Orioles' Adam Jones reflects on Padres great Tony Gwynn's death

San Diego native was recruited by Hall of Famer to play at San Diego State before choosing to pursue professional career

June 16, 2014|By Eduardo A. Encina, The Baltimore Sun

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — While growing up in San Diego, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones idolized Tony Gwynn as a player, then later gained greater admiration for him after getting to know the Padres Hall of Famer as a person.

So the news of Gwynn's death Monday at age 54, after a four-year battle with cancer, hit Jones especially hard.

"I've known the man for most of my adult life, so it's tough when someone passes like that, especially the impact he'd had on not just myself, but on countless major leaguers, and just people in general, in the San Diego community," Jones said. "I heard about it this morning through his family. It's tough. It's life. You relish every moment. You relish every moment of your life."

Jones grew up as a Padres fan and was recruited as a high school prospect by Gwynn while he coached at San Diego State. Jones signed a national letter of intent to play for Gwynn, but he chose to sign with the Seattle Mariners after they drafted him No. 37 overall out of San Diego's Morse High School in 2003.

But their relationship didn't end there. Gwynn always invited Jones to work out with him in the offseason.

"He reached out to me," Jones said. He asked me to come up and work out with him in the offseason, work out with his son and the group of guys who were out there. We've been going strong for 10 years now. We were there every offseason, and this was the first offseason he wasn't there every day because he was fighting his fight.

"It was weird not seeing him there every single day when we were going up there and hit. Just sitting up in the cage … that's the part that not many people get to know about him. … To actually see the man who was behind all the numbers and stuff, that was the remarkable part."

Jones said Gwynn gave him advice that he will always remember.

"If you don't want nobody talking [trash] about you, don't be good," Jones said Gwynn told him. "If you're good, somebody's always going to have something to say. … He was a knowledgeable guy. I learned a lot, not just about baseball, but how to be a man in this industry and how to take it all with a grain of salt."

Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr., who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame alongside Gwynn in 2007, also reacted with sadness Monday.

"This is an extraordinarily sad day," Ripken said in a statement. "Tony was a Hall of Fame ballplayer but more importantly he was a wonderful man. Tony always had a big smile on his face and was one of the warmest and most genuine people I have ever had the honor of knowing. Like all baseball fans I will miss him very much and my thoughts are with his family today."

Gonzalez to come off DL, start Tuesday

Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez will be activated from the 15-day disabled list to start against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.

Gonzalez, who has been on the disabled list with a right oblique strain, has thrown two bullpen sessions since pitching 4 1/3 scoreless innings in a minor league rehabilitation game Wednesday at Double-A Bowie.

"I'm pretty confident about it," Gonzalez said. "I'm ready to go."

In his career, Gonzalez has pitched well against Tampa Bay. He is 3-3 with a 3.55 ERA in nine starts against the Rays, including 2-1 with a 1.75 ERA in four career outings at Tropicana Field.

With right-hander Kevin Gausman still in the rotation following back-to-back quality starts, there was a question how Gonzalez would fit into the rotation. But Showalter plans to start Gonzalez on Tuesday and Gausman on Wednesday.

"Totally excited [to] get back on that bump again and be ready to roll," Gonzalez said. "Hopefully give our team a chance to win some ballgames, that's going to be really important."

Around the horn

The Orioles signed left-hander Clay Rapada to a minor league deal Monday, a source confirmed. Rapada will report to Triple-A Norfolk. … With two hits Monday, Markakis passed Ken Singleton for sixth place on the Orioles' all-time hits list. He now has 1,456. … The Orioles entered Monday leading the majors with 83 double plays turned, 10 more than any other team. The Colorado Rockies and the San Francisco Giants were second with 73. … Low-A Delmarva first baseman Trey Mancini and right-hander Dylan Rheault were added to the Northern Division team for Tuesday night's South Atlantic League All-Star Game. The Shorebirds now have seven players in the game in Hickory, N.C. … High-A Frederick's Michael Burgess was named the Carolina League Player of the Week. In six games, he batted .500 (11-for-22) with three home runs and nine RBIs. … The Orioles' Father's Day Catch on the Field promotion held before Sunday's game raised more than $33,000 for the Orioles Charitable Foundation. … Veteran right-hander Ramon Ramirez, signed to a minor league deal May 31, was transferred from the Gulf Coast League Orioles to Triple-A Norfolk.

eencina@baltsun.com

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