6/25/2014 12:04 A.M. ET
Holding back tears, Gwynn Jr. returns to ovation
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Tony Gwynn Jr. has had nearly 1,800 plate appearances in his big league career, but his latest one on Tuesday night had him fighting back tears and trying to control emotions he had never experienced on a baseball field.
Gwynn's pinch-hit at-bat in the eighth inning in a 7-4 victory over the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park was a tough one.
After his father, baseball icon Tony Gwynn Sr., died June 16, Gwynn was placed on the team's bereavement list. Rejoining the team for the first time Tuesday, Gwynn walked to the plate like he had so many times before, but this time, Phillies fans offered him a standing ovation in recognition of his loss.
"Needless to say, it was pretty awesome," Gwynn said. "Made the at-bat a little more difficult, had to fight the emotion and the tears and stuff like that. But that's why guys who play here like to play here. When things are going well or regardless of whether they're going bad or good, I think the fans stay behind us. Much appreciated by the Gwynn family."
Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia recognized the moment and walked to the mound to give Gwynn a little extra time before the at-bat.
"I don't know what it must be like to lose a father, especially a guy who brought so much to this game," Saltalamacchia said.
It seemed everybody remotely connected to baseball shared their Gwynn story over the past week. "Mr. Padre" was widely popular, incredibly friendly and famously kind. Everybody seemed to love the man, who spent his entire Hall of Fame career with San Diego.
Gwynn had plenty of things running through his mind as he stood at home plate.
"It was really hard. Really hard," the Phillies outfielder said. "I was fortunate enough to get two balls to regroup a little bit, but I've never been through anything like that before. Under these circumstances, it was even tougher, but like I said, it was much appreciated."
Gwynn grounded out to first.
Tuesday's response from fans was just the latest support Gwynn's family has received over the past week.
"I don't even know if I could come up with a word to describe it," he said. "Obviously, at home, in San Diego, it was just a reminder of my teammates. ... I don't think there was a guy I didn't get a text from."
Gwynn started to choke up. His eyes welled up.
He paused for a few moments to collect his thoughts.
"Needless to say, it's been nice," he said.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.