On June 9, 1981, a young Tony Gwynn received the phone call that every ballplayer dreams of. He’d been drafted to play baseball professionally, No. 58 overall, by the San Diego Padres — the team just down the road from where he had played collegiately at San Diego State. That fact was only just beginning to sink in when Gwynn got another phone call about an hour later, this one wholly unexpected. He had been drafted again — to play professional basketball, by the San Diego Clippers in the 10th round.
To hear his wife Alicia tell it, that’s what made the difference for Gwynn as he contemplated his decision. He looked at the NBA and saw a league trending toward size. He realized he didn’t have it. “Basketball was his first love, and he really contemplated,” said Alicia Gwynn. “And he said, ‘You know what Alicia, I think I better go with baseball, because at best, I’d play two years [in the NBA] and then I wouldn’t be there anymore.'”
Why doesn’t the NBA do as its brethren and hire K Street help to do its bidding with lawmakers? In a statement, the league contended that it simply didn’t have to pay to sway, at least not in D.C. “As necessary and appropriate, the NBA engages with government officials and speaks publicly regarding matters that affect our sport,” league spokesman Mike Bass said in an email. “In Washington, we have found that members of both parties are open to hearing our point of view directly.”
Asked over email about why he thought the league had ceased its Congressional lobbying, Donatelli, who left McGuireWoods in 2018, pleaded ignorance. “I have not done lobbying for the league for a number of years now, so I can only confirm what you already know but not sure I can share any light on the why,” wrote Donatelli, a former Republican official who also once represented the Washington NFL team. McGuireWoods formally reported the termination of its relationship with the NBA at the end of 2019, although the firm had not shown any client activity for several years by then.
“I remember how big a fan I was of A-Rod. Still am,” Towns said late Sunday night. “I went to Walmart and Walmart had just got these new super replica off-the-way A-Rod jerseys. I was like, ‘Mom, I got to get this A-Rod jersey.’ It was like $35. “She’s like, ‘Go try it on in the fitting room.’ I feel like the biggest man on campus. I know damn well I can’t afford one at Modell’s. I know that’s too much money for us. But Walmart? I may be able to finagle this. She goes, ‘Great! Leave it on.’ You ain’t got to tell me twice. You know how bad I want this jersey?”
As Towns sat down in front of the Zoom screen to recap the emotional night, he was well aware of newcomer Rougned Odor leading the Yankees to an extra-inning win against the Rays earlier in the day. He wore a Yankees cap and jersey on a Timberwolves team plane in 2019, during a Yankees-Twins playoff series, to reaffirm where his baseball loyalties lie. “A-Rod is one of the best baseball players that ever lived,” Towns said. “To have his charisma and his aura is going to make a lot of people gravitate towards here. From the standpoint of understanding players and the grind you go through, it’s something a former professional athlete can know.”
Chris Kirschner: Nate McMillan said he thought MLB’s decision to take the All-Star Game out of Atlanta was “great” and that he doesn’t understand the purpose of Georgia’s Election Integrity Act. “What is happening is just not right.”