Hanahan teammate reflects on life of Padre's Tony Gwynn
HANAHAN, S.C. (WCIV) -- Far and away the biggest story in baseball this week was the death of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn who died from salivary gland cancer on Monday.
The Padres paid tribute Wednesday night at their first home game since Gwynn's death. One guy truly touched by Gwynn is Hanahan's Bryce Florie, who played three seasons with him in San Diego.
"He was one of those guys when you get in the locker room, you step back and say, 'Wow, I'm in the locker room with this guy,'" Florie said.
The news of Gwynn's death was a shock to Florie.
"It hit me hard as both friend and teammate. He was a great teammate but a great person too. That's what hurts most. There are a lot of teammates you don't feel much more than that, he wasn't one of them," Florie said.
And there are three years of memories in there for the Hanahan baseball pro.
"I do remember throwing to him in spring training and thinking to myself, 'If I hit this guy, they are going to fire me right now,'" he said.
The stories of the man off the field are all true, Florie said.
"He didn't big league anyone, as they say, and I really appreciate that. He acted like I'd been there awhile. My first spring he was right next to me. You're looking at him and watching what he's doing and see if he's accepting what you're doing," Florie said.
Florie's own eyes experienced the on-field legends as well.
"It's unbelievable, really, to think of big leaguers as being that much better until you get there. He was just that much better than the big leaguers. It was kind of funny, he would come back and tell us in his jovial way, 'That pitcher thought he'd get away with that,' after he got a double off of him," Florie said.
Toughest of all, Florie lived the culture that Gwynn did in baseball, the chewing tobacco culture that ultimately took his friend and teammate's life.
"I remember in minors, there was tobacco everywhere, boxes. In the big leagues, 10 times as much. It is scary," Florie said.
"You get into habits doing certain things; his habit was chewing tobacco at the ball field. Fortunately for him, it was a long career but unfortunately, it was a long career."
Gwynn gave a lifetime of baseball memories to millions of fans. For Hanahan's own, there were three years of memories to look back on for a lifetime.
"I played with Tony Gwynn. I knew how he was and how people respected him. Unfortunately, with his passing you see it a lot more than you ever would have thought," he said.