2007 NEWS

2007 News > 7/31/07

GLAVINE GETS PRAISE FROM ALL CORNERS

By John Delcos, The Journal-News

MILWAUKEE - Tom Glavine says he's a father and husband first, then a baseball player.

"That's who I am,'' he said. "Baseball is what I do.''

However, the scouting report of the pitcher is much like that of the man. Glavine will be seeking to become the 23rd pitcher in major-league history to win 300 games when he starts tonight against the Milwaukee Brewers, and he says he's on history's doorstep because of the meshing of his talent and personality.

Glavine is determined, yet he also is not too strong-willed to where he can't adjust. As a pitcher, he changed his style two years ago, moving off the outside corner to the inside part of the plate because "the game tells you when it is time to change, and I was getting my butt kicked.''

Glavine is careful, deliberate, analytical and precise, as a pitcher and as a man.

When asked what he's proud of about being a pitcher, he said, "My consistency I want my teammates to know they can always depend on me.''

When asked his goal as a parent, he said, "I want to be a dependable role model for my kids. They need to know they can always depend on me.''

Glavine's teammates say he is selfless and a fierce competitor.

Glavine said he's comfortable flying under the radar, but his ability to adjust has enabled him to grasp the thought that tonight could belong to him.

"I'm comfortable with it from the standpoint it makes me proud I've been able to play as long as I have,'' Glavine said. "I am proud I have been able to better myself and endure the things I have for a chance at this moment.''

Glavine said it was he who threw the ball, but he had help. From family to teammates to opponents, Glavine has touched many, and it is through their eyes that we look at his remarkable career.

His parents: The temperament was always there

If you flip on the TV in the middle of the game and don't know the score, you can't tell from Glavine's expression whether he is winning or losing.

When he was 12 or 13, Glavine's father, Fred, harped on the need for him to develop a changeup and remembered when he broke it out for the first time.

"The bases were loaded, and the coach brought him in from center field to pitch,'' Fred Glavine said. "Tom kept shaking the catcher off. The coach said, 'What's he shaking him off for, he only has one pitch.' ''

Well, no.

Glavine threw the changeup, and the batter got a hit to win the game. Father and son were talking in the car on the way home, when Glavine, wise beyond his years, said, "If I struck him out, I would have been the hero.''

That has always been Glavine's perspective.

"Some kids, after they lost games, didn't want to go out for pizza,'' Glavine's mother, Mildred, said about Little League games in Billerica, Mass.

"Tom was never like that. He was always, 'Sure, let's go.' He didn't let things bother him.''

His wife: He really is a funny guy

Glavine's wife, Christine, said the couple had known each other for several years before they started dating, having met when he was in the minor leagues.

Glavine was already into his successful career, and each had gone through a divorce, when he contacted her through a mutual friend.

"He was the same person I had known before,'' Christine said. "Success hadn't changed him. He still hasn't changed. He's an awesome husband and dad. He's my best friend. He's always there. He always makes us feel like we're first.''

The thing she wishes the public knew about her husband is his sense of humor.

"He really is a funny guy,'' she said. "People don't know what kind of sense of humor he really has.''

The Hall of Fame trio: tougher than he looks

Glavine will eventually be in the Hall of Fame with former Atlanta teammates Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, who remember his work ethic and competitive desire.

"Nobody works harder than he does to get the most out of his ability,'' Smoltz said. "He pushes everybody around him to go harder because of his work ethic. That's what makes him who he is.''

Maddux said it was also his grit that makes him great.

"More than half the time as a pitcher you're not going to have your best stuff,'' Maddux said. "I don't know how many times I've seen him struggle - either he was hurting or wasn't pitching well - that he hung in there and came out with a win.

"There were times he would give up four or five runs, but he'd stay in the game and eventually win. He never quits.''

The general manager: You build around guys like him

Former general manager Steve Phillips brought Glavine to the Mets from Atlanta before the 2003 season.

The Mets were two years removed from the World Series and had started rebuilding.

"When you're able to sign a player such as Tom Glavine, it sends the message you're serious about winning,'' Phillips said. "He brought with him a winning attitude and work ethic that rubs off on the other players.''

The manager: He's another pitching coach

When it became obvious in spring training that Phil Humber was not going to make the team, Glavine pulled aside the rookie and told him the score.

He explained to Humber the odds were against him and that he should concentrate on improving to put himself in position where he could help later this season.

"Having him is like having two pitching coaches,'' manager Willie Randolph said. "That's going to help Humber. When a player of his stature helps out a younger player, they remember that. It carries a lot of weight.''

The pitching coach: The consummate professional

After forging a career on the outside corner, the game changed soon after Glavine joined the Mets. Umpires were graded differently, and Glavine wasn't getting the calls.

"He could have said, 'This is how I've always done it.' But he didn't,'' said pitching coach Rick Peterson, who encouraged Glavine to challenge hitters inside.

Glavine is a passionate golfer, and Peterson gave him an analogy he could appreciate.

"He knows he has another club in his bag he can use,'' Peterson said. "This game is about making adjustments, and that's what he did.''

The teammates: He's always there

Walt Weiss played shortstop behind Glavine at the beginning of his career in Atlanta; David Wright plays third base behind him now.

"You wouldn't know it by looking at him,'' said Weiss, a Suffern native. "But he's one of the toughest players I've ever seen. Nobody's a greater competitor.''

Wright also sees that fire, but something else, too.

"When I came up he was always the first to pat me on the back or give me an encouraging word,'' Wright said. "Everybody on this team knows they can talk to him.''

The hitters: He never gives in

Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton calls it a "comfortable 0 for 4'' when he takes the collar against Glavine.

"You look at the way he's throwing and think, 'I can hit him,' '' Helton said. "Then you're walking back to the dugout. He's not going to overpower you, but you also know he's never going to give in.''

The city rivals: Great respect

If Roger Clemens could give Glavine one piece of advice for tonight, it is to remember where he's been.

"He's got to do what he's always been doing,'' Clemens said. "He's been around a long time and pitched in a lot of big games. He knows what to do.''

Glavine said he's not difficult to figure out, and he wins because he does his job better.

"You know what he's trying to do and yet he's still tough to face,'' Derek Jeter said. "Three hundred shows his consistency.''