1997 NEWS

1997 News > Glavine's Arcade


By Martha Payne, ChopTalk

Compared with many of our famous Braves, Tom Glavine is a seasoned veteran. Since 1987, well before the Braves went from worst to first and decided to stay there a while, he has worn a tomahawk across his chest. Since he won the Cy Young Award in 1991, he has been well known among baseball fans across the country. In short, Glavine is a big star.

That can be kind of intimidating for your average writer/fan. Intimidated was certainly how I felt when I pulled up in front of elegant, Old South-ish Anthony's restaurant in my family mini-van (complete with cheerioencrusted seats and Happy Meal toys),. But I shook it off, smiled with confidence at the parking attendant and took a deep breath, readying myself to cover "Tom Glavine's Spring Training 1997," a charity benefit for the Georgia Transplant Foundation.

Once inside, I caught a glimpse of Mark Wohlers and Mike Bielecki chatting with a fan. My knees started to wobble. I had 10 minutes before my scheduled interview with Glavine, so I ducked into the neutral territory of the press room, signed in with the speed of a box turtle, and hovered in a corner fiddling with my name tag.

"Anybody here yet?"

This question came in a vaguely familiar voice. I looked up and there was Glavine, joking with the volunteers working the press table, not a one of them famous. He nodded and smiled my way. I nodded back, feeling better but still fumbling with the pin on that name tag.

Glavine came across like a boy waiting for his friends to show up at his birthday party. Amazing, I thought, a superstar athlete, one who's had plenty of ups and downs, and he's clearly enjoying himself at the start of an event he's hosted five times in the past. Not a touch of condescension marked his manner, not a hint of that rushed feeling some busy players understandably exude when they're forced to divvy up their free time among benefits, endorsements, autographs and interviews. No wonder the folks at the Georgia Transplant Foundation have held on to Glavine.

"He's a man of very high character a fine gentleman. He goes out of his way for us," said Tommy Smith, who founded the Transplant Foundation in 1991 and invited Glavine to be an original board member. Glavine agreed and has been working with the Foundation ever since. Each winter he organizes this Spring Training event where fans mingle with Braves players, challenge them at pool or air hockey or pinball, and bid on all sorts of Braves-related auction goodies.

"They're a good group of hard-working people with great intentions," Glavine said of Smith and his staff after I worked up the nerve to do the interview.

A kidney transplant patient himself, Smith recognized during his illness that many transplant recipients and their families need supplementary income, particularly during their period of recovery. He founded the Georgia Transplant Foundation in order to help such patients with mortgage and car payments, airline tickets for donors -any costs that would not be covered by a regular health insurance plan. The Foundation has been quite successful.

Last year, the Spring Training event alone raised over $22,000, and this year Smith expects the number will be closer to $100,000.

"This is a different event," said Glavine of his benefit. "Fans get in here and just kind of goof around with the players. It's a lot more relaxed than a blacktie affair."

Boy, was it. Anthony's main dining area resembled an arcade more than an antebellum ballroom. Glavine and Denny Neagle lounged near the pool tables, Wohlers and Marquis Grissom at the air hockey stations, Jeff Blauser and Mark Lemke around the pinball machines, each one waiting to be challenged by eager fans, all of whom made a donation or two in exchange for their moment of glory.

Upstairs, fans busily made bids on items like one of Glavine's World Series jackets, a Hank Aaron autographed bat, a pair of Muhammed Ali autographed boxing gloves, and a golf foursome with Glavine.

"We all pitch in," Glavine concluded humbly. "Usually, the guys have a good time, so it's easy to get them (to come) back."

Smith, like everyone else with the Georgia Transplant Foundation, is just glad Glavine keeps coming back, and always with enthusiasm, year after year.