WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — In the wake of his college coach, mentor and childhood hero, Tony Gwynn’s death, Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg decided to put down the can once and for all.
Strasburg tells MLB.com’s Bill Ladson Gwynn’s death of salivary gland cancer – which Gwynn said prior to his passing, he believed to have been directly caused by long-term smokeless tobacco use – was his inspiration to quit smokeless tobacco, especially for his newborn daughter’s sake.
“I think it’s a disgusting habit, looking back on it,” Strasburg told Ladson on Monday. “I was pretty naive when I started. Just doing it here and there, I didn’t think it was going to be such an addiction.”
“Bottom line is, I want to be around for my family,” he said. “This is something that can affect people the rest of your life. [Chewing tobacco is] so prevalent in this game. It’s something we all kind of grew up doing.”
Strasburg was understandably heartbroken by the news of Gwynn’s death.
“It was definitely a blow,” Strasburg said after his former coach at San Diego State, where he played from 2007 to 2009. “It was tough waking up yesterday on the off day and getting the news, but I’ve just been saying some prayers for the Gwynn family and obviously all the people back in San Diego who mourn his loss as well.”
“Not everything goes your way in life, and certainly not in this game,” he said at the time. “I think that’s one of the things, from a personal perspective I struggled with that, and he really helped me understand that’s it’s not necessarily the results, it’s the work you put in every single day. That’s what matters at the end of the day.”
Strasburg, prior to his hero’s passing, was unaware Gwynn had dipped, according to Ladson.
Major League Baseball places no specific ban on using smokeless tobacco in games, although, did ban its usage during on-camera interviews and now prohibits teams from making it available to players, as part of the most recent collective bargaining agreement.
Technically, smokeless tobacco has been banned at the Minor League level.