Tony Gwynn Commemorative Issue: Tyler Adkison


by Tyler Adkison, SDSU Outfielder

We were playing in a weekend series at UNLV, and coach’s health issues were starting to become very visible. He was walking down into the dugout when his feet collapsed from under him and started to fall down the steps until one of my teammates, Brad Haynal, was luckily in the perfect spot to catch him and save his fall.  He tried to laugh it off, probably cracked some joke about himself also, but you could tell he was fighting to be able to stay with us on the field every day.

Right before the game is going to begin, the players are meeting down the line in left field, like we do prior to every game, to say a pre-game prayer. Before we started our prayer we saw coach slowly walking out to us, with the help of our athletic trainer, from the dugout.

We all stood in silence wondering what this is going to entail, and when he finally made it to us he told us to gather up real close.  You could tell that he was holding back tears, you could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice.

He went on to inform us that, “Coach can’t be with you guys today, I have to go back to the hotel.” You could tell how much it hurt him to not be able to stay for the game and be with his boys. Little did we know was at that moment, that was the last time he would be able to be on the field as our coach with an Aztec uniform on. We went on to win that game and instead of singing the fight song on the bus like usual, we waited until we got back to the hotel and the whole team walked into coach Gwynn’s room and sang it to him.

He had the biggest smile on his face and was pumping his fists with joy the whole time. Coach had to be checked into the hospital to be regularly monitored, but that did not stop him from watching all of our games.

He wasn’t in the dugout with us, but we could feel his presence, and we dug up a Tony Gwynn bobble-head from an old giveaway night and kept him in the dugout with us.

We would talk to the bobble-head like it was coach Gwynn and ask it things like, “Am I going to get a hit here coach?” Then we’d shake the bobble-head so coach Gwynn would be nodding back with a “yes.” We’d also give the Gwynn bobble-head knuckles before we went up to bat and made sure there was always a stash of coach’s favorite candy, jelly beans, by its side.

I remember we were playing in Reno, Nevada, and I had swung at the first pitch of an at-bat for a few consecutive at-bats and had gotten myself out.

I received a phone call from coach Gwynn later that night and he told me “Adkison, if you don’t stop swinging at the first pitch and getting yourself out, I am going to have to crawl out of this hospital bed and come fix it myself,” in a joking tone, but having a constructive message behind it.

You could always count on coach being straight-forward with you.

I remember this like it was yesterday, it was my freshman year and I had just hit a walk off-single against Purdue University, and we are all in the locker room enjoying the victory.

The locker room quiets down as coach enters to conduct the post-game meeting, and he turns to me. I’m thinking that he’s going to say something along the lines of “good job,” but he starts telling me how I shouldn’t have rolled that pitch over, that I needed to, “back that thing up and hit it the other way.” It caught everyone off-guard, but moments like that would really exemplify how coach Gwynn always let you know exactly what was on his mind, and that he wanted us to do things right and cared for us.

He was very observant at practice and it seemed like he saw everything.

He could be across the field, but if you didn’t transfer the ball to your glove properly from the outfield he’d somehow see it.

He had an uncanny ability to see what pitch a pitcher was throwing as he was releasing the ball. He could be sitting on his chair in the dugout and call out pitches as they were being thrown in games.