|Pitcher Tom Glavine was actually selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the fourth round of the 1984 NHL Draft,
five rounds ahead of former Kings' forward Luc Robitaille.
Paper or plastic?
Medium or large?For Tom Glavine, the decision he was forced to make more than 20 years ago was truly gut-wrenching.
As it turns out, the future Hall of Fame pitcher also is a pretty good hockey player. So good, in fact, that he was drafted in the fourth round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings.
“I think about it quite a bit,” said Glavine, who is returning to the Atlanta Braves in 2008 after spending the past five seasons with the New York Mets. “Before, I think it was whenever I would go to a (hockey) game. You’d watch the game and you’d see what was going on, and you kind of try to evaluate what I would have done or how I would have matured and whether or not I would have made it. I think now with my kids playing, me getting on the ice a little bit more, I kind of wonder a little bit more what would have happened, but I certainly don’t have any regrets or second thoughts about my decision. I think I made the right one. But I miss playing the game, and I’ll always wonder what would have happened.”
The fact that he was a southpaw, combined with the longevity he knew he could have on the mound, ultimately led Glavine to a career in baseball.
“Back then, you just didn’t play the game very long,” Glavine said. “You didn’t see guys playing into their mid-30s and late-30s like you do now. At that point in time, I was thinking that I’m 18 years old (and) most hockey players are on their way out by the time they get to their 30s. That’s not a very long career. I just felt with baseball, I had a chance to play longer because of health. Most importantly, being a left-handed pitcher, that was a huge advantage. I didn’t have a similar advantage in hockey.”
But that didn’t stop the Kings from taking a gamble and selecting the former center nearly 24 years ago. At the end of the day, though, the Braves also drafted Glavine and quickly jumped on the opportunity to sign him. It certainly made the decision easier for him.
“They called me, told me they drafted me,” Glavine said of the Kings. “They knew I was going to go to college. It was kind of the obligatory; ‘Hey, we drafted you. We know you’re going to school. We’re going to keep an eye on you. We’ll talk periodically.’ That was kind of that. Once I got drafted by Atlanta and eventually signed with Atlanta, they called me, like, that day or the next day to see if they could get me to sign to play hockey. But it was too late.”
Glavine’s claim to hockey fame is the fact that he was selected 69th overall by Los Angeles -- ahead of all-time greats such as Brett Hull (No. 117) and Luc Robitaille (No. 171) in 1984. It certainly is one of the reasons why Glavine still wonders to this day whether he would have made it to the NHL. The Concord, Mass., native believes his style of play had a lot in common with Robitaille’s and Hull’s.
“That’s an easy one to look at and say; ‘Geez, those two guys are Hall of Famers, so obviously I would have been a Hall of Fame hockey player,’ ” said Glavine, who with a career record of 303-199 over 21 seasons, likely will be a Hall of Fame baseball player. “It doesn’t always work that way. But that’s pretty neat knowing I was drafted ahead of those two guys, but I know from baseball and just being an athlete in general that there’s no exact science to that draft. You just don’t ever know. But I look at those two guys, and I think they’re very similar to what I would have been had I played, which was hard-working guys, kind of grinding it out, and goal scorers. That was kind of similar to the type of player I was in high school. But at 18-years-old, you don’t ever know what you would have matured into. I think those two guys are pretty similar in how they went about their business and their drive and determination as to what I am as a baseball player.”
|“I think about it quite a bit....I think I made the right one. But I miss playing the game, and I’ll always wonder what would have happened.” -- Tom Glavine
There’s no question what Glavine is as a baseball player, nor is there any question about his love for the game of hockey. With this Sunday’s All-Star Game to be played at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Glavine is hoping to be in attendance when the sport’s best face off against each other.
“It’ll be nice,” Glavine said. “Hopefully I’ll get down there to the game and be a part of it. But it’s good for the city, good for hockey in this area. Hopefully it’s something that my kids will get a chance to see and appreciate and enjoy.”
Glavine also is enjoying the fact that Atlanta has become a viable hockey market. With people from all across the country moving to Georgia’s biggest city, the demand for hockey has grown.
“The Thrashers seem to be very popular among the kids here,” said Glavine, a father of four. “It seems to be the kind of thing that is viable. I think it’s going to continue to grow. Atlanta is such a transient city. You have so many people here from the Northeast, you’re getting a lot of people here from the Midwest, and all those people have hockey backgrounds. I think with the influx of people coming here who grew up with hockey – and their kids want to play hockey – I think that’s only going to help to continue to grow the interest in the Thrashers. It’s going to continue to grow the youth programs around here. When they become stable and popular, then I think the interest in hockey is always going to be there. Much of it starts with getting the kids interested and getting them to understand it.”
Glavine’s children certainly are interested. Perhaps one day one of them will have to choose between baseball and hockey, too. If that ever happens, what will Dad’s advice be?
“You sit down and you weigh the options and just try to make an honest assessment of both sports, and really, what your ability is in both of those sports,” Glavine said. “In my case, it wasn’t necessarily really a decision of which sport I liked better. If that was the case, I probably would have chosen hockey. But you have to weigh everything into the equation. But believe me, if any of my kids are faced with that decision, that’ll be a happy day for me to sit down with them and go over that.”
Contact Brian Compton at: firstname.lastname@example.org