PHOENIX -- When Kevin Towers called Tony Gwynn Jr. on Thursday and told him the Padres had obtained the namesake and son of their most famous player from the Brewers, his first significant question was about uniform numbers. Towers asked the younger Gwynn if he wanted to seek permission from his father to take out of retirement the No. 19 that Gwynn Sr. wore during the entirety of his 20-year Hall of Fame career so he could wear it. His response was a polite no thank you. "He did, he did," Gwynn Jr. said with a laugh, when asked about the Towers' phone call. "I didn't want any part of it. There's a lot going on with that number, and it deserves to stay retired. My father probably would've told me to do it, but it's time to start a whole new chapter."
And so he's wearing No. 18, instead, as close as he could get. The younger Gwynn wore No. 22 when he was with the Brewers, saying back in 2006 when he was brought up for the from the Minors that he didn't want the pressure of wearing No. 19 even in that organization. Gwynn Sr. won eight National League batting titles, hit .338 lifetime and amassed 3,141 base hits. Heading into Monday's action against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field, Gwynn Jr. is only 3,080 hits behind. So he doesn't need that hanging over his head. Still, the No. 18 may hold some neat historical symmetry. "That's the number they gave me," Gwynn Jr. said. "It was hanging in my locker when I got here. Whether it's 18 or I go back to 22 later, we'll see what happens." It was a whirlwind four days for Gwynn Jr., who ironically made his debut with the Padres when his father was out of town. The head baseball coach at San Diego State, Gwynn Sr. was with the Aztecs in Texas where they finished second in the Mountain West Conference tournament, which ended on Saturday afternoon. Because of the vagaries of traveling in a college program, Gwynn Sr. and his team didn't return to San Diego until Sunday afternoon, too late to see his son on the homestand, which ended with a 7-2, day-game victory against the Cubs. Gwynn Jr., like his father a left-handed hitter, wasn't in the starting lineup against Cubs left-hander Ted Lilly and didn't play. With the Aztecs in the regionals, the way it looks now, Gwynn Sr. won't see his son in a Padres uniform until the team returns home from its current six-game road trip to face the Phillies at PETCO Park on June 1, if then. "It was a little strange that my dad wasn't here, but he has a job to do," Gwynn Jr. said. "You know how important his job is and how serious he takes it." That, of course, runs in the family. Gwynn Jr. walked twice, doubled and scored three times in his first four Padres plate appearances, including the game-winner against the Giants after a ninth-inning, pinch-hit appearance against San Francisco on Thursday night. He then struck out four times in his next six at bats. But just seeing the name "Gwynn" again on the back of a Padres jersey was enough to make Towers choke up, he said. Gwynn Sr. retired at the end of the 2001 season and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in '07. Manager Bud Black added that he saw a lot of potential in the younger Gwynn, who was playing for Triple-A Nashville when the Padres made the trade. "It looks as though he belongs," Black said. "He looks comfortable. He looks confident. From the baseball side, I like what's happening with his at-bats. On the bases, he has an edge to him. He doesn't look out of place." For his part, Gwynn Jr. seems so happy he's had a perpetual smile on his face. And why not? He's home with his wife and two babies playing in the place he wants to be. He never really got an opportunity in Milwaukee where, because of injuries and circumstance, he constantly rode the roller coaster back and forth from the Minor Leagues. "It was one of the situations where I probably wasn't a good fit for their team, which is fine," he said. "That's the way the game is sometimes. I don't hold any resentment about it." No worries. He'll certainly have an opportunity in San Diego.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.