Emotional Gwynn returns to an 'awesome' ovation

Tony Gwynn Jr. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Tony Gwynn Jr. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 26, 2014

A crinkled 1989 Topps No. 570 is the lone item tacked to Tony Gwynn Jr.'s locker at Citizens Bank Park. A ballpark employee in right field handed Gwynn the baseball card about a month ago, and there is his young father, frozen in time with a Jheri curl as the game's best hitter, to watch over his only son.

Gwynn returned to work Tuesday night after a week of mourning the death of his Hall of Fame father. He pinch-hit in the eighth inning of a 7-4 Phillies win over Miami. The Philadelphia fans greeted the 31-year-old outfielder with a standing ovation.

"It was pretty awesome," Gwynn said. "It made the at-bat a little more difficult, had to fight the emotion and the tears and stuff like that. But that's why guys who play here like to play here."

Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia extended the ovation by trotting to the mound on purpose. Phillies players saluted Saltalamacchia for that gesture.

Gwynn took two balls, then grounded out to first. The fans cheered some more.

"I don't know what it must be like to lose a father," Saltalamacchia said, "especially a guy who brought so much to this game."

Gwynn was overwhelmed by the support in the last week, especially from his current teammates.

"I don't think there was a guy I didn't get a text from," he said after the game.

He paused, and cried again.

"I don't even know if I could come up with a word to describe it," Gwynn said.

Domonic Brown watched Gwynn's at-bat from the dugout.

"I got a little shaken up," Brown said.

As Gwynn stepped to the plate, light clapping reverberated through the ballpark. Once Dan Baker announced Gwynn's name, the fervor grew, and people stood.

Gwynn took a deep breath.

"That was a special moment," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "I thought that was outstanding by the fans."

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