Chat live with San Diego State coach Tony Gwynn

The NCAA.com Baseball Chat Series continues on Thursday, May 7 with our special guest, San Diego State coach Tony Gwynn.

Coach Gwynn is the second of four current college coaches joining us this season, and all four have one thing in common - they were all major league players before entering the college coaching ranks.

A San Diego State All-American as a collegiate player, Baseball Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn was named SDSU's head baseball coach on September 21, 2001, and officially took the reins of the Aztec program in July 2002.

It didn't take him long to become acclimated to the college game as he was named the Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year in just his second season after leading the Aztecs to the league's regular-season title in 2004. After five seasons at the helm of the Aztec program, his coaching record in league play stands at 80-54 (.597). His teams have finished among the top three in the conference very year.

The 47-year-old Gwynn concluded a 20-year career with the San Diego Padres on Sept. 30, 2001, as one of only 16 players (including four National Leaguers) to have played at least 20 seasons and spent their entire careers with one team. Known as "Mr. Padre" both during and after his long and distinguished major league career, the San Diego club retired his No. 19 jersey in ceremonies held at PETCO Park in September 2004. In spring of 2005, the street on which the stadium is located was named Tony Gwynn Drive in his honor. The club also unveiled a statue of Gwynn in the Park at the Park at PETCO Park on July 21, 2007.

A native of Long Beach, Gwynn attended Long Beach Poly High before arriving at San Diego State in 1977 as a highly-recruited basketball point guard. Primarily a left fielder and designated hitter during his three-year baseball career at San Diego State, Gwynn was a two-time All-American as an outfielder after leading the Aztecs in hitting his final two seasons.

In addition to three years of baseball, Gwynn was also a point guard for the Aztec basketball squad for four seasons and was named to the all-Western Athletic Conference team on two occasions. He remains the only athlete in WAC history to be honored as an all-conference performer in two sports.

On June 10, 1981, Gwynn was drafted by both the San Diego Padres (third round) and the NBA's San Diego Clippers (10th round). In his 20 seasons with the Padres, Gwynn compiled a career average of .338, a mark that ranks 17th all-time among major league players. Gwynn ended his playing days ranked 17th in career hits (3,141). He was also ninth all-time in singles with 2,378, 17th in doubles with 543, and was among the top 75 in runs scored with 1,383. He was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in July of 2007.

Send in your questions NOW, and come back at on Thursday, May 7, as we ask Coach Gwynn your questions.

Tony Gwynn: Hi it's Tony Gwynn, glad to do a chat, and been a while since I've been able to do one. Let's get started.

Jeff (Boca Raton): What the toughest part about transitioning from college to the minors?
Tony Gwynn: Depends on which aspect you're talking about. From the pitching aspect, it's throwing more balls over the plate. From htiting, going from aluminum to wood. I actually thought it was easier at the next level becuase you get more guys around the plate. The game's a little quicker, and at the next level you're expected to know everything, where at college you're getting taught these things.

Carolyn (Philadelphia): What's your favorite major league stadium? What's your favorite stadium on the college level?
Tony Gwynn: My favorite MLB stadium doesn't exist anymore, Fulton County in Atlanta. A lot of the new ones I like, PNC Park in Pittsburgh I love, and Petco Park here in San Diego. As for college, we haven't played in a lot of them, but New Mexico's Isotope Park is very nice. Salt Lake City, where Salt Lake's AAA team is, is very nice. I haven't seen enough of these on-campus stadiums, but the ones in New Mexico and Utah are very nice.

Chico (El Paso): Would you like to see college baseball adopt the use of wooden bats over aluminum?
Tony Gwynn: To be honest the answer is no. The reason why is because, No. 1--the cost for wood, we would break so many bats because pitchers dominate the scene in the college game. From a teaching aspect, you'd like to see a guy use wood. We don't have to use wood though, we could use a composite. I think they would learn more with hitting, because with aluminum you could get away with so many mistakes. But sponsorship wise, you don't pay full face value for aluminum. So from that aspect, I'd say no, but learning the game the right way I'd love to see it.

