Gwynn in the home stretch to Hall
Former Padre will be inducted in Cooperstown next Sunday
His speech is written. The family travel itinerary to Cooperstown, N.Y., is complete. The chartered jets -- at least four of them filled with ebullient Padres fans -- are set to take wing.But Tony Gwynn knows that this is only the calm before the storm of his July 29 induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame along with Cal Ripken Jr. A crowd of more than 50,000 is expected to line the rolling green fields behind the Clark Sports Center. Gwynn said he won't practice the speech. It will make him too nervous. But he has his basic talking points and folks he wants to thank. "As Sunday approaches, you can't help but to be nervous," Gwynn said Friday during a conference call with the media, his last national public availability before the big day. "You can't help but want to do a good job. I'm just hoping emotionally I can keep it together long enough to get my message across. I'm excited about it, but at the same time nervous about it." It's been more than six months since Gwynn and Ripken received their calls telling them they had been elected to the Hall by select members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Both were picked almost unanimously the first time their names appeared on the ballot. From that moment it has been a whirlwind of interviews, banquets and constant wishes of congratulations. Gwynn, a television baseball analyst and head baseball coach at his alma mater, San Diego State, may feel like he's run the gauntlet, but he said the experience has been "a blast." "It's been unbelievable," said Gwynn, an eight-time National League batting champion with 3,141 hits in his 20 big-league seasons, all playing for the Padres. "From announcement day, which I figured wasn't that big a deal only to find out that was a huge deal, it's been very interesting. I was able to hang around with Cal, pick his brain a little bit and find out what kind of person he is. "Cal is going bonkers right now. We're nine days away. I'm a little tired, but I'm looking forward to getting there. I think it's going to get better when we get to Cooperstown." Not only is Gwynn a Hall of Famer, but he's the first one elected to boast a pure Padres pedigree. The franchise was incorporated in 1969 and there have been others inducted with a trace of San Diego in their blood -- Willie McCovey, Gaylord Perry, Rollie Fingers, Ozzie Smith and Dave Winfield, who was inducted in 2001 as the first player to have the interlocking SD engraved on his plaque. Winfield is a vice president for the ballclub these days, and Gwynn still has a personal services contract with the team. A statue of Gwynn is being unveiled this weekend at PETCO Park as part of the pre-Hall of Fame induction Tony Gwynn Weekend. It's heady stuff for a man who was born and raised in Long Beach, Calif., just 90 miles up the freeway from what has now become his adopted hometown. Coming with him to Cooperstown will be his wife, Alicia, daughter, Anisha, and son, Tony Gwynn Jr., who is getting a furlough for the day from the Brewers to make the scene. Anisha is slated to sing the Star Spangled Banner and Oh, Canada before the ceremony. In addition, his mother and mother-in-law will be there, as will his brothers and their families. One of his brothers, Chris, is also a former Major League player and teamed with Tony on the 1996 Padres that won the NL West title. And certainly, there will be the multitudes. "There's going to be a big contingent there from San Diego," Gwynn said. "The [San Diego State] alumni association has a plane full of people coming, the Padres have three planes full of people, there's a Greyhound Bus coming. In a sea of [Orioles] black and orange there will be some Padres brown and gold and Padres blue and orange in there. We're excited about it, and I think the fans are excited about it. Yes, it's been a very interesting year as we come down the stretch."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.