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Gwynn's SD impact highlighted by 'Mr. Padre'

MLB Network special premieres today at 5 p.m. PT
MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- Reverence for Tony Gwynn, as both a person and a ballplayer, has extended throughout San Diego and the entire baseball landscape for decades.

Tonight, MLB Network will once again pay tribute to the life of the Hall of Fame outfielder with the premiere of "Mr. Padre," a documentary capturing Gwynn's career and his lasting legacy.

SAN DIEGO -- Reverence for Tony Gwynn, as both a person and a ballplayer, has extended throughout San Diego and the entire baseball landscape for decades.

Tonight, MLB Network will once again pay tribute to the life of the Hall of Fame outfielder with the premiere of "Mr. Padre," a documentary capturing Gwynn's career and his lasting legacy.

It's the latest installment in the "MLB Network Presents" documentary series, and the hour-long special features interviews with dozens of former teammates, friends, family members and acquaintances of Gwynn.

"There was some video on there that I had never seen, some of it even with me being in it," Gwynn's son Tony Jr. told MLB.com. "I was locked into a lot of it. Ultimately, I thought that was the best documentary to date that kind of pulled the curtain back in terms of how he interacted with people -- not just with his teammates, but with people in general."

Video: Steve Finley discusses being a teammate of Tony Gwynn

The documentary, which premieres today at 8 p.m. ET/5 PT, begins by focusing on Gwynn's achievements within the game of baseball. Those are, of course, too numerous to count, but they include eight batting titles, 15 All-Star appearances, seven Silver Slugger Awards and a lifetime .338 batting average.

The story's focus quickly morphs to center on Gwynn's impact on the baseball world, specifically in the city of San Diego. A poignant moment centers around Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg, a San Diego native. Strasburg, who would later play for Gwynn at San Diego State University, is pictured as a smiling youngster decked out in Gwynn gear.

"As a kid, I wanted to be just like Tony Gwynn," Strasburg says. "... The impact he had was priceless."

Video: Stephen Strasburg on Tony Gwynn's impact

Along with Strasburg, the documentary features interviews with a handful of prominent baseball figures, including Bruce Bochy, Tony La Russa, Jack McKeon, Mike Schmidt and Harold Reynolds.

A particular favorite moment for Gwynn Jr. centered around a conversation between Gwynn and Ted Williams after the 1994 season. The documentary dives into how Gwynn used that conversation to catapult his offensive game to unprecedented heights. Essentially, he began to add power to a batting average that routinely sat around .350.

Video: Hoffman on watching Gwynn play, joining him in HOF

Toward the end, the documentary's focus shifts to Gwynn's battle with salivary gland cancer, from which he ultimately passed away in 2014. The tone resets to center on Gwynn's impact in San Diego and his always-affable relationship with fans and fellow ballplayers.

The special features interviews with a handful of family members, including a front-and-center role for Gwynn Jr.

"Part of what I'm still left on Earth to do is to keep his legacy alive," Gwynn Jr. said.

It has already been received extremely well in San Diego, where SDSU played host to a preliminary special screening on Friday night. In the eyes of Gwynn Jr., that's merely a testament to his father's unbreakable bond with the city.

"I tell the story a lot about his last free agency, and me pushing him to go to Cleveland to be a DH and maybe extend his career," Gwynn Jr. said. "It's moments like these that are a reminder that -- not only when you're 17 that you don't know a lot about anything -- but that also, he had a much bigger purpose in mind when he made that decision.

"When you get the reaction like we got at the premiere and that we've gotten, you get the reminder -- that's why he stayed. He felt so strongly about this city and the people in it."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres