Chargers pay respects to Tony Gwynn

SAN DIEGO -- Carrying a single sunflower, San Diego Chargers coach Mike McCoy placed the offering at the feet of Tony Gwynn's statue.

Originally planned as a day to say "Thank you" to fans with surprise visits by players around the city, the Chargers' organization canceled the event after news emerged Monday morning that Gwynn, nicknamed Mr. Padre, died at the age of 54 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Instead, several players and coaches made the trek to Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, to honor Gwynn.

"It was important for us to pay our respects to Tony's family," McCoy said. "He's one of the great sports figures of all time. Fortunately, San Diego was able to be around him for his entire career. What he did for the community here, coaching at San Diego State and playing here for a number of years, he's one of the greatest players of all time, and an even better person."

Added Chargers center Nick Hardwick: "It's just tragic. Fifty-four years old is awfully young. It's great to see the community out showing love and support to his family in this time of need. For all the hard work, dedication and good memories that he provided this community, the community is now surrounded around his family giving back."

San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer also was on hand to pay his respects at Petco Park. Like Gwynn, Faulconer attended San Diego State, and appreciated the Hall of Famer's commitment to his city.

"Tony Gwynn was Mr. San Diego," Faulconer said. "And I think why we're seeing this tremendous outpouring of support today for Tony Gwynn is because of who he was off the field. He was just an incredible human being who always gave of himself to the city, over and over again."

Padres' fans like Dan Coulson donned brown and gold Gwynn jerseys with the No. 19 on the back, paying homage to the franchise's best player.

"He had eight career 5-for-5 games, and I think I was there for three of them," Coulson said. "Even though he was from Long Beach, we adopted him as our own."

Chargers owner Dean Spanos remembers the joy Gwynn brought to friends and fans with his distinctive laugh.

"I am deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Tony Gwynn," Spanos said in a prepared statement. "We all lost someone very special today. Tony was an icon and one of San Diego's greatest sports legends. He was beloved by so many for his passion for life, his generosity and, of course, his laugh.

"I will always remember his laugh. He represented the Padres, San Diego and Major League Baseball to the highest standard. He impacted so many people, both on and off the field. This is a tremendous loss. I extend my deepest condolences to Alicia and the entire Gwynn family."