05/11/12 10:00 AM ET
Mom's faith, support appreciated by Gwynn
Son of Hall of Famer often sought advice from mother
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Everybody knows that Tony Gwynn Jr. is the son of Hall of Fame hitting machine Tony Gwynn Sr. He's also the son of Alicia Gwynn, no minor footnote to the younger Gwynn.
"She's an extremely strong woman, born in South Carolina, five brothers and two sisters, a strong Christian and she raised me and my sister as such. We got a sound foundation," said the younger Gwynn.
Note that Gwynn said "she" raised the kids. Dad was busy winning batting titles.
"Mostly, it was me and her and my sister," Gwynn said. "She was on top of us to go to school, clean our room, do the right things. She was the disciplinarian. Dad was focused on being the best he could be on the field. And Mom had no hesitation or animosity with her part of the deal. That was her job.
"Everybody knew about Dad and I. But I was just as close with Mom as Dad. I'd go to Dad for advice, but a lot of times he was on the road and I'd go to her. It was more comfortable going to her than Dad."
Gwynn concedes that, despite Tony Sr.'s reputation as one of the most accessible and friendly players in the game, Junior was intimidated by Senior.
"I was. And we've talked a lot about this as I've gotten older, and he never understood why, but that's how I felt for a long time, longer than it should have," Gwynn said. "I would go to the field with him and see the intensity in how he'd work. It was a little scary for a young kid. That's why a lot of times I went to Mom. She figured it out early."
Gwynn said Mother's Day is an excellent time to make sure Mom knows how much he appreciates that she was there for him.
"I've told her, but not as much as I should," he said. "Women in this lifestyle don't get enough credit. For home games, he'd leave the house at 12:30 and wouldn't be home until late at night. They didn't spend a lot of time together, but she completely understood. My dad would tell you straight up: Without Mom holding him up, he wouldn't have been as successful. She would throw batting practice to him with a Wiffle ball. She was his work partner. Dad would always say Mom was the better athlete.
"Her faith needs to be brought up; her faith in Jesus Christ helped my dad get through a lot. He's won eight batting titles, but he's had trying times [including two bouts with cancer]. I remember hearing a story -- one year at the break he was batting under .300 and Mom told him he'd win the batting title. He did. Her faith kept the family intact and going in the right direction."
Alicia Gwynn, whose parents were church elders, said she never pushed her son into being an athlete, only to be the best he could be at whatever he chose to do.
"We taught our children responsibility, character and how to lead a sustaining life," she said. "I like to think I have the best son in the world. He's grounded. I'm proud of the way he carries himself. I remember one time he didn't clean his room and he said he didn't have to because we had a housekeeper. I told him, 'She works for me, not for you, now go clean your room.' I wanted him to understand that, even though you are blessed, you still do your chores. He needed to grow up and appreciate the value of what he had.
"I'm proud of him as his mother. I went to his house and saw the routine he had with his three girls. As a mother, I appreciate how he is living his life. I always told him it's not about being a good player, it's about being a good human being."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.