Former Major League Baseball player Tony Gwynn Jr. and his father, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, shared a lot. Besides having the same name and a deep love for baseball and the San Diego Padres, they also both struggled with asthma.
The day Tony Jr. was diagnosed was also the day he found out about his dad’s condition. “I saw him use an inhaler for the very first time,” says Tony. “I realized that if he could play baseball at that level, I too could achieve my major league dreams. And I did.”
Tony Jr. grew up wanting to be just like his dad. After high school he followed in his father’s footsteps and went to San Diego State University where he played baseball. Eventually, he played for the San Diego Padres, the team that his father had played on for his entire career. Tony Jr. even wore the number 18, as his father’s number—19—was retired.
Tony Gwynn Sr. passed away in 2014 from cancer likely caused by chewing tobacco. “Our dad was an elite athlete who didn’t drink or smoke because he cared about his health and performance,” Tony Jr. told the Los Angeles Times in 2016. “If he had known how addictive and harmful to his health dip was, he would not have started using it in college, become addicted, and died so young.”
Because of this, Tony Jr. and his family have sought to make a difference in his father's name is by filing a lawsuit against the tobacco industry, holding them accountable for young deaths like his father’s—who was only 54 when he died.
Tony Jr. continues to honor his father in many ways; from becoming an analyst for the Padres to creating a tribute beer to Tony Gwynn Sr, calling it the San Diego Pale Ale .394. It was his deep love for his father and their common asthma diagnosis that sparked Tony Jr.’s passion for fighting lung disease—a passion that only grew stronger during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last year, Tony Jr. stepped up to the plate and not only started his own LUNG FORCE Walk team, but he also joined the American Lung Association’s board. “One of the most important things I can do for my family and community is to lead by example. And, as we all navigate these uncertain times, I’m proud to lend my talent, time and efforts to the American Lung Association.,” Tony Jr. says.
It is also important to Tony Jr. to work for diversity, equity and inclusion in his effort to end lung diseases. “Along with my fellow San Diego and Los Angeles Board Members, I stand strong with the Lung Association to overcome COVID-19 and to ensure that our communities of color can live and breathe easier,” he says.
Tony Jr. shares “this important work must continue, and I am committed to using my time, talent, and voice to ensuring a world free of lung disease. Because, as the Lung Association says, if you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.”
Register today to be a part of Tony’s Team and help fight to end lung disease.
Blog last updated: June 18, 2021