseball or basketball?
    G: Being 5-foot-10. I loved basketball, but baseball just made more sense. In the NBA back then there were probably four or five guys less than 6-foot. It just made more sense to play baseball. … I felt like I had a better chance at being successful at it. Looking back at it, had I been 6-foot-2, I probably would have tried basketball first, then tried to play baseball. But being that height, there were lots of examples of guys less than 6-feet in the big leagues who had successful careers and I thought my best shot would be at baseball and it turns out I was right.

    W: Do you still play any basketball?
    G: Nah. I used to play when my son was growing up. Then when he beat me that was enough and I shut it down. But I’m still a big fan. I watch the (NCAA) Tournament and I watch the NBA playoffs now and I still love the game. But when you make a living playing (baseball) you grow to appreciate the things about this game and what goes into it. I’m amazed every day I do this job because you see these guys. They’re bigger, they’re stronger, they work at their craft a lot more than we did. I mean, we didn’t even lift weights when I was playing (in college). But now a lot of these baseball guys look like football guys. The game has evolved.

    W: With how big college baseball players are becoming these days, do you think it’s time they bring wood bats into college baseball?
    G: Man, if they brought wood bats into college baseball, the first couple years pitchers would dominate. Aluminum gives these guys the luxury of making a lot mistakes and still having some success. Also, if you put a guy up there with a wood bat against (UA pitchers Jason) Stoffel or (Daniel) Schlereth and they’re bustin’ that breaking ball and you don’t square that baby up, there’s gonna be shingles everywhere. Cost is still the biggest factor and aluminum bats last much longer plus account for a lot of sponsorship we have in college baseball. But I would be interested to see what’d happen, because with the best (pitchers) wood (bats) wouldn’t matter.

    W: What do you think of the Hot Corner we have here?
    G: When I took the lineup card out (Tuesday) a guy came out and tried to bust my chops and I said, ‘Look man, I’ve been ragged for 25 years, you’re not gonna bother me.’ It’s part of the game. Try playing right field at Wrigley (Field).

    W: Was that the toughest place you played at?
    G: One of them, yeah. Wrigley, Philly – they were all part of it. College is a little more spirited because you have the students, but I don’t pay much attention to that.

    W: Last question. Was it more nerve-racking for you to step up to the plate yourself in that clutch situation, or to now watch your son (Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder Tony Gwynn, Jr.) in that same situation?
    G: Oh, watching my son, without question. I loved hitting in those situations, that’s where I did my best work. When you’re not a home run hitter, the one time when you become a threat is when there are runners in scoring position. You just gotta go up there and do what you do. You just need to realize you’re not the one in trouble, the guy on the mound is and eventually he’s gonna give you something to hit. If you’re patient enough, you’re gonna get it and that’s how I approached it.

    – interview by Bobby Stover

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