Tony Gwynn talks treatment, Dodger son
LOS ANGELES -- Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn Sr. made his first visit to Dodger Stadium on Tuesday since his son, Tony Gwynn Jr., signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent in December. The elder Gwynn, who is battling parotid cancer, was in good spirits and said all recent reports from his doctors have been encouraging.
"I'm doing good," Gwynn said. "Five months after treatment, and all my tests have come back (good). I have another round of tests to go through in a couple of weeks. I plan on being around for a while."
Gwynn still does some broadcast work for the San Diego Padres, but his primary job is as head baseball coach at San Diego State University. He said that while his energy level was sometimes low at the start of the season, he was able to get through to the end with no major issues because of the cancer.
I'm doing good. Five months after treatment, and all my tests have come back (good). I have another round of tests to go through in a couple of weeks. I plan on being around for a while.” -- Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn
The Aztecs' season ended Thursday with an 8-2 loss to Brigham Young in the Mountain West Conference tournament, allowing Gwynn time to visit his son. The younger Gwynn hasn't gotten nearly as much playing time as he had hoped since the Dodgers called up rookie outfielder Jerry Sands on April 18. The defensively gifted Gwynn Jr. is hitting .193 for the Dodgers and presently is being used almost exclusively as a late-inning defensive replacement in the outfield.
"He (could be) a Gold Glover, but you have to be in there every day to get a Gold Glove," Gwynn Sr. said.
Gwynn Jr. is hitting .067 (2 for 30) in May, when he has started just four games. But Gwynn Sr., who famously won eight National League batting titles for the Padres, said he doesn't offer any unsolicited hitting advice to his son.
"I wait for him to ask me," Gwynn Sr. said. "At this level, I'm sure he is hearing it from (Dodgers hitting coach) Jeff (Pentland), from (manager) Don (Mattingly), from (hitting instructor) Manny (Mota) and from other teammates. ... When you're not an everyday guy, it's tough, but he handles it really good. He is a workaholic. When I came down here today and was looking for him, everybody said down in the cage was probably where he was."
Because Gwynn Sr. has been busy coaching the Aztecs and going through cancer treatment, he and his son haven't talked as much as they did over the past two seasons, when Gwynn Jr. was playing for the Padres.
"I think he is trying to figure it out," Gwynn Sr. said. "Last night, he emailed me two of his at-bats and wanted me to compare them. I was like, 'You can do that?' I didn't even know you could do that. But I looked at them and told him that what he was seeing was the same as what I saw. Sometimes you just want to hear it from a different voice."
Gwynn said he was saddened to learn that fellow Hall of Famer Gary Carter had been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer.
"At the Hall, they are really great about sending us information if guys are sick," Gwynn said. "Obviously, going through what I went through this year, I wanted to send a note just to say keep hanging in there and my prayers are with you. But when you're going through that, you're really just focused on going through it and not worrying about all the other stuff."
Gwynn has been open publicly about his strong suspicion that his longtime use of smokeless tobacco is responsible for his cancer. He said giving it up -- he hasn't used it in nine months -- has been the most difficult part of his recovery.
"I have tried some tobacco-less products in the last week or so, and I realized why I didn't chew it," he said. "That stuff was awful. But that has probably been the hardest thing I have had to deal with out of all this. The cravings are still there. I just have to fight it. It has been nine months since I have had any, and I am surviving OK, but it's tough.
"I chew a lot of gum, a lot of sunflower seeds. I have a pack of gum that has, like, a thousand pieces in it in the car. I drink a lot of water. My taste buds haven't come completely back yet, but it's just one of those things you have to deal with."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.