Tony Gwynn Jr. sits in the dugout before the Phillies-Padres game on Tuesday.
San Diego Padres fans have given their fair share of ovations to a player named Gwynn.
On Tuesday night, however, their round of applause took on an extra special meaning.
The Philadelphia Phillies traveled to Petco Park for the first time this season Tuesday, three months to the day after Padres icon and Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died from cancer at the age of 54.
Article continues below ...
The significance of the moment was not lost on Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg.
The Philly skipper inserted Gwynn’s son, Tony Gwynn Jr., into the starting lineup to bat leadoff and play center field.
Gwynn Jr. played two of his eight major-league seasons in a San Diego uniform in 2009 and 2010.
During his first year with the Padres, he hit a career-best .270 with two homers and 21 RBI with 11 stolen bases in 119 games.
He debuted in the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2006, playing there for three years before being traded to the Padres in May 2009. He was with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011-12, and played for the Dodgers’ Triple-A team last season before signing as a free agent with the Phillies this year.
When Gwynn Jr. stepped into the box to lead off the game on Tuesday, Padres fans greeted him with a touching welcome.
The 31-year-old finished 0 for 3 and the Phillies lost 5-4, but the night undoubtedly had extra significance for Gwynn Jr. in the city where his father left such an enduring legacy.