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Astros, Nats honor Gwynn before series opener

WASHINGTON -- The Astros and the Nationals held a moment of silence prior to Tuesday night's game for Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn, who died Monday at age 54 following a battle with cancer.

Astros manager Bo Porter had met Gwynn a few times and considers himself a friend of Tony Gwynn Jr., who plays for the Phillies.

"It's a sad day in baseball to lose one of the greatest players in the history of our game," Porter said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, and it's just one of those [things] when you look at his age and you reflect on his career, you realize how special a player he was and a person. We lost one of our great human beings."

Like Gwynn, Astros legend Craig Biggio played for one team for 20 seasons and retired with more than 3,000 hits. Losing a contemporary like Gwynn brought sadness to Biggio.

"You play the game for 20 years, so I've seen a lot of good players, and he's the best hitter, as far as putting the bat on the ball and hitting it consistently hard every time," Biggio said. "It didn't get any better than him."

Biggio remembers being at Jack Murphy Stadium (now Qualcomm Stadium) years back and, from the dugout, seeing Gwynn go out to the field with a tee and a bucket of balls. Gwynn put the tee on home plate and started hitting balls down the third-base line, hitting some through the six-hole, some up the middle and some through the four-hole, ending by pulling balls down the first-base line.

"To sit there and have a seat in the house and watch this guy do this for 30 minutes was impressive," Biggio said. "He just hit every ball hard and hit it where he wanted to hit it, and that's hard to do. Just shows you the caliber of hitter he was and his skill set. He's the best pure hitter I've ever seen."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
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