Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale is set to make his first All-Star start Tuesday. And as MLB's prominent superstars talked to the media on the final day before the Midsummer Classic in San Diego, Sale revealed just how important one local legend has been in helping him reach this point in his career.
Tony Gwynn played 20 consecutive seasons with the Padres, winning the N.L. batting title eight times and finishing with 3,141 career hits, the 18th most in MLB history. But Gwynn, a 2007 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, was addicted to chewing tobacco like so many other 20th century baseball figures, and he ultimately passed away due to salivary gland cancer in 2014 at 54.
And it was this unfortunate aspect of Gwynn's life that stuck with Sale the most. In this MLB.com video of the press conference, Sale said that he quit tobacco altogether after Gwynn's 2014 death, ending a seven-year habit:
"He made a very big impact on my life; I chewed tobacco from 2007 until the day he passed away, and I remember seeing that and just being so shocked," Sale said. "He was a larger than life person, an inspiration to the game for many, many people for many different reasons ... I owe him a huge thank you from not only myself, but from my family, and hopefully I can maybe sway somebody in the right direction as well like he did for me."
Powerful words from Sale, who has shown some tremendous mental strength by staying clean for two years.
And Sale has been reaping the benefits on the field as well, leading the MLB in wins (with 14), complete games (three) and innings pitched (125) during the first half of the 2016 season. The All-Star Game will get underway Tuesday at approximately 5 p.m. PT.