Strasburg plans to quit chewing tobacco

Nationals right-hander's decision made in light of death of Gwynn, his college coach

Strasburg plans to quit chewing tobacco

MILWAUKEE -- While mourning the death of his college coach, Tony Gwynn, Stephen Strasburg says he made a decision to quit chewing tobacco. His primary reason is his daughter.

"I think it's a disgusting habit, looking back on it," the Nationals right-hander said on Monday. "I was pretty naive when I started. Just doing it here and there, I didn't think it was going to be such an addiction. ... Bottom line is, I want to be around for my family. This is something that can affect people the rest of your life. [Chewing tobacco is] so prevalent in this game. It's something we all kind of grew up doing."

Gwynn, the Hall of Famer who coached at San Diego State, believed chewing tobacco was the reason he developed salivary gland cancer. He died on June 16. He was 54.

Strasburg, who was chewing tobacco while discussing the subject on Monday, said he started chewing tobacco long before he started playing for Gwynn, and that he didn't know the former Padres icon dipped.

On Friday, a day before Gwynn's funeral, Strasburg pitched six innings and allowed four runs on nine hits during the team's 6-4 loss to the Braves. Asked if he was pitching with a heavy heart, Strasburg said, "I'm not going to sit there and make excuses. He wasn't that type of guy, either."

Strasburg was disappointed that he wasn't able to attend Gwynn's funeral on Saturday.

"I thought there was an outside chance I would be able to fly home and attend the private service that they had on Saturday," Strasburg said. "There was no possible way. It kind of sucked not being able to be there for it."

Gwynn's funeral was held at San Diego State, and Strasburg was happy to hear that so many people attended the service at his alma mater.

"He was such an unbelievable person, human being. I mean he touched so many lives. Not only in the San Diego area, but all of baseball," Strasburg said. "One of the things that I really enjoyed watching him as a kid was, he was intense out there on the field, but he always cracked a smile. You could see that everyone was drawn to him. Given a chance to know him on a personal level, you could see how could brighten everyone's day. When we weren't playing well, he always had a smile on his face."

One of Strasburg's former college teammates, closer Addison Reed of the D-backs, said on Saturday that he, too, was going to quit chewing tobacco.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.