2005 NEWS

2005 News > 9/7/05


By Marty Noble, MLB.com

NEW YORK -- The unannounced visitor to the Mets clubhouse stood at the end of a long, narrow corridor, waiting for a particular player he thought he would recognize immediately, Tom Glavine. A dozen players passed, but no Glavine. Finally, there he was, and ... but no, it was Mike Jacobs, the rookie and something of a Glavine look-alike, just a little taller and broader at the shoulder. The wait continued.

And then the Mets left-handed pitcher appeared and began walking down the corridor, and ... but no, it was the Mets right-handed pitcher Kris Benson, also taller than Glavine, but with a slender physique that had fooled the waiting visitor.

Then Glavine did appear, all 5-11, 185 pounds of him, and the visitor was struck by Glavine's size, or relative lack of it. And the words of Bobby Cox, Glavine's manager for all those years win Atlanta, came to mind: "You wonder how that big heart fits in that body."

Cox's wonder, expressed dozens of times, had more to do with pitching than other parts of Glavine's life. But the thought would apply if Glavine were foreign to the pitcher's mound and outside corner. The size of his heart is just as conspicuous in January as it is in July and in the bigger picture as it is in the big game.

Glavine gives of himself on every stage. The generosity -- he gives of his time, not merely his money -- is why the Mets pitcher has been nominated for the 2005 Roberto Clemente Award, the honor Major League Baseball has bestowed annually, beginning in 1972, on one of its players for civic involvement, community endeavors and, in general, caring about his fellow man.

Known initially as The Commissioner's Award and sponsored by John Hancock Financial Services, the Roberto Clemente Award goes to a player who truly understands the value and reward of helping others, as Clemente clearly did. The award was re-named in honor of the Pirates' Hall of Fame right fielder in 1973, following his tragic death, as a tribute to his goodwill and humanitarian spirit. Clemente had died in a plane crash Dec. 31, 1972 while transporting relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua.

A panel of baseball dignitaries, including his widow Vera Clemente and commissioner Bud Selig, selects a winner from among 30 nominees, one from each Major League team. Past winners include former Mets pitcher Al Leiter, Tony Gwynn, Sammy Sosa, Willie Mays, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Kirby Puckett.

"It's an honor to be nominated for an award that carries the name of a man who did so much to help others," Glavine says. "I know Smoltzie [former Braves teammate John Smoltz, a former winner of the award] was proud to win it. I'm proud to be nominated. My parents taught us to appreciate what we had and to give back and help people who didn't have as much. It feels good to do that.

"It's not just the money -- giving money is the easy part. It's giving time. And when you do, you feel very gratified. You go to a hospital, and it's not always easy to see what you see. It's so unfair for young kids to have life-threatening and life-changing problems. You see their courage and their parents' anguish. Sometimes you don't know how to react. Some kids will just light up and others are so miserable, so sick, they don't want to be cheered up.

"You want to help all of them."

Glavine has helped so many. The list of his humanitarian endeavors is as long as the one of the games he has won in his 18-plus seasons, the last three with the Mets.

The most prominent -- and to Glavine, the most gratifying -- is the Georgia Transplant Foundation, launched 15 years ago by the pitcher and a virtual stranger, kidney transplant recipient Tommy Smith. Glavine had yet to make his mark with the Braves when he found an unmailed letter from Smith in his home mailbox.

Smith, who died two years ago because of kidney problems, wanted to start a program for people afflicted with kidney disease that would provide financial and educational assistance to families of those undergoing or awaiting a transplant. Glavine created -- and annually hosts -- what he calls a "casual night of playing tables games with a silent auction and fun" that raised some $4 million through the years.

He also has participated with MLB as part of the Commissioner's Initiative for Kids, honoring children from CureSearch on Children's Cancer Awareness Day. Glavine approach Selig to see what could be done to raise awareness of Children's Cancer. With Glavine's involvement, MLB raised more than $1 millions from Ameriquest Mortgage Company that went to different charitable causes, including CureSearch National Foundation.

He also has:

Donated $50,000 to Tuesday's Children to create a Mets Scholarship Fund for Tuesday's Children, a non-profit family services organization that offers an 18-year commitment to children who lost a parent on September 11th.

Served as honorary chairman of the Georgia Council on Child Abuse.

Volunteered his time and efforts as a member of the National Sports Committee of the Leukemia Society of America.

"The guys in the game have been pretty fortunate. We have health and the means to take care of our families," Glavine said. "It's the right thing to do, to help others who may not be able to do the same thing."