Before a major career moment, Chris Sale gives an All-Star tribute to Tony Gwynn

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SAN DIEGO  - Just after 10:30 A.M. Pacific Time things were going off just as expected.

In a news conference room at Petco Park, American League manager Ned Yost walked in with his choice as the pitcher for the MLB All-Star game by his side.

To no surprise, that was the lengthy Chris Sale, who sat to the left of Yost for the news conference. It's a big moment in the career of the pitcher who gets to take the mound at the start of the Midsummer Classic for the first time in a season where he heads to the break as the leading candidate for the AL's Cy Young Award.

As expected, once again, Sale graciously accepted the honor from Yost, speaking with the typical yet appropriate rhetoric about the significance of being named the starter. He then repeated his desire to hold nothing back against National League hitters in his first and likely only inning in the game.

"Planning on letting it eat for a minute, really. Just getting after it," said Sale, echoing similar comments from the ones made in Chicago when he was named an All-Star a week earlier. "There are no repercussions that come from the game other than having fun and competing. That's all I'm going to try to do. I don't know what pitches I'm going to throw.

"I'm going to rely on my catcher like I always do to get me through that inning or two, whatever it might be. But I fully intend to going out there and giving it all I got for that inning or two, whatever it might be."

Yet an observant Sale was about to throw everyone for a positive loop a few minutes later, thanks to an open-ended but appropriate question for any major baseball even in San Diego.

"For anybody, Petco Park is the house that Tony Gwynn built," said a local reporter. "Considering the impact he had on the game and this city and the residents, do you have any thoughts about Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn?"

Yost was the first to answer, remember his time facing Gwynn and coaching his son, Tony Jr., in Milwaukee. Just as

"It was always fun to sit back and watch him hit. I can't think of too many hitters that were as great as he was in my time, that I've seen," said Yost to conclude his thoughts, but Sale didn't wast the opportunity to pay tribute to the late Hall of Famer.

"I would like to add something about Tony Gwynn as well," said Sale, who was about to share his personal connection to the former Padres right fielder. " He actually made a very big impact in my life."

Gwynn, who was an eight-time National League batting champion and 15-time All-Star, died on June 16, 2014 due to complications from salivary gland cancer. While not directly linked to the cancer that caused his death, it was suspected by his family that years of the use of chewing tobacco led to that condition. In fact the family filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry for that reason this past May.

It was that reason that Sale was touched by Gwynn's death. Up till that point in his major league career, the White Sox pitcher used chewing tobacco. When this happened, he stopped cold.

"I remember seeing that, and just being so shocked," said Sale, who started chewing tobacco in 2007. "He was a larger-than-life person. He was an inspiration to the game for many, many people for a lot of different reasons. But I quit that day, and I haven't touched it since.

"In a sense, I owe him a huge thank you for not only myself but for my family and, you know, hopefully I can maybe sway somebody in the right direction as well like he did for me."

While putting him in a position he earned in the city where Gwynn remains a legend to this day.

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