Just outside Petco Park, blocks from San Diego Bay and a long fly ball from the trolley station, sit towering bronze likenesses of Trevor Hoffman and Tony Gwynn. The statues command unusual attention among local landmarks. Two of the greatest players in Padres history are also enshrined in Cooperstown, but in this city they have long stood as beacons of exception, not symbols of abundance.
Last month, Fernando Tatis Jr. signed the longest major-league contract ever. Then the 22-year-old declared his ambitions to the son of one of those legends.
“I’m over here to build my legacy,” Tatis told Tony Gwynn Jr. “I’m over here to put a statue next to your dad.”
No person is more representative of the Padres’ shifting fortunes than Tatis, whose 14-year extension includes no opt-outs and a $340 million guarantee — more than four times what the club sold for in 1994. After less than a full season of games, baseball’s most captivating young star decided to spend the rest of his career in a traditionally overlooked corner of the country. Hours after his deal became official, Tatis shared his goal on live television.
As the words sank in, the hairs on Gwynn’s arms stood up.
“It gave me goosebumps,” Gwynn says. “And it gave me goosebumps because everybody knows how the city of San Diego feels about my father.”
Today, a five-tool shortstop is inspiring similar sentiments. The Padres have not had anyone quite like Tatis since the elder Gwynn, a player who embraced his status within the city; a player who demonstrated unwavering loyalty to one town; a player who radiated joy on the field; a player who compelled people to tune in, no matter how the team was doing.