I( have written before about meeting Tony in 1998.
While I was researching a book (Gift To My Dad--Amazon), I sat on the Gwynn story and focused on my father-son saga.
Perched at his locker in the old San Diego Stadium (now used exclusively for football), Gwynn was approaching the middle of his 17th season with the Padres.
In a career that would span 20 seasons in all, it was a May afternoon in San Diego and the Padres would be National League champions before the season ended.
Gwynn would get to play in his second World Series, but he knew that his sun was descending in the western sky.
We shook hands and he looked up from his locker in the well worn clubhouse.
When I told him who I was, he smirked and let out that famous cackle we all knew so well.
No one could ever laugh quite like Tony.
"You are Casey at the Bat. I have seen your shit. You're funny man. You should be on Leno."
I handed him my bulky, but getting thinner each year 1998 cell phone to call Leno.
Here came that cackle again.
"Guilty." I pleaded to the Casey at the Bat charges. I had first started my comedy act when I was 15 years old and on my high school team in Long Island, New York.
That wasn't what I wanted to talk about with the perennial National League Batting Champion.
I wanted his take on movies of the mind. Along with performing Casey to audiences, I devoted a great deal of time to another passion: Motivating the young person's mind.
Using the power of visualization to master the game of sport, public speaking, business, academics and avoid addictions.
Since Tony was taking a quick break between games of a Doubleheader with the New York Mets, my pitch had to be quick as well.
Tony was getting known in baseball as a video pioneer. Early in his career, he began filming his At Bats. His wife, Alicia, would record the videocassettes and anytime Tony smelled a slump, which wasn't often with his .330 plus lifetime batting average.
But Tony was addicted to hitting and he had come upon a methodology which MLB would discover over the next 20 years. Now, the very idea of a MLB player recording his At Bats is ludicrous. Every pitch is recorded for all 30 teams for all 162 games and the post season. When a player wants to look at an At Bat, he just heads to the video room and connects with the video coordinator.
In 1998, there was no video coordinator and no video room. The video machines were bulky devices which led to middle age heart attacks for those who were aggressive and/or stupid enough to throw them over their shoulder and provide a permanent record at the happiest place in America.
Mr. American, you have a 2 week vacation coming up. Where are you headed?
I'm going to Disneyworld with my two ton video camera to have a heart attack and drop dead.
Tony didn't play back all of his At Bats. The only AB's he wanted to see were the ones which produced one of his sweet 3,000 plus hits. He had no patience for the times he failed at the plate.
Keep in mind that the technology in 1998 was fluid. If you asked me about a Smart Phone, I would have no idea what you were talking about.
And still this amazing batter, this visionary, had the inspiration to film his successes and failures hitting 90 MPH pitches.
I had time for 3 questions and a rushed goodbye. I was not a beat reporter for the Padres and team officials were keeping their eye on me. At least that is what my paranoia was telling me.
"Tony, what was the real reason why you filmed all of those thousands of At Bats?"
Tony cleared his throat. He didn't have his usual wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek. He would add that before he took the field. 16 years later, it would kill him.
The clock was running. Players were heading back to the Diamond.
"Looking back to that very first day you were filming yourself, did you realize that in actuality you were filming a movie to send to your mind for future reference?"
Tony rubbed his chin with his small fingers.
Again came the Gwynn cackle.
"Never thought of it quite like that." His eyes lit up for a moment, as if he were considering my thesis and then he was distracted by a team official who told me Tony was done talking.
I rushed out my hand.
"Thank you, Tony for your time. It was a pleasure speaking with a First Ballot Hall of Famer.
One last cackle.
"i don't know about that."
That modest deflection would remain with me forever. What a remarkable man in a world of arrogant men.
My time with the future Hall of Famer was over.
Even though I would chat with him at Spring Training in Peoria and on campus of San Diego State University where he was baseball coach from the day of his retirement in 2001 until his death in 2014, we never got past that first observation.
Tony never thought that he was employing visualization principles. All he was doing was perfecting his internal hitting system
Now I teach this system to batters all over the world.
Tony never realized the power he was employing and how he could use his knowledge to help others and later, save lives by speaking out about the poison in his mouth which was killing him and is still fancied by teenage boys.
But Tony was just tryng to become a better hitter, not change the world.
And boy could he ever hit.
Boy could that man hit.
Steve Tarde performs his comedy/motivational hour stage act based on the 1888 Classic Casey at the Bat.
To catch a preview go to youtube.com and in the Search Bar, type Steve Tarde Casey at the Bat.
Steve motivates teams in all sports and raises funds for many projects, including Cystic Fibrosis..