Baseball lost one of its true ambassadors Monday with the passing of San Diego State head coach and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. The San Diego legend, 54, battled cancer for the last few years and was on medical leave from his post as the Aztecs’ coach.
Saint Mary’s head coach Eric Valenzuela, as well as Gaels assistants Mark Viramontes and Nate Leaser, worked for Gwynn at San Diego State before coming to Moraga and formed a great friendship with one of the game’s legends. San Diego State traveled north to play the Gaels at Louis Guisto Field in late February/early March in what turned out to be one of Gwynn’s final road trips with the Aztecs.
“Obviously it’s a very difficult day. More than a coach and more than a player, he was an unbelievable man,” said Valenzuela, who along with Viramontes spent four seasons with Gwynn at San Diego State. “What he preached to us coaches and to the players about doing it the right way with no shortcuts, hard work and dedication and just being positive is something that will always stand out to me. What a great mentor and person I was able to be around for four years. I’ll never forget him.”