National League awards now honor Gwynn and Hoffman

Batting, reliever awards linked to Padres forever

National League awards now honor Gwynn and Hoffman

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

A great five-day celebration of Major League Baseball in San Diego was capped by an unexpected announcement Tuesday evening at Petco Park during the Opening Ceremonies of the 87th All-Star Game.

MLB surprised --and delighted -- the capacity house with the announcement that the National League batting champion would henceforth be known as the winner of the Tony Gwynn Award.

The announcement drew chants of "Tony, Tony, Tony!" from the stands as Alicia Gwynn, the widow of "Mr. Padre" joined Commissioner Rob Manfred at the announcement.

The dedication of the Tony Gwynn Award means two Padres are now honored to have their names connected with major annual achievement awards.

The National League Reliever of the Year Award was named the Trevor Hoffman Award last year in honor of the league's all-time saves leader and the first closer to 600 saves.

Gwynn finished his career with a .338 batting average and won a record-equaling eight National League Batting championships.

It's quite an honor for the Padres to have two of Major League Baseball's top annual awards after players who called San Diego home - particularly in light of who the parallel American League awards honor.

The American League Reliever of the Year Award is named for all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees. And seven-time American League batting champion Rod Carew was named Tuesday as the title honoree of that league's batting award.

So, the names of Gwynn and Hoffman, as Padres, are forever woven into the fabric of baseball history through the awards named on their behalf.

SOME FINAL ALL-STAR OBSERVATIONS

• San Diego, the Padres and Major League Baseball did the All-Star Game right. I didn't hear anyone, including my friends in the media game, who are critical of most everything, have any questions about how San Diego hosted the game and all the supporting events. Among those most impressed by the effort was Commissioner Rob Manfred.

• As for the fans, wow. The events at the 87th All-Star Game were packed from the opening of FanFest to the closing of the J Street Block Party. The All-Star Game resonated throughout the Gaslamp District. Yes, the All-Star Game drew a huge number of visitors from outside the area. But it was clear that San Diegans also enjoyed the event.

• The pre-game ceremonies were great and seemed to pull the week together. Randy Jones throwing out the first pitch on the 40th anniversary of his All-Star Game win - and Cy Young Award-winning season -- Wil Myers was a perfect touch. Trevor Hoffman bringing in the game ball from the bullpen to Hell's Bells was classic. Then the Gwynn video tribute and the dedication of the batting title award coup d'grace.

• Led by tireless ambassadors Hoffman and Jones, former Padres players went extra miles in making the All-Star experience meaningful to Padres fans. They were everywhere over the five days.

• This one is personal because I am now an associate of many behind the scenes workers in the Padres families. I happen to know first-hand how hard many of them worked this past week. Sixteen-hour days were the ordinary for Padres' staffers. Job well done.

• Finally, the Home Run Derby. In the past, I've been critical of the event. I was wrong. I get it now. That was a great show. And the fans loved it. As for Giancarlo Stanton, that was more than a record-breaking effort. That was pretty incredible. Hard to believe that a one-season television program that aired in 1960 became the foundation to a popular segment of the Misummer Classic.