It was mom who grounded Tony Gwynn's son

May 12th, 2017
He learned baseball from his famous dad, but Tony Gwynn Jr.'s mom, Alicia, is the one who kept him grounded.

SAN DIEGO -- Tony Gwynn's work ethic is nothing short of legendary in San Diego. The batting cage at Petco Park is famously nicknamed "19's home" -- in reference to the Hall of Famer's jersey number. In that regard, Tony Gwynn Jr. took his cues directly from his father, helping to spark a successful eight-year big league career of his own.

But his father's influence paints only part of the picture.

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"I might get my work ethic from my dad," Gwynn Jr. said earlier this week. "Everything else was instilled in me by my mom. Please and thank yous, my mom was a stickler for. I was taught early how to behave. ... She's the one who grounded me, she was the one who taught me that there were just different rules when you're the son of Tony Gwynn. I had to hold that name with some accountability, and she instilled that in me at a young age."

This Mother's Day, Gwynn Jr. is back in San Diego to stay. He's slated to call about 60 games on TV and radio this season and is serving as an analyst on FOX Sports San Diego's pregame and postgame shows as well.

"I told him, 'I know your dad is smiling down,'" Alicia Gwynn said. "This is where he wanted little Tony to be. ... Sometimes it's hard for me to listen to him because he sounds so much like his dad. The older he gets, the voice, the laugh just become the same. Even when he calls me, he sounds so much like his dad, I have to take a moment. But I'm so proud of him."

Gwynn Sr., who retired in 2001, served in a similar capacity, appearing as an analyst during Padres games before he passed away in 2014. Alicia Gwynn thinks her son has the potential to ultimately surpass Gwynn Sr.'s broadcasting talents.

If he does, Alicia will have played no small role in his development as a baseball player and a baseball mind. When Gwynn Jr. was young, she sat with him at Padres games and made sure he focused on every pitch. There was also the matter of getting Gwynn Jr. to and from games and practices.

"I'm very grateful, ultimately, because with my dad being gone so much, she was the one who either provided the transportation herself or she found a way for me to get where I needed to go," Gwynn Jr. said. "She was the disciplinarian, and I had to answer to her. If things didn't go right from a school standpoint, or if I got into any trouble, she was the one that laid the law down."

Alicia Gwynn recalled the time Gwynn Jr. told his tutor he was struggling in school because he didn't have a computer for his homework.

As she tells it: "When she came over to the house -- I was very much into computers -- she saw our computer lab and told me what Tony had said. I said, 'Well he lied to you.'"

That meant no baseball or basketball until Gwynn Jr.'s grades went up. Sure enough, by the time he reached high school, he was an honor student.

In Alicia's eyes, one of her most important tasks was keeping Gwynn Jr. -- the son of a San Diego icon -- humble. The Gwynns had a housekeeper, but Gwynn and his sister Anisha had to clean their own rooms. When they complained, Alicia gave the same response: "She doesn't work for you. She works for me."

"I was the disciplinarian ... I was always the one to stay on him," Alicia said. "But he was a really good kid; I didn't have to do much. I always just wanted them to understand how blessed they were to have a dad who played baseball. I wanted them to learn the value of money. I didn't just want to give them things."

Gwynn Sr. spent his entire 20-year career with the Padres, where he batted .338 with 3,141 career hits. Those numbers make up only a small portion of the reason he's the most beloved sports figure in San Diego history.

Gwynn Sr. was the ultimate family man, and his legacy as such was remembered on Tuesday -- what would have been his 57th birthday. The city of Poway, where Gwynn raised his two children, honored the legendary Mr. Padre with the unveiling of a statue. In the 11-foot sculpture, Gwynn is wearing his Padres uniform, tipping his cap with his left hand and clutching Anisha in his right arm.

Gwynn Sr. passed that family-first mindset down to his son, now a father of four. When the opportunity came for Gwynn Jr. to return home, he jumped at it. There is no place he'd rather be than within a stone's throw of Alicia, who attends her grandchildren's soccer games and school functions.

"It definitely factored into my decision [to return to San Diego]," Gwynn Jr. said. "When you lose a parent, it makes those kinds of things that much more important. Tomorrow isn't promised to any of us. And with that being said, you want to take advantage of all the time you have with family."