Ben's Blog: Let's honor Tony

SAN DIEGO - I spent a lot of time with tears in my eyes Monday. I tried to keep most of it off-the-air, but if you were listening or watching, you could tell. I know I wasn't alone.

Tony Gwynn meant so much to our community, and for a baseball fan growing up in the 80s and early 90s like myself, Tony was a god. He was a rare god, you could actually talk to and get to know. It's tough for gods to live up to our expectations. It's almost impossible to exceed them...but Tony did. Always. Every time.

His greatness on the baseball field was matched only by the way he lived his life off the diamond. Tony was a caring family man who treated people with respect and kindness. He was the kind of person we should all aspire to be.

I've heard the word "humble" used to describe Tony Gwynn, but I think that falls short of the mark. Today, we consider an athlete humble if he doesn't outwardly brag about his own skills-- but I've seen enough stars to know that deep down, most of them think very highly of themselves.

Tony, meanwhile, saw greatness his teammates, in the fans, in members of the media...but I'm not sure he actually saw it in himself. That's true humility. You got the sense that Tony's confidence at the plate was just part of an act he developed to try and make himself a better baseball player. The relentless work he put into his craft was a sign of someone who was never satisfied with his own accomplishments.

Above all, though, what I'll remember most about Tony Gwynn is his nuclear-reaction smile. That thing could light up Tokyo for a week. So do me a favor: It's okay if you shed some more tears for Tony, but if you really want to honor the man, go out and smile. Not just a little one, either. Show your teeth, let it linger, and help make someone's day be a little brighter. That's how we can keep the spirit of Tony Gwynn alive.

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