© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
07/22/07 9:24 PM ET
Notes: Phils' pair admires Gwynn
Rollins, Howard glad to witness Saturday's ceremony
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- While a senior at Lafayette High School in St. Louis in 1998, Ryan Howard had big-league dreams, so he excitedly went to his local bookstore to meet one of his idols. Tony Gwynn was signing his new book, "The Art of Hitting," and Howard waited in line to get the future Hall of Famer's autograph on his copy. After winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 2005, Howard called Gwynn because he wanted to work with him. Gwynn had him hammering a Whiffle ball on a tee. Howard followed that season with the National League Most Valuable Player Award last year. Gwynn ended his career in 2001 as an eight-time NL batting champion with 3,141 hits in his 20 big-league seasons, all for San Diego. The Padres honored him in a pregame ceremony before Saturday's game and throughout the game with congratulatory messages from former teammates and contemporaries, including former Phillies and Padres manager Larry Bowa and Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. As Gwynn gave a speech in appreciation, Howard and Jimmy Rollins watched from the field. "We're lucky enough to be here while they were doing this, and I wasn't going to miss it for the world," Howard said. Rollins also had the unique experience of working with Gwynn -- spending a week in the 2002 and 2003 offseason working with the former Padres outfielder -- and credits those lessons as a large part of his success. He also didn't want to miss the speech. "How many times do you see something like this on TV and you say, 'I wish I was there,'" Rollins said. "I was in [the clubhouse] when he was speaking, so I ran out there half-dressed. I got to get out there to hear him, I wanted to give him a hug and say, 'Congratulations.' "He's such a great person. He let me come down and let me work with him, free of charge, just work. That's the type of person he is. It wasn't about Tony the baseball player. It was about Tony the person." The number: Cole Hamels didn't get to pick his uniform number when he debuted last season, getting No. 35. Given a choice, the San Diego native would've selected No. 19. "Of course," Hamels said. "[Gwynn] made the number 19 a cool number." Hamels could have switched this offseason, but had since grown attached to No. 35, as did many fans walking around with his name on their backs. But he admits to sometimes looking longingly at Greg Dobbs, who was assigned the digits this spring. "I'll just have to make 35 famous," he said with a laugh. Should Hamels someday play for the Padres -- take a deep breath, Phillies fans -- he can't wear No. 35, as it's retired for former Cy Young Award winner and All-Star lefty Randy Jones. Jones went 22-14 with a 2.74 ERA and 25 complete games in 1976, and remains the club leader in innings pitched (1,765), starts (253), complete games (71) and shutouts (18). Who I am: Michael Zagurski knows he won't make the cover of Perfect Body magazine, and loved hearing about a T-shirt owned by Padres reliever and fellow rotund sort Heath Bell. Bell has a shirt that reads: "I'm in Shape: Round is a Shape." "See if he can get one for me, or find out where he got it," Zagurski said. "I'd wear that proudly. You have to play the cards you're dealt. By no means do I think I'm in bad shape." Listed at 6-foot and 225 pounds, Zagurski has earned a few nicknames in his two months with the Phillies, including "Bronko," a play on his last name's resemblance to former Bears football great Bronko Nagurski, and "Kruk Jr." for his physical similarities to the former Phillies first baseman, John Kruk. While he's pitched in and out of tight spots during his rookie season -- he's limited lefties to a .212 average -- Zagurski has taken to his other identity. He also related some of the more colorful comments he's received from hecklers. "I laugh at it but never get agitated," Zagurski said. "We were playing at Texas A&M [Zagurski went to the University of Kansas] and some guy yelled, 'Zagurski, I can hear you getting fatter,'" he said. "I stepped off and laughed. That was pretty funny. Somebody once asked me if I held up my pants with a belt or a hula hoop. It's in good humor, too. They just wanted me to pitch bad that day. I'm in the big [leagues] now, so I must've done something right." Quotable: "He's the fastest guy I've ever seen, hands down. He ran out a triple today that was a joke. He just strolled into third. I'd like to see him go toe-to-toe against that cheetah they had the other day." --Aaron Rowand, on Michael Bourn. A cheetah spent Thursday at PETCO Park as part of Zoo Day. Philling in: Right-hander Brett Myers is scheduled to pitch again on Monday for Class A Clearwater, and Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said his closer could be activated as early as Thursday, when the Phillies play the Nationals. ... Rollins hit his 19th homer in his second at-bat Sunday, tying the Mets' Carlos Beltran for the Major League lead in home runs by a switch-hitter. Coming up: For the first time in his rookie season, right-hander Kyle Kendrick will be trying to rebound from a defeat, which he suffered on Wednesday against the Dodgers. He gave up two homers in that outing, something a groundball pitcher can't do. The Phillies are 5-2 in Kendrick's starts. First pitch on Tuesday against the Nationals is 7:05 p.m. ET.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.