COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) -Tony Gwynn stood in the plaque gallery at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, sunlight streaming through the skylights.
``The coolest thing of all to me is the fact that 50, 100 years from now, as long as the game is being played, my stuff will be here, my plaque will be here,'' the former San Diego Padres star said Monday as he toured the Hall in preparation for his induction this summer. ``When my granddaughter is born, she's going to be able to come here and say. 'That's my grandpa.'
``People will remember, so that means you've made your mark. That's a pretty cool feeling,'' Gwynn said. ``Who'd a thunk it? I sure wouldn't have. I'm still shaking.''
Gwynn and former Baltimore Orioles star Cal Ripken Jr. were the only players elected to the Hall in January by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Gwynn, a left-handed hitter, won eight batting titles to tie Honus Wagner's NL record. He finished with 3,141 hits and a .338 career average, made 15 All-Star teams, won five Gold Gloves as an outfielder, and helped the Padres reach the World Series twice, where they lost to Detroit in 1984 and the New York Yankees in 1998.
On this day, his second visit to the Hall, the 47-year-old Gwynn cherished everything he saw, acting more like a tourist than a future member of baseball's elite and displaying his customary infectious enthusiasm at every turn.
``There it is,'' Gwynn said as he gazed at the display of 77 baseballs Ted Williams devised to explain the art of hitting. ``That's cool.''
The moment brought a rush of memories as Gwynn recalled a face-to-face meeting at the 1992 All-Star Game in San Diego with ``The Splendid Splinter.''
``I just happened to have my bat,'' said Gwynn, referring to the 31-ounce model he had used for nine straight .300 seasons. ``I give him my bat and he starts (pretending to be) picking his teeth with it. I had used that thing for 12 years and had a lot of success with it, and one two-minute meeting with Ted Williams and I'm changing everything. But he was right.''
``When you first sat down and talked with him, you were in awe,'' Gwynn added. ``Ultimately, he made you think about your craft, how to better yourself because he didn't just hand you an answer.''
Gwynn, who finished the 1992 season with a .317 average, figured that Williams meant he should be using a longer, lighter model to generate more bat speed, and he made the switch before the next season.
``I went to his model for a long time,'' said Gwynn, who hit .358 in 1993 and .394 the next season, the closest any major league player has come to hitting the magical .400 mark last accomplished by Williams in 1941 when he hit .406.
As he made his way around the Hall, Gwynn repeatedly snapped photos of exhibits and artifacts and planned to show them to the players on the San Diego State baseball team he's coached for the past five years.
``I'm kind of a history buff,'' Gwynn said. ``I want to know about the guys who played the game before me, the guys who gave me the opportunity to play, guys who have had the impacts on your career. Any time you see something of theirs, it has a huge impact.''
Gwynn watched a biographical video of his career. He blinked back tears when he was described as a great role model, but he also found humor in the moment. Every player interviewed - from Mike Schmidt to Tom Glavine to Ryne Sandberg - seemed to say the same thing.
``He could hit it here, he could hit it there,'' Gwynn said with a laugh. ``Just say it. I was a Judy. Just say it. I'm fine with it. I was a Judy. I put the bat on the ball. I take a lot of pride in that. I was good at what I did.''
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