2006 NEWS

2006 News > 4/3/06


By Dan Graziano, Star-Ledger

NEW YORK -- Unlike many of the parents in the room to which he was speaking yesterday afternoon, Tom Glavine doesn't have a child with autism. That fact isn't lost on him.

"Being a father of four healthy children is not something I take lightly or take for granted," said the Mets' left-hander, who is scheduled to start the team's regular-season opener this afternoon against the Washington Nationals at Shea Stadium. "It's something that makes me feel very blessed and very appreciative."

That, Glavine said, is why he has become the Mets' autism awareness spokesman. Yesterday, Glavine spoke at a Shea Stadium news conference to preview Sunday's "Autism Awareness Day" at Shea. He spoke to a room full of parents and autistic children and posed for photographs with Mr. Met and a young boy named Liam Watkins, who will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Sunday's Mets-Marlins game.

"Having been associated with this for a few years now, I've seen the struggles, I've seen the battles. I've seen the good days and the bad days," Glavine said. "So much of making a difference is awareness, and hopefully, each year we do this brings more people to the fight and, hopefully, in the end, will be a steppingstone to finding a cure for this and understanding it better."

Autism is a developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills.

Sunday will be the fourth annual Autism Awareness Day at Shea. Each year, a group called QSAC (Quality Services for the Autism Community) brings about 5,000 people, including people with autism and their families, to the game. This year, there will be an awards presentation on the field before the game as well as a silent auction and a parade on the field spotlighting children from area public schools.

"Every year, Austism Awareness Day reaches a larger audience and our families have a wonderful deal cheering on the Mets," Gary Maffei, the director of QSAC said.