Jon and I went to the Tony Gwynn memorial at Petco Park Thursday night. He had originally planned to pick me up at 6:30 but when I saw the crowds gathering via Twitter photos I started to panic and told him that we needed to leave earlier or else we'd miss everything. Jon assured me that the crowd couldn't be bigger than a game, but it was in some cases, with 23,229 in attendance.
They're lined up around the block for the #TonyGwynn memorial right now. @DerekNBCSD is live at Petco park. pic.twitter.com/sXm9O3ZXOb— Greg Bledsoe (@bledsoenbc) June 27, 2014
Upon arrival downtown we didn't even bother trying any of the free parking near the ballpark and instead chose to park further away and walk in. It was a good decision as we passed lines of cars. Near the ballpark there were two guys selling Tony Gwynn shirts for $10 a piece. It's a shame that some will try to profit from a death.
Entering the park each guest was handed a memorial pamphlet. The first thing I did was flip it over and I saw this:
Damn straight. pic.twitter.com/dGmV2C6vHh— Gaslamp Ball (@gaslampball) June 27, 2014
Truer words have never been written.
We made our way down the steps behind home plate and saw a sea of people. It was heartwarming but also distressing. Fortunately we found seats in the back row with a decent view of the field and the jumbotron.
Great seeing the number of people that showed up to pay their respects to the great Gwynn. pic.twitter.com/fH5UjWSDND— Gaslamp Ball (@gaslampball) June 27, 2014
We could see Tony's former teammates and friends on the field if we really squinted. There was Ted Leitner, Kevin Towers, Brian Giles, Steve Garvey and Mark Kotsay. A few current Padres players were also in attendance, but not all.
The memorial started right at 7:19 and went like this:
The memorial service ran the gamut of emotion. I wanted to cry. I needed to cry, but I couldn't. Maybe I was trying too hard. I felt like a monster. Here was my favorite baseball player of all-time and I couldn't weep for him. I talked to several people after and they all had different moments where they teared up. Some welled up with emotion during the video tribute "Smile", others when Gwynn's daughter thanked the fans and others still when Amazing Grace concluded the program. Surprising to me was how eloquent Damien Jackson was with his speech, he hit just the right note. Trevor Hoffman did what he does best. He closed.
Ted Leitner did a fabulous job throughout. Everyone had good things to say about him. With the passing of Jerry and Gwynn it's become evident that he's a critical cornerstone of this organization.
From my heart: thank you #Padres fans for all your kind comments to me about the memorial for our beloved T. Gwynn. You have been so kind.— Ted Leitner (@TedLeitner) June 30, 2014
For me it was necessary to put the grief of Gwynn's death behind me. The closure of the service allowed me to move on from the mourning and instead remember his life with the lasting joy that he left with us all. Being there with all of his fans and those that loved him made it all possible.