Monday, 13 August 2007

Not Bad For 69th Overall

Late last week, a left-handed pitcher for the New York Mets became part of the exclusive club in Major League Baseball with 300 wins as a pitcher. This leftie is none other than former fourth-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings, Tom Glavine. The six-foot American boy out of Concord, Massachusetts had the choice between hockey and baseball, and chose the latter as his professional pursuit. Hockey Blog In Canada today salutes a former hockey player who has gone on to greatness in another facet of his life.

The 1984 NHL Entry Draft gave the NHL some notable stars such as Mario Lemieux, Kirk Muller, Al Iafrate, Gary Roberts, and Kevin Hatcher from the first round. It was later in the fourth round that the Los Angeles Kings would select left-handed shooting centreman Tom Glavine 69th overall from Billerica Memorial High School in Billerica, Massachusetts. Glavine was drafted ahead of former NHL stars such as Kirk McLean, Brett Hull, Cliff Ronning, Don Sweeney, and Luc Robitaille. Of those five players, Hull and Robitaille are certain Hall of Famers, and Glavine is aware of his lofty draft position compared to them.

"That's pretty cool, to think I was drafted ahead of those guys, who turned out to be Hall of Fame players. Naturally one can only assume I would have been a Hall of Fame hockey player because of it, right?" Glavine joked.

Being a Massachusetts kid, Glavine was a Bruins fan. His scoring prowess and high academic achievements allowed him to earn the John Carlton Award in 1984 for being the top scholar-athlete in the state. The award was given to him by the Boston Bruins during an intermission at the Boston Gardens.

Five days before he was taken by the Kings, Glavine had been selected by the Atlanta Braves in the second round of Major League Baseball's draft. Glavine's final decision came between hockey and baseball: play for the Atlanta Braves, or go to the University of Lowell to play Division One hockey and Division Two baseball. The Braves' offer of $80,000 made Glavine's decision that much easier.

"I was intent on going to school," Glavine said when asked of his decision. "My dad and I talked about it, and our strategy was once we got to the point where we got them to first-round money - and it's enough money to be worth my while to give up the scholarship - then we'll think about it. But until then I was going to college.

"Hockey, they have your rights for five years, so they knew I was going to college. They called me, 'Hey, we drafted you. We know where you're going to school. We'll keep an eye on you and talk to you in a couple of years.' The Braves were, 'Hey, we drafted you. We want to sign you.'"

By his estimate, 300 victories in baseball as a starting pitcher would be equivalent to 500 or 600 goals in the NHL. When asked if Glavine was good enough to play in the NHL, he was a little confident in his abilities.

"I think I was good enough to get there," Glavine said about himself. "How long I would have lasted, I have no idea. It's hard to imagine my career in hockey would have been better than what it's been in baseball. I was small coming out of high school. I only weighed 175 pounds, so I would have had to get bigger to stick around."

Glavine spends his baseball off-seasons in Alpharetta, Georgia. He tries to attend as many Atlanta Thrashers games as possible, but normally only gets to 10 or 15 games due to spring training opening in February for pitchers.

"When I'm done playing it will probably be more, because I miss the whole second half of the season," Glavine said, referring to attending more games. "I love going. My kids love it. It's still probably my favorite sport to watch live. I enjoy going to hockey games more than anything."

Glavine's already has his two oldest sons in hockey. 11-year-old Jonathan and 7-year-old Peyton play organized hockey. He's hoping to enroll 5-year-old Mason next year.

Clearly, hockey still runs in the blood of this Massachusetts boy. Being in New York this season put him in a hockey hotbed with the Rangers and Islanders in town, the Devils just down the turnpike, and the Sabres upstate. The ceremony to honour Glavine included some hockey as well.

To celebrate his 300th victory, the Mets gave Glavine a #47 New York Rangers jersey with his name over his chose baseball number. The Mets also gave him a retro Los Angeles Kings jersey with 300 on the back to represent the accomplishment. Amongst the people to call him with a congratulations was Wayne Gretzky, a former Los Angeles King.

"Had you chosen hockey maybe the 1993 Kings would have won the Stanley Cup," Gretzky joked. "You were the missing link. Congratulations!"

Congratulations to Tom Glavine on his 300th win in his career. He may have had a long and successful hockey career, but baseball has been good to the former fourth-round pick.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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