Friday, April 8, 2011

L.A. and Gwynn

Tony Gwynn Jr. will be in San Diego's ballpark wearing a Dodgers uniform tonight, and if that seems strange, consider how Trevor Hoffman reacted when the son of Mr. Padre wore a generic Los Angeles cap into the Padres' clubhouse a few years ago.

"Hoffy snatched it off my head," Gwynn Jr. told me, laughing that infectious Gwynn laugh. "He said, 'Hey, don't wear an L.A. hat in here.' I still remember Hoffy just chewing me out that day for wearing an L.A. hat. He was joking, but he was serious at the same time."

Little T, as Gwynn is known among Gwynns, laughed at the memory a second time, like he still couldn't believe Hoffman fussed over a cap.

"It wasn't even a blue L.A. hat," he said. "It may have been a Laker-colored hat--purple."

Neither Hoffman nor anyone else in San Diego has reason to snatch the L.A. cap off Gwynn's head this weekend, Gwynn wearing Dodgers Blue largely because he batted .204 last year with the Padres. He knew he was a goner in November when the Doogster brought in the faster, younger and more powerful Cameron Maybin for center field.

Oh, Padres fans buzzed more than usual over a minor transaction when Gwynn joined the Dodgers in December, but that was mostly because he's the son of Mr. Padre and the Dodgers, just by being the Dodgers, agitate Padres fans.

"I get the feeling that there was more disappointment than there was anger at me in a Dodgers uniform," said Gwynn, 28. "I think to this day, Padres fans know that if I had my choice, I would have loved to stay home. But I didn't have a choice. The Padres showed me the door. When you get non-tendered, that's pretty much what's happening. They're showing you the door."

Truth be told, Little T grew up liking both the Padres and Dodgers, the Padres far more so because dad spent his entire career with the club. The Dodgers had his uncle Chris, the younger brother of Big T, in their outfield for a few years. Of course, Chris also dealt the Dodgers a blow on behalf of the Padres, driving in the winning run at Chavez Ravine that gave San Diego the National League West title in 1996.

Back in San Diego last winter shortly after the Dodgers signed him, and mulling what jersey number to wear, Little T noticed a photo of Chris wearing No. 10 for the Dodgers. The photo adorns the baseball lounge at San Diego State, where all three of the major league Gwynns played.

"I figured it'd be fitting to wear my uncle's number," he said.

Anthony Keith Gwynn Jr. likes having Los Angeles across the front of his jersey, and that's also a family thing.

"Since I knew what  Laker was, I was a Laker fan," he said. "The first memory I have of sports is my Dad and my mom's brothers yelling at a Laker-Boston game. So, from that point on, I knew I wanted to be a Laker fan. I was a big Magic Johnson fan."

Proximity to San Diego also weighed into Gwynn's decision to choose the Dodgers over another club or two.  "L.A. was the closest to home, which was really important, being that I have three children, a dad that was sick (Big T, diagnosed with mouth cancer last August, underwent radiation and chemotherapy treatments in the offseason) and a wife," he said.

Along with the substance of his new gig, the style fits Little T to a T.

"I've always been infatuated with the logo, the L.A. hat," he said, and somewhere Mr. Hells Bells is scowling.

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