Can you name the two players who sandwiched current San Diego State baseball Head Coach Tony Gwynn in the 10th round of the 1981 NBA draft?
Do Mike Frazier and Derrick Rowland ring a bell with anyone?
Frazier, a backup center at Georgetown University selected one pick ahead of Gwynn, never made it out of Hoya country and into an Atlanta Hawks’ uniform. Rowland, a former Potsdam State guard and All-United States Basketball League second team New Jersey Jammer, scored three points in nine minutes of two yawners for the Milwaukee Bucks in 1985-86. These guys couldn’t crack J. Alfred Prufrock’s All-Century Team with an engraved invitation.
Tony Gwynn defines All-Century Baseball.
The two-sport star decided to march forward with a bat and glove for the San Diego Padres, who plucked him in the third round of the MLB amateur draft. San Diego and the game of baseball have never been the same since.
Gwynn and hitting are like Nolan Ryan and K’s. Gwynn has succeeded at the game, at the plate and in the booth for ESPN. Now, he’ll be the one calling the shots from the hot seat.
“Last year I managed six games when Coach Dietz had a kidney stone,” Gwynn said. “I was in charge and the games go on my record. My record right now is 5-4. I’m doing all right, in my mind. I already got my first win. But for the rest of y’all out there, I’m still 0-3. But that’s OK.”
The first-year skipper took the reins of his alma mater from retired 31-year Head Coach Jim Dietz, and will try and rouse up the charges for their first victory on Friday afternoon against UCSB at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. #8 Arizona State swept SDSU last weekend.
Twenty years in the bigs with the San Diego Padres at right field, with 3,141 hits and a scalding .338 career-batting average under his belt, Gwynn took a chance coaching the college game after an extraordinary professional career.
“I felt like I was the guy who could take it to the next level,” Gwynn said. “This is a program that hasn’t been to the regionals in 11 years and hasn’t been to the World Series ever. That’s why I took the job, because that’s where I want to go.
“I want to go to the College World Series.”
Listening to an excited Gwynn talk about his work would give a corpse optimism for the future. He is the all-American good guy with a rough-and-tumble edge who has craving to win – now.
“Managing was the kind of challenge that I knew I could do for a while,” Gwynn said. “I’m not a person that just kind of jumps into something and then say, ‘Ahhg, I don’t want to do this, I want to do something else.’ I’m in it for the long haul. I plan on being here for a long time.”
Gwynn’s trademarks of confidence, resilience and intelligence with the Padres will be the foundations of Gwynn’s San Diego State baseball program.
“I plan on having success here. But in order to do all the things you want to do, you’ve got to be willing to roll up your sleeves and hit the grindstone and work it. For me, that was right up my alley.”
The Aztecs put on a 20-10 first place display in Mountain West play last year and open with a untraditionally tough nonconference schedule. After this weekend, South Alabama, Santa Clara and 2001 National Champion Miami will come knocking at SDSU’s door.
“The college game is a lot different from the major league game,” Gwynn said. “When I was a volunteer coach last year, for most of the games that I watched, it seemed like both managers really put their fingerprints on everything.”
The difficult preseason schedule is just one way Gwynn has already begun to put his mark college baseball in general, and Aztec baseball in particular.
Gwynn enjoys the unique opportunity of guiding his 20-year-old son Anthony, a preseason All-American junior center fielder. The younger Gwynn will likely be drafted at the end of the season.
Tony Gwynn never laced Converses with the San Diego Clippers, opting for open fields of green and a golden ticket to the Elysian Fields playing America’s national pastime. Tony Gwynn is the ultimate workhorse.
“I never did stuff that people expected me to do,” Gwynn said.
Now the hometown hero in the dugout with San Diego State will try his hand at something new.