Gwynn 'thrilled to death' with statue at Petco Park

Updated: July 21, 2007, 11:30 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- It's been a busy few days of unveilings for Tony Gwynn -- first the Wheaties box, then the bronze statue.

Eight days before his induction at Cooperstown, Gwynn watched and applauded Saturday evening as a larger-than-life statue of his likeness was unveiled on a grassy knoll just beyond the outfield wall at Petco Park.

Gwynn admired the 9-foot statue, which shows the former batting star in mid-swing. The base bears the inscription "Tony Gwynn, Mr. Padre" on the front and a quote from his late father, Charles, on the back: "If you work hard, good things will happen."

Gwynn, who spent his entire 20-season career with the Padres, will enter into the Hall of Fame along with Cal Ripken Jr. a week from Sunday.

"It's been an unbelievable ride in the last 6 months," Gwynn told the crowd during a ceremony before the unveiling. "And we're eight days away and counting. As you can hear, my voice is cracking, so you can imagine what's going to happen a week from now.

"To be the first guy, the first statue out here in Petco Park, I'm thrilled to death to be a part of it. But more importantly, I'm a San Diegan."

Gwynn thanked the fans for supporting him during his career, when he amassed 3,141 hits, eight NL batting titles and a .338 lifetime average.

Staying with the Padres his whole career "was the easy part," said Gwynn, now the baseball coach at his alma mater, San Diego State. "The hard part -- and it's always been the hard part -- is to let you guys know how much a part of my career that you were. And so when we make this long trek to New York next week and I'm standing there at the podium, I won't be standing there alone. I'll be standing there with my family, this organization and every one of you."

The Gwynn statue was crafted by William Behrends, who also sculpted the statues of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal outside the San Francisco Giants' ballpark.

Gwynn listened to several video tributes, including one from his son, Tony Jr., an outfielder with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Gwynn's daughter, Anisha, sang the national anthem prior to the game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Gwynn threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his brother, Chris, a former big league outfielder.

On Thursday, 25 years to the day he made his big league debut, Gwynn attended a photo op in right field to unveil his image on a Wheaties box.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press