Fans Pay Tribute To Tony Gwynn At Petco Park Statue
A steady stream of mourners poured into Petco Park in downtown San Diego to pay tribute to Padres Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn, who died of cancer at age 54 early Monday morning.
Fans placed flowers, Padres memorabilia and handwritten messages around a statue of the baseball legend, located beyond the outfield of the park. Notes read: "Words cannot express the loss we feel," "We love you, Tony" and "Thanks for the memories."
"Baseball has always been part of my life," Cornello Zumaya said, "but Tony, through the 80s, 90s — as an announcer, as a player, as a dad — he was just all that to me and a good person for me to share with my son."
Zumaya and his son Zachary from Chula Vista were on their way to a day of golf, but changed course when they heard the news of Gwynn's passing. Wearing their Tony Gwynn jerseys, they came to Petco Park to gather with other fans.
"I just grew up around Tony, watching him play every season," Zachary Zumaya said. "I mean, he’s just such a big part of our lives that for a graduation present dad takes me to the Hall of Fame from right out of high school — that was a big moment for me."
Gregory Klemmer from Ocean Beach said Gwynn’s excellence on the field was surpassed by his loyalty to his fans. He recalled telling Gwynn about his father’s life-threatening illness.
"He gave me his full attention for a couple of minutes," Kellmer said, "and when I was done, I looked over, he had tears in his eyes and he put out his arms to give me a hug. And I remember what an inspiration he was off the field to me."
Erikka Thorpe of El Cajon said she spent much of her childhood at Qualcomm Stadium, where the Padres played before Petco Park opened in 2004, while her mom worked during baseball games.
"Tony Gwynn always signed for his fans," Thorpe said. "He loved his fans and he loved his sport, he loved his town."
Thorpe said Gwynn had a huge impact on her life.
"I stuck to baseball, I played baseball for 15 years because he told me it was okay to be a girl and keep playing baseball," she said.
Andrew Sanchez worked for the Padres as an usher at Petco Park when Gwynn was an announcer.
"He was a class act. A very genuine guy," Sanchez said.
Sanchez said "Mr. Padre" was known for his humility.
"He didn’t hold that above anyone else," Sanchez said. "He would take the time even if you were just a nobody and I honor a guy for that. I’m privileged to say he was a great guy and genuinely a fun guy and a family guy."
Corky Schauer will remember Gwynn for his loyalty to San Diego — the only team he ever played for.
"He gave up so much for San Diego — especially a lot of money," Shauer said. "I really respect the fact that he decided to stay in San Diego. He could have made millions of dollars somewhere else. He just gave his whole life to San Diego."
Cornelio Zumaya said his thoughts are with Gwynn family.
"To his wife and daughter and son, I’m glad you were kind enough to share him with us and make him as public as he was. I love that," he said.