1997 NEWS

1997 News > Inner Santcum

THE INNER SANCTUM

An Excerpt From Turner Field: Rarest of Diamonds
By Gary Caruso

On a typical game day, Tom Glavine drives to Turner Field from his home in the suburbs north of Atlanta during the mid-afternoon. He exits the interstate system and quickly finds himself heading south on Hank Aaron Drive. He passes the remainder of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, where he pitched a game for the ages--eight innings of one-hit ball in decisive Game 6 of the 199 5 World Series. Continuing past Turner Field, he takes a sharp right at Love Street on the southeast corner of the new ballpark, then takes another quick right into the gated players' parking area directly adjacent to his new home away from home.

In a matter of seconds, Glavine is inside the ballpark, making a quick walk through the ground-level corridor and into the Braves' posh clubhouse. He stops by the cushy players' lounge to get a cup of coffee and heads for his locker, located strategically at the top of the circle in the keyhole-shaped room (a circle on top of a rectangle).

It's actually the back of the clubhouse, a location Glavine chose because it's close to the weight room and trainer's room, where he spends a lot of time, and it also affords him the best view of the other 43 lockers, his teammates and their activities, the coaching staff, and the media and other visitors. It's the ideal spot for the teams' elder statesman in terms of continuous service.

"I was probably the first to pick a spot," Glavine said. "I was here a couple of times in the winter, and I told (assistant equipment manager) Casey (Stephenson) in Florida what I wanted. I imagine the veteran guys had first dibs. I like it because I can go back there (trainer's/weight room) and watch TV, but the biggest factor is I can see everything."

All the lockers are identical. They're spacious, made of oak, and have several compartments. At floor level, there's a nook with a combination lock for valuables, but Glavine says he only stows toiletries there, preferring to use a community lock box for his wallet, watch, etc. He also keeps several pairs of shoes in the lower level. Above the bar for hanging uniforms and street clothes, are two more cabinets. He keeps gloves in the lower of the two and his equipment bag and extra shoes in the top level.

"I am probably a neat freak compared to some of the other guys," Glavine said of his orderly space. "I like to be able to find things."

The lefthander said he moved all his trinkets, like his Bart Simpson doll, from his old locker at Atlanta-Fulton Country but wound up throwing out most of what he had collected since being promoted to Atlanta August 14, 1987.

"Bart is gone," he said. "I figured: A new stadium, I should start over and clean out some stuff."

His personal possessions consist mainly of pictures of his daughter, Amber, a framed four-leaf clover someone sent him, assorted caps, a picture of the Blue Angles precision flight team, and a couple of hockey sticks.

In front of each locker is a red director's chair with the Braves logo on the inside of the back and Coca-Cola on the outside. Much of the floor space in the center of the carpeted clubhouse is taken by two large picnic tables and two round tables. Baskets for dirty clothes and trash cans are located throughout the room.

"The clubhouse is really comfortable," Glavine said. "I think there were two concerns: You didn't want it to be too big, because the guys would be so spread out that you lose the unity and team feeling. And you didn't want it to be too small for obvious reasons.

"I think this is just right, and there's still room for when they expand the roster in September.

"It's comfortable, but everyone feels like they belong. A lot has to do with the shape. In the old one, Blauser and Lemke were always around that corner and you couldn't see them. It was almost like they weren't around. You lose a little unity that way. Here, everyone is visible."

The decor is strictly "championship." There's a large gold sign commemorating the Braves' '95 World Series victory and four white signs emblematic of the National League pennants won in the '90s.

As has been the case in the Braves' clubhouse for nearly a decade, there's no music blaring. Chuck Tanner, who left in 1988, was the last manager to allow music, Glavine pointed out.

"It's hard to have music because there are so many different tastes," Glavine said. "The best way to control it is to not have any at all. That's the way it's been since the late '80s."

Television is another matter. There are four built-in TVs just below the ceiling at the center of the room. Two face forward and two backward. There are two more built into the walls, one on the left and one on the right. Several baseball games and other sports events often play simultaneously, but the volume is muffled or muted.

"There are enough TVs to show enough choices for everyone," Glavine said. "The only time it might be a problem is on the weekend if there are a lot of different football or basketball games on."

Even then, a player doesn't have to go very far to find another screen. There are several more, including a wide screen, in the lounge and a few more in the weight room, where the treadmills actually have built-in TVs.

Off the hallway leading to the trainer's room and excercise are are offices for Bill Acree, the equipment manager and director of team travel, and assistant, Stevenson. Across from them is the bat room that contains nothing but 300 to 400 bats, Acree estimated.

Around the corner is Bobby Cox's office and a conference room used for coaches' meetings and the players' chapel service.

Across from them is a high-tech video room with numerous monitors, VCRs and control panels, along with a laptop computer. It could be a scaled-down network control room, but it has nothing to do with TBS bringing the Braves into your home every evening. It has everything to do with providing the players with the most state-of-the-art facility available to analyze, dissect and review their performance and that of their opponents.

"It's just for the players," Glavine said. "All you have to do is punch into the laptop what you're looking for--your last at-bat, your at-bats against a certain pitcher, how you pitched to a certain batter the last time--and it comes right up on the screen. It's really unbelievable. I don't think anyone else, except maybe the Indians, has anything like this."

On down the hall are the trainer's room (lots of space, lots of tables, whirlpools, etc.) and the weight room (brand-new, baseball-specific machines with Braves logos on the padding).

"No detail was overlooked," Glavine emphasized. Included among the array of features in the 20,000-square-foot facility:

The special SwimEx rehabilitation pool he uses to loosen up after starts by swimming against resistance.

A sauna

A swing area behind the dugout where pinch-hitters get loose.

The two roomy batting cages with pitching mounds that, among other things, allow Braves pitchers to stay loose during rain delays.

An X-ray room for quick diagnosis of injuries.

Yet another video room, this one right behind the dugout, that is a smaller version of the other one and enables players to quickly review their performance while a game is in progress.

And, of course, the much ballyhooed putting green.

The contoured, artificial turf putting green has four holes and is surrounded on two sides by a realistic mural of the 16th hole at Augusta National where the famed Masters is played each April. Braves president Stan Kasten promised the players this amenity if they won the '95 Series.

"It's great. It gives the players a way to relax," Glavine said. "I've even seen the players who don't golf back there. Some people might say it's a distraction, but it can be a positive, because when players get together, they usually wind up talking baseball. And that's how you learn."

Finally, after weaving through all of this, you come to the Braves' dugout. Long and wide, it's much roomer than its predecessor. But just when you think everything is perfect, Glavine offered that it hasn't necessarily always been this way.

"The bench was pine--you talk about catching some splinters," Glavine said with a chuckle. "Its just one of those things they had to find out about. When Denny (Neagle) was coming off the field after the first inning of the first game, we tried to warn him to put a towel down first, but it was too late. You should have seen the splinters all over the seat of his pants. They changed the wood to oak."

Regardless, it's obvious that players' accommodations have come quite a way since the days when all they had was a nail on the wall.