CHICAGO — They stand pretty much alone during the past decade as the finest hitters in their respective leagues, so it was odd that Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn had never spent any significant time talking about hitting--until Tuesday.
Gwynn and Boggs had an unscheduled lunch Tuesday, spending an hour in a free-wheeling discussion on all aspects of hitting. And Gwynn came away particularly impressed.
"There's no question, he's the god when it comes to hitting, and I try to learn all I can from him," Gwynn said before the All-Star Game. "I try to watch him hit all the time because what he tries to do at the plate is exactly what I try to do."
While it was the first time the two talked in depth about hitting, Gwynn was familiar with Boggs' style.
"I'm lucky; I have a satellite dish at home, and I watch (New England Sports Network) all the time," he said. "They used to replay a lot of the games, and I would get home from the ballpark from my game and be able to see a couple of his at-bats."
Gwynn said that the discussion Tuesday touched on nearly every aspect of hitting. Interestingly, he said, there were times when the premier batsmen would use different terms to explain the same components of the swing or some other hitting technique. But they never had any trouble understanding what the other was trying to say.
"He would say something one way, and I would try to express it another way," Gwynn said. "But those were just the words. We knew what each other was trying to say because we're so much alike in what we do at the plate."
The discussion came at an interesting time for both players. While both were chosen for the All-Star Game, they have not put up the types of numbers people have come to expect from them.
Going into the All-Star break, Boggs is hitting .306--46 points below his lifetime average--and Gwynn is hitting .311--21 points below his career average.
"We talked about that and how people tend to view you differently than you view yourself," Gwynn said. "A lot of people look at those numbers and say we're having a disappointing year. Well, in one way, that's fair because they're not the numbers people expect from us. But it's not fair in another way. I think that any time you hit .300 on this level, you're doing good."
Gwynn said that Boggs said to him--as he has said several times--that he feels he is swinging the bat better this year than any other year, but that he is hitting the ball right at people making great plays.
"In my situation, I'm hitting .311, but .311 is good for me right now the way I'm swinging the bat," Gwynn said. "I don't think I've swung the bat well all year. I just haven't gotten in any prolonged groove."
Gwynn said he thinks that his problems stem from lapses in concentration. "I watch videos, and the coaches watch me and tell me things, but sometimes you just get lazy with your hands or you don't pay attention to things you need to watch. Or sometimes, you might go three for three, and the fourth time up, you're not concentrating the way you were before. You can't let that happen."
That was one of the reasons he appreciated his conversation with Boggs, who deserves his reputation as a hitter of extraordinary focus and concentration.
"He's like I am," Gwynn said. "I hate to waste an at-bat. Heck, I hate to waste a pitch."
It is fortunate they were tipping on the bill rather than their hits. Between them, Boggs and Gwynn have 3,144 hits--1,691 for Boggs and 1,453 for Gwynn.
Gwynn smiled at the mention. "Well, seriously, that's one of the real nice things about coming to the All-Star Game. You can sit down and talk hitting with someone like Wade Boggs. How can you not learn something?"