1998 NEWS

1998 News > Up Close


By Ray Glier, ChopTalk

Q: When did you first think about the big leagues and being a pro?
I probably had the dream right around the time I was old enough to start playing. Watching baseball games on TV, then finally being old enough to play in Little League, really started me dreaming. It was something I wanted to do, but that young you don't know the reality of it. I was probably 7 or 8 years old.

Q: When did you think you had a chance to play big league baseball?
Probably my junior year in high school. Every game I pitched there were 15 guys behind home plate with a radar gun. I knew somebody was interested. It was my high school coach who made me realize I had an opportunity. He had colleges calling him, then the scouts started calling.

Q: Were you thinking only about baseball or was hockey a factor?
It never crossed my mind that I was going to give up one sport or the other until I got to the point where it was time to start deciding on colleges. Even then, I was trying to go to colleges where they would let me play hockey and baseball. There weren't too many that would. I was not ready to give up either one until the day I got drafted (by the Braves) and had to make a choice of a profession.

Q: Did you always have that good inner confidence as an athlete?
I always had a lot of confidence and a lot of that comes from knowing the talent level of everyone else you're playing with. On a local basis, you always compare yourself with the guys you're playing against, and you might have better talent, so that helps your confidence. Even so, you wonder how good kids are everywhere else in the country compared to where you are, and that's the thing you never know.

Q: There are a lot of good athletes out there. How did you get to be a major league pitcher and Cy Young Award winner? What else did you have working for you besides talent when you were growing up?
Of course, athletic ability is a big key in anybody being a good athlete. I guess the things you do to make yourself better, like paying attention to things that are going on during the course of the game; paying attention to the things you do well and the things you don't do well; listening carefully to coaches. The key is putting yourself in position to do the things you do well and making sure those things have more of an outcome on the game than the things you do poorly.

Preparation is a big thing, knowing what you're capable of doing, what you're not capable of doing. You have to be prepared to help yourself so that when you have an opportunity to help yourself, you're ready to do it and it's not a surprise.

Q: Where did you get your competitiveness?
I just always wanted to be good at whatever I did. Being a good baseball player was more than give me the ball and see how hard I can throw it. There's more things to it. At that age, you're always playing different positions and I was playing first base when I wasn't pitching. I was always taking ground balls.

I was the type of kid that no matter what it was, if somebody put it in front of me, I wanted to be good at it. It didn't matter if it was going out on the mound and pitching, or if it was a practice where the coach is going to hit me 50 ground balls to see how many I can catch. I wanted to catch all 50 of them.

Q: Did that come from your parents?
Probably a lot from my parents. My dad was a real good athlete. He played football, baseball, basketball. He was competitive and he demanded a lot from himself. That's the way I am. A lot of people tell me to this day that he was a better athlete than I am. My mom had good athletic ability in basketball and as a cheerleader.

Q: When you're not playing baseball, what do you like to do besides golf?
I like to spend a lot of time with my daughter (3-year-old Amber) and just relax. We do whatever she wants; she runs the show. In the summer time, she loves to be in the pool, so I'm out there with her in the pool. She likes to go to the park and play on the swing set or ride her bike in the driveway. It's whatever she feels like doing; I'm along for the ride.

Q: You do work for the Georgia Council on Child Abuse and the Georgia Transplant Foundation? Why those two?
The Georgia Council on Child Abuse approached me in the late '80s, early '90s, when I had gotten to the point where I had my feet on the ground and was comfortable enough with what was going on on the field that I wanted to start doing some things off the field.

When you sit down and talk to the people at the Foundation, you realize the magnitude of the problem. There's nothing worse than a kid who has to deal with a thing like child abuse. It's one thing to deal with a kid who is sick, but child abuse is another thing. It's something I felt strongly about, so I wanted to try and help and diminish some of the problems.

Q: What do you do for the Georgia Transplant Foundation?
I hold a different kind of event where you get a bunch of athletes together and everybody plays pool and ping pong and different things. We call it "Spring Training" and we raise over $100,000. It's not a sit-down dinner, it's a buffet. People try and beat the athletes at different games.

Q: What happened with the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach this season? You usually try and play there?
Well, I was trying to get in, but I didn't get invited.

Q: How serious were your knee and ankle problems? Why did you have the surgery now?
I've been playing with a bad ankle probably for two years, and my knees have bugged me on and off for the last two or three years. Really, nothing was getting worse, but it had gotten to the point where I said, 'All right, enough is enough. I might as well get something done before it gets out of hand.' You hope when you get it cleaned out, you won't have any problems from here on out. I would describe it as a tuneup.

Q: How did you feel at Leo Mazzone's early pitching camp this year?
Everything feels good. It's just a matter of trying to get comfortable and trying to get the pitches to do some of the stuff you want them to do.