Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn is joining with movie producer Thomas Tull in an attempt to buy the San Diego Padres.
Gwynn said Monday that it’s too early to say what his role will be, beyond offering advice and insight, while stressing that he’s still the coach at his alma mater, San Diego State.
Gwynn met with Tull in San Diego last week and said he’s spoken with him several times since.
”I’m throwing my hat in with Thomas. I think he’s the right guy,” Gwynn said after his Aztecs practiced on Monday. ”I’m the coach at San Diego State and plan on continuing doing that. But I really liked what he had to say. I’m excited. And believe me, it takes a lot to get me excited. He definitely has some ideas about what he wants to do and how he wants to do it. The biggest thing is, he wants to win. He ain’t getting this to say he has the club. He wants to win.”
Tull, the chairman and CEO of Legendary Entertainment, is among at least five people interested in buying the Padres from majority owner John Moores.
When the Padres went back on the market, Gwynn sensed somebody was going to call and ask if he’d be interested. ”I went back and forth with that, and said, ‘OK, I’ll keep an open mind and talk to people,’" Gwynn said Tull called his agent, John Boggs, who relayed the producer’s interest. Tull and Boggs met, and then Tull and Gwynn met.
”I think he just wanted to test the waters and see how interested I was in it and wanted me to share some of my thoughts of what had happened in the past, what happened when we were good, what happened when we weren’t so good,” Gwynn said. ”He picked my brain and I picked his. We both came away encouraged about where each other was. He definitely knows a lot about baseball.”
Gwynn said the situation is different than former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson’s involvement with the group that bought the Dodgers, for whom Gwynn’s son, Tony Jr., plays.
”What’s different is, I played baseball,” Gwynn said. ”Magic’s a businessman and a very good one at that. He brings in a factor of being a winner and I bring to the table the fact that I played in this organization for 20 years. I’m the only guy that played in this organization for 20 years; the only one that started here and finished here.”
Gwynn had 3,141 hits, was a career .338 hitter and won eight NL batting titles. He played on San Diego’s only two World Series teams, in 1984 and 1998. The Padres retired Gwynn’s No. 19 in 2004 and erected a bronze statue of Gwynn in the grassy park just beyond Petco Park’s outfield in 2007. Petco Park’s address is 19 Tony Gwynn Drive.
Gwynn had surgery in February to remove a cancerous tumor from inside his right cheek.
Paul Pflug, a spokesman for Tull, declined comment on the producer’s interest in the Padres.
Legendary Entertainment has produced hits including ”The Dark Knight,” ”Inception,” ”Clash of the Titans,” the two ”Hangover” movies and ”300.”
Gwynn said Tull attended two games during the Padres’ recent homestand, one against the Dodgers and one against the Los Angeles Angels. The Padres had their first winning homestand of the season, going 3-2.
Tull is a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a charter member of the foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.
Moores’ proposed sale of the team to Jeff Moorad collapsed in March after baseball owners refused to approve Moorad as controlling owner. Moorad headed a group that in March 2009 agreed to a gradual takeover of the Padres. At the time, the deal was estimated to be worth around $500 million.
The Padres could be worth a few hundred million more this time, thanks to the Dodgers selling for a record $2 billion and the Padres’ new TV deal with Fox.
Moores owns 51 percent while Moorad’s group owns 49 percent.
Boggs said the opportunity for Gwynn to work with Tull came out of the blue.
”I was very impressed with his vision and his passion and where he wants to take this organization,” Boggs said. ”Hopefully he’ll be the one who ultimately will win the bidding and become the new Padres owner. There’s a long road before that time and nobody is being presumptuous.”
Gwynn said he doesn’t know how the sale process works, only that he’s encouraged with what Tull had to say.
”I hope we get the chance to do this stuff,” Gwynn said. ”Right now, we’re waiting for the process to take care of itself and hopefully we’ll get it.”
The Padres won the NL West in 2005-06 before losing a wild-card tiebreaker game at Colorado in 2007.
Since then, they’ve been mostly dismal, losing 99 games in 2008, 87 games in ’09 and 91 games last year. The Padres were surprise contenders in 2010 before collapsing down the stretch.