In the year and a half after he signed, Gwynn battered pitchers at every level—classes A, AA, AAA and the Arizona Instructional League—before being called up by San Diego on July 19. "I went two for four with an RBI and a run against Philadelphia in my first game," he recalls. "After I got the second hit, Pete Rose said to me, 'What are you trying to do, catch me after one night?' He shook my hand, and I've got a picture of that hanging in my living room."
Gwynn was batting .271 on Aug. 25 when he broke his left wrist diving for a fly ball against Pittsburgh. Although he returned Sept. 13 and batted .348 in his last 16 games, he averaged below .300 for the first time. He rebounded to hit .368 in the Puerto Rican League that winter before breaking his right wrist in the same fashion on Dec. 30.
Gwynn began last season in Class AAA Las Vegas and was called up by the Padres in June. He struggled early but hit .333 after July 25 and had a league-high 25-game hitting streak. He finished the year at .309, 101 points above his weight. And then Gwynn finally decided to do something about that. Gone were the daily visits to McDonald's for a Big Mac with an occasional Filet-O-Fish sandwich on the side. Gone was the six-pack of Coke a day to wash it all down. He even cut back on his tin-and-a-half-a-day Skoal habit. "Now it's fish, chicken and vegetables," he says. "I used to hate vegetables, but they're not so bad."
The Padres are happy with a thinner, if not thin, Gwynn. "We didn't demand that he lose weight," Williams says. "He hit .300 that way. Heck, maybe we'll have him lose a couple of more pounds and he'll hit .500."