"I haven't changed very much as a hitter—only in the sense of trying to be more aggressive on the inside pitch," Gwynn says. "Ted told me, 'You have so much time in the big leagues. You know these pitchers. You've got to let it go. Just let it go!' And for two years I did. But you get in trouble when you begin to like the results. You have some success, and you want to do it all the time. I just feel like this year I have to get back to using the whole field, because I made too many mistakes last year [.321, 16 homers, 69 RBIs], because I was in too many situations where I was looking for a pitch and never got it. Instead of trying to force it, just take what they give you."
They have hit the stretch run to 3,000 together. Parallel lives still. Boggs and Gwynn never have played against each other, except in 10 All-Star Games. They never talked hitting; never said much more than, "Hi, how you doing?" to each other—all the while taking the same journey. So what will accomplishing this feat mean to each of them?
"There's tremendous satisfaction," Boggs says, "not only from a personal standpoint, but from what it has meant to my father. Because he molded me into the player that I am, physically and mentally. The discipline, the patience. He always said, There are a lot of guys in this game with a lot more talent than you, but if you bust your ass and hustle and work hard, then you'll be better than them."
"The best thing for me," Gwynn says, "has just been the passion of wanting to play. The challenge of stepping in the box, the challenge of trying to be successful. When I started out, I guarantee you nobody figured I would be where I am today. Nobody. Not even myself. Maybe there's something that makes you want to go out and prove people wrong, but for me, it's just the passion of loving to do what I do."
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]