Believe it or not, Tony Gwynn is still coaching despite his death last week. Of course, it’s figuratively, and in this case, not necessarily about baseball. Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Addison Reed, a former player under Gwynn at San Diego State, took the news of his death and acted right away. He gave up smokeless tobacco. Gwynn died of oral cancer, almost certainly an effect of two decades of using tobacco in the major leagues. Reed didn’t want the same fate (via Steve Gilbert of MLB.com)
Reed arrived at Chase Field [on Monday after hearing of Gwynn’s death] and gathered the seven cans of smokeless tobacco that he had in his locker and dumped them in the trash. Then he took the two he had in his car and disposed of them as well.
“It’s one of those things where I’ve done it for so long it’s just become a habit, a really bad habit,” Reed said of using smokeless tobacco. “It was something I always told myself I would quit, like next month, and the next thing you know it’s been six or seven years.”
Reed played for Gwynn in 2010 for the San Diego State Aztecs (along with Stephen Strasburg). He currenly is 7th in the National League with 17 saves (for a team with only 32 wins).
Smokeless tobacco is banned in the minor leagues but has not been outlawed as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement at the major league level. As part of the latest agreement, teams can no longer supply it, players cannot do interviews with it, and it cannot be on their person, a step toward a ban, but well short. Most criticizers of the use of smokeless tobacco cite the popularity of baseball and its players with youth, who are programmed to want to do what their heroes do. It’s hard to explain to a child “yes, the player we cheer for does it but you should not.”
I’ve even heard suggestions the Bud Selig could try and act unilaterally to ban it on his way out as commissioner, but with union-league relations in a state of peace, that would be far fetched.
At least there is one fewer player who isn’t using. Maybe others will follow his lead and voluntarily the senseless habit will abate.
– David Whitlock