2007 NEWS

2007 News > 12/22/07

B Carroll Rogers, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

During his five years in New York with the Mets, Tom Glavine stayed up late after games, watched Tivo until 3 or 4 a.m. and slept until noon.

With his family back in Alpharetta, he was trying to avoid the morning hours, when he and his wife Chris would have been taking the kids to school and spending time together. Alone in Greenwich, Conn., he preferred to be in a dream state. "It took my mind off wanting to be home or feeling guilty because I wasn't at home," Glavine says.

His family situation was too complicated to move everybody to New York. His daughter Amber, 12, is by his previous marriage. Chris' son Jonathan, 13, is by her previous marriage. They share custody of those two children and have two younger sons together.

Glavine was doing well to get them all to New York for the summers. Another five months of the year, they made weekend visits when the Mets were at home.

Glavine could afford to fly them in chartered planes, and his parents lived close by in Billerica, Mass., so extended family was around on weekends. But none of that could assuage the tug of home— one Glavine has felt strongly all his life.

Late last season Glavine felt an unfamiliar strain in his marriage. At age 41, having achieved his 300th win, he ran out of reasons to justify the distance.

The one-year, $8 million contract he signed with the Braves last month was $5 million less than the Mets' offer. It was a financial sacrifice Glavine was glad to make. He felt his kids had been making too many sacrifices for him, missing Little League games and birthday parties.

"That's not how I was raised," he says.

He was raised on the foundation that being there for your kids is the most important gift you can give them.

Parents made the games

Fred Glavine laid foundations for a living. For 50 years, he owned his own construction business.

As a kid, Tom liked to tag along in his dad's truck on trips to the hardware store or to check on a job. By high school, Glavine was working alongside him in the summers. During his first few minor league seasons with the Braves, he worked with him in the winters.

"It was really cool to show up at a job site and all you see is a hole," Glavine says. "We come in, do our thing, so when you leave at least there's a foundation. And then you go back a year later to do a job nearby, and you see a house."

It was just one of the ways he and his father spent time together.

Somehow, Fred and Millie Glavine attended the sporting events of all their kids: Tom, Fred, Michael and Debbie. And at least one parent was at nearly every practice.

Fred worked his schedule around games, even if it meant getting up at 5 a.m.

"So many times he'd say 'I'm not going to make it today,'?" Millie Glavine said. "Sure enough, just before the game starts, there he was."

Growing up in the '40s, Fred Glavine was captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams at Billerica Memorial High. His father, a factory-worker, never made it to a game, and his mother came to one football game.

"That was a different time," he said.

He made sure his kids came up differently. Fred Glavine had two weeks of vacation every year. One was spent taking day trips with the family to amusement parks and Red Sox games. The other was a trip to the beach in Maine. But they would drive back for the day if Tom had an All-Star baseball game or practice.

Glavine was a standout hockey player, too, and he remembers at both early morning and after-school practices, seeing his father in the corner of the rink, drinking a cup of coffee.

The first time Glavine ever left his family was the day he flew to Bradenton, Fla., to join the Braves' rookie league team. He was 18. At the gate, he turned and saw his family in tears. He knew he couldn't turn around again or he wouldn't go.

Being away was a strain

His baseball schedule makes it impossible for Glavine to be at all of his kids' events, even when he's living in the same city. But he tries.

He flew home every off day in the Mets' schedule during the school year. He called Chris five times a day. He always called his kids to say good night, even if it meant leaving the dugout between innings on a night he was pitching.

Inevitably, though, things got hard every August, when the kids headed back to school. He and Chris would get into a familiar argument, starting with her saying: "You are in your own little world up there."

What got especially hard for Chris, his wife of nine years, was how little time they had alone together.

"The two days I'd go up there on a weekend, it wouldn't be unusual to have 15 people in the house," says Chris, who grew up in a quieter household of two kids. "It was not unusual for us not to have a dinner together for nine months."

Both of them knew things weren't right.

"We had a conversation in August where we were both like 'This is getting to be a strain,'" Glavine says. "Not like we were ever in jeopardy, but there was a distance."

After two weekends late last season, Glavine decided it was time to leave New York. On the first weekend, weather delayed Chris and the kids' flight late on a Friday night. They were left with only five hours together between day games on Saturday and Sunday.

The second weekend, his sons Peyton, 8, and Mason, 7, had youth baseball and hockey games. Glavine gave them the option of staying in Alpharetta, and they took it.

They ended up coming anyway to surprise their dad — Chris had heard the disappointment in his voice — but he didn't forget that feeling.

Old dispute buried

To come back to the Braves, Glavine did something his father said he never would have done. He looked past the contract dispute of five years ago.

"I just felt he did everything Atlanta ever asked him to do on the field and off the field," Fred Glavine says. "I don't know [all the details], but I know he wasn't looking for the world. ... But I understand his way. His family is very, very important to him. He really liked Atlanta. I'm sure it'll work out."

Glavine says he takes some of the responsibility for how negotiations broke down, and he's gotten past his disagreement with former general manager John Schuerholz. Re-signing with Atlanta was easy, he says, based on his primary reasons for doing it: his family and to play again for manager Bobby Cox.

With two months to go before spring training, the familiar stone face Glavine wears on the mound is on sabbatical. He breaks into easy smiles rink-side in Alpharetta, coaching Peyton and Mason in their "mites" hockey game.

"Two hands on your stick, Mason," he shouts from his perch opening the door for kids between two-minute shifts. "Fight, Peyton, fight."

The Thunderdogs' goalie saves a breakaway shot by Peyton.

"No, you didn't!" Glavine laughs, bouncing into the plexiglass beside him.

"It's just so much fun to watch," he says. "They follow the puck like a rat chasing cheese."

In February, the Glavines' new house should be finished. It's two streets down from where they live now in Country Club of the South, and it has a bigger yard.

Glavine had a baseball infield installed in the backyard and groomed by Braves groundskeeper Ed Mangan. There's a "sport court" for roller hockey and basketball. Inside is a batting cage, complete with pitching mound.

"We're trying to create an environment where, when the kids get older, they want their buddies to hang out at the house, rather than being out driving around," Glavine says.

Whatever happens, he wants them all together.