Pat (Warwick, RI): Where does Strasburg rank on your list of greatest college pitchers?
Tony Gwynn: I haven't seen many. In my playing days I played against Tim Leary at UCLA, and didn't see a ton of college guys until I got to the big leagues. But for a 20 year old, he's the most complete young pitcher that I've seen. He does everything well. He's an athlete, he plays his position well. He's pretty polished for 20 years old. You read the hype, you hear about the velocity, and everyone wants to say he's going straight to the big leagues. He still as a lot to learn. But given where he is right now, he's probably the best I've seen.

Jessica (Virginia): Are great hitters born, or can you make someone into a great hitter?
Tony Gwynn: I think you can make someone into a great hitter. I think I was a pretty good hitter and I made myself into a good hitter. There are some that are born that way with great eyesight and great vision, but in today's game you talk about great hitters, you're talking about the guy's that can do everything. Hit the ball out of the ball park, hit for average, drive in runs. I did two thirds of that. I made myself into a good hitter. Today, they have to do everything. Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, A-Rod, those guys can do it all. Are they born? Very few. But it's probably easier to work hard and turn yourself into one.

Josh (L.A.): What's harder, hitting a baseball or managing a team?
Tony Gwynn: (HAHA) Managing a baseball team is a lot harder. Playing a game, you're taking care of one guy. In college baseball, I have 35 different egos, different mindsets. Figuring out which ones need a pat on the back, which ones need a kick in the butt. But given that, it's a lot more fun when you're teaching them how to do things right and they get it. I go back to Strasburg, he came into school not very confident in his abilities, and three years later he's possibly the No. 1 pick in the draft. When the lightbulb came in, he ran with it. He's self motivated. He doesn't need us to tell him what to do. We have a team like that, guys who are self motivated. Becuase you can let them go and do the things they need to do. You see them grow up and have success at this level, that is when it gets fun.

Elliot (Chappaqua): How is that some guys struggle on the college level and then blossom in the minors/majors, like we've seen with Ian Kinsler?
Tony Gwynn: I think each college team plays a certain style. Some teams play the short game, others like the long ball. It's like basketball--some play up tempo, some play a manufactured style. I'll give you an example. Dustin Pedroia was at ASU, and we went to play them. They play an aggressive style. He was a guy that led off, and set the tone for the rest of his team. At the next level, I can't tell you how many guys said he was too short or didn't hit consistant enough. The Red Sox drafted him, and now he's a bonifide superstar. It happens all the time. I give scouts a lot of credit, because they can project him to being that type of guy. Some scouts I'm sure thought he's too short and swings too hard. And that's the beauty of baseball. You don't have to be one type of player to make it. You don't have to play one type of style to make it. Because scouts envision you, three years from now, they are really good at it. They can really piece it together. My brother's a scout, and we talk about it all the time about envisioning what high school kids are going to look like three years from now when they are in college. That happens all the time.

Brian (New Jersey): Are you concerned about the hype that Strasburg has received in college and how it could effect him in the pros?
Tony Gwynn: As a coach, I am concerned. Let's face it, we build these guys up in this society. We praise them so much, people can't wait for something negative to happen. So i'm concerned, but things that allow me not to be, is knowing what type of guy Stephen is. He's got his head straight on his shoulders, he understands that this is what happens when you're the best at what you do. Last year, when the season ended, during our exit interview, we told him that he's gonna be the most talked about guy in college baseball next year. With that comes responsibility, dealing with the press and the fans, and as a freshman and sophomore he didn't have to do that. But it's really refreshing to see that he can deal with it, and not get caught up in all the other stuff. Because all the other stuff is going to take care of itself. There haven't been many college kids that have come out that have been called maybe the greatest ever. That tag has been put on him by people that don't know him. Becuase that tag doesn't fly out there very often. He needs to focus on the things that he needs to do.

Megan (Florida): Will anything short of a College World Series appearance be considered a disappointment this year?
Tony Gwynn: I think we here at San Diego State understand that with all the hype, people think that way. We just need to get to a regional. That's been our goal for the last seven years. Getting to the CWS, that would be a dream come true, but at this point we've had a good season and we need to get to a regional. I'm not putting that kind of pressure on us.
Tony Gwynn: Thanks for having me, I've enjoyed answering your questions. If you get a chance, go out and catch a college baseball game!
NCAA.com Moderator: Thanks for your questions everyone. Check back next Thursday afternoon for our next chat with a former Major Leaguer that now coaches in the college ranks.

 
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