Back in 2014, Stephen Strasburg talked to reporters about the impact Tony Gwynn had on him during his college career when the Hall of Fame hitter was his baseball coach at San Diego State University.
“I was a fan first,” Strasburg explained. “I was probably four years old when I first started watching the Padres and he was my favorite player from the first game.
“It just so happens that our lives seemed to intertwine before I made it to the big leagues.”
Gwynn’s death that year was tough for the Washington Nationals’ 2009 No. 1 overall pick to process at the time.
“It’s just pretty tough to swallow right now,” Strasburg said.
”It’s tough because the last couple of weeks no one really knew what was going on.
“From my perspective, he was like a god to me growing up. Just how much he did for San Diego and for baseball all over the country.”
Strasburg is one of a number of people from Gwynn’s life who talks about their past together in an MLB documentary entitled “Mr. Padre” which airs tonight at 8:00 PM EST on the MLB Network.
“As a young kid I wanted to be just like Tony Gwynn,” Strasburg says in the film.
“I wanted to be a professional baseball player and I wanted to play for the Padres.
“Tony always made an extra effort to be a role model,” Strasburg adds in the clip, sharing a picture of himself as a kid celebrating a birthday on which he received a Gwynn poster and wrist bands.
“I remember this birthday specifically,” Strasburg explains, “because that was the big highlight for that birthday, was getting the Tony Gwynn poster and the Tony Gwynn wristbands with his face on the there. I was decked out.”