Hitting Clinic At The Light?

Tony Gwynn jokingly questions the caller. "Can't you wait until Friday? I promise you we'll be there," says Gwynn. "I promise you I'll give you all the time you need. But the hitting lessons are not included." Gwynn, one of the most prolific hitters in baseball history, needed little tutoring with a bat in his hands during a Major League career that netted eight National League batting titles and 18 straight seasons of a .300 batting average or better, a league record.

And on his way through the record books, Gwynn, whom retired following the 2001 season, built a handful of traits attributed to his success. Among them: extra batting practice (before and after games), videotape sessions (before and after games) and individual breakdowns of opposing pitchers.

"I just felt comfortable going through the process every single day I stepped on a baseball field," says Gwynn. "I never wanted to cheat myself or my teammates. And I felt to be the best players possible I had to that extra mile."

But times have changed. Now, every time Gwynn steps into a batting cage, picks up a glove or turns on the projector he has plenty of company by his side. A little over a year after hanging up his San Diego Padres cap for good, Gwynn is 10 games into his first season as coach of the San Diego State Aztecs.

The Aztecs (5-5), coming off a series victory over Santa Clara, head into Mark Light Field this weekend (Feb. 21-23) for a highly anticipated three-game series against the University of Miami (4-2).

"I called Tony almost everyday in the off-season trying to persuade him to bring his team down for our season-opener. But he would tell me he needed some time before facing us."

Gwynn was right.

Despite the presence and leadership skills of a former player of Gwynn's status it hasn't translated into many victories for the Aztecs. After attracting plenty of attention with their new hire, the Aztecs opened the season with four consecutive losses including a sweep at the hands of No.5 ranked Arizona State. SDST has rebounded as of late with four victories in their last five games.

But even with their recent winning ways Gwynn is still trying to identify what kind of team he has on his hands. Ironically the Aztecs have excelled from the mound with a team ERA of 3.86 but have had difficulty at the plate hitting a combined .265 through 10 games. With 10 seniors on the roster Gwynn is optimistic the Aztecs can get on the right track before the end of the season. But at the same time he knows it will take some time to mold the team to his liking.

"Hey, listen I'm no dummy. I know it's going to take some time to build a program that can win year in and year out," Gwynn said. "Everything in life takes hard work and I'm ready to roll my sleeves up."

One of Gwynn's projects resides right in his very own household- Aztecs junior outfielder Anthony Gwynn, his son. Gwynn, second on the team with 10 hits, has struggled with a .233 batting average and is still trying to come to grips that the guy sitting in the dugout is his father as well. Gwynn is 10-for-43 on the season and has added four stolen bases in five attempts.

"I don't think about it much but when I do it's just hard to believe," says Anthony Gwynn. "It has its advantages and disadvantages but I just go with the flow. I can't try to be Tony Gwynn. I can only try to be myself."

San Diego State has seven players hitting at least .300 but it's their pitching that has stood early on. Junior right-hander Mike Moat, the Mountain West Pitcher of the Week, is coming off a 5-0 victory over nationally ranked South Alabama. Moat, from Longmont, Colo. scattered three hits over eight innings of work while recording nine strikeouts. Moat did not allow a hit until the fifth inning.

Moat (1-1) lowered his ERA to 0.47 on the season. In 19 innings, he has allowed one earned run while striking out 18 batters and allowing three walks. Sophomore right-hander Will Miller (0-1, 4.15), junior left-hander Daryl Harang (0-0, 5.14) and Joey Pace (0-0, 5.40) have all started four games apiece for the Aztecs.

"I'm still trying to work some things out," Gwynn. "The pitching rotation might change a bit before it's all done with."

Whatever pitching rotation Gwynn throws at the Hurricanes better be on top of things. Through six games, the Hurricanes are hitting a combined .340 and are averaging over nine runs a game. Second baseman Joey Hooft, who has played in four of six games for Miami, leads the team with a .667 batting average. Sanchez, hitting .440, has a team-leading 12 RBI.

LONG LIST

Gwynn had plenty of accomplishments during his career. Among them: hitting .351 in 1984 to win his first batting title; getting six hits in his final eight at-bats of the 1989 season to capture batting title No. 4; recording five hits or more in four games during the 1993 season; hit a career-high .394 in 1994 to win batting title No. 5; collected 220 hits and finished with a .372 batting average to win his eighth batting title in 1997; became 22nd player in baseball history to get hit No. 3000. The hit came off Montreal pitcher Dan Smith at Olympic Stadium on Aug. 6, 2000: hit .323 in 2000 to become the only player in National League history to record 18 consecutive seasons with a .300 or better batting average.

SPECIAL PROMO

Anybody with a ticket stub to Saturday's men's basketball game will be able to purchase two tickets to the baseball game for the prize of one.

Canes Time Top Stories