Glavine, the person, means most
Veteran pitcher shows teammates the way on and off field
NEW YORK -- In his long and exemplary career, Tom Glavine has given his teammates plenty of reasons to look up to him -- 300 of them, in fact.
But 300 wins, as significant and well deserved as they are, simply top off what Glavine has provided those around him. Respected on and off the field, he has given the Mets every reason to applaud the major milestone, and even more reason to applaud the person behind it.
Glavine, just the 23rd Major Leaguer to reach No. 300, isn't your typical power pitcher, and he's not your typical teammate, either. With a fastball that tops out around the mid-80s mph, Glavine has found other ways to confound his opponents, evolving over the years while maintaining strong command of his pitching. Yet, as essential as Glavine's consistency has been from the rubber, it has been just as much of an influence in his presence off the field.
To his teammates, 300 wins are a testament to Tom Glavine, the pitcher, but they don't define Tom Glavine, the person. In one way or another, the 41-year-old lefty has become more than a star on the mound to just about everyone in the Mets' clubhouse.
"He's kind of like the wise person on the team," pitcher John Maine, 26, said. "He seems to know all aspects of the game, and you can just sense that he's got this kind of aura about him that he's in control. It just feels good to be around somebody like that."
To Maine, he's become Tom Glavine, the mentor. Since the coaching staff put Maine's locker next to his during Spring Training, Glavine has given the younger pitcher a pointer or two, even getting behind the plate to catch for Maine and help tweak his changeup.
"It was a little scary throwing because I didn't want it to bounce up and hit him," Maine said. "If it was high, he'd say, you know, 'Throw it down here.' Just little things like that, little adjustments to make to try and help make it better."
Glavine hasn't always been a physical guiding presence for his teammates, but he's been a role model for some since before they even reached the Major Leagues. For Billy Wagner, who watched Glavine on television for years before meeting him in person, helping Glavine hit the 300 mark is like coming full circle.
"I came up a Tom Glavine fan," Wagner said. "I was in high school, and through his career, he made it from his rookie year to where he is now. To play a small part in getting to 300, it's very exciting. I feel like it's been almost like a destined thing to be a part of it."
To get to this point, Glavine has continued to reinvent himself to stay competitive, chalking up wins with each new development. He's added a solid curveball and cutter to his bag of tricks, and he hasn't had to rely on throwing hard to be successful.
That's easier said than done, but Glavine has managed to do it. His reserve and self-control have enabled him to get there, and his fellow Mets can't help but admire him for that.
"When you win that many games, you have to make a lot of adjustments, and he's made a lot of adjustments," catcher Paul Lo Duca said. "Sure, the league adjusts to him, too, but you don't win [that many] games and not be very good or very intelligent -- and that's what he is."
Day in and day out, Glavine has set an example for his teammates in how he approaches the game. For some, that mindset is constructively contagious.
"We're on such opposite ends of the spectrum. I'm a closer, he's a starter; I throw harder, he doesn't," Wagner said. "I think what I see in him is the game plan. Listening to how he talks about his game plans and how he tries to execute that kind of helps me to think more in-depth about what I'm trying to accomplish when I'm out there."
Strategy and planning all are a part of what makes the veteran Tom Glavine, the professional. Glavine is calming, a mature presence in the locker room and a leader in all facets of the job description. His experience, including everything leading up to each of those 300 wins, and his steady manner throughout it has shown his peers what it means to maintain focus on the game and not be bothered by outside distractions.
"He does everything the right way, goes about his business the right way," Lo Duca said. "He trusts in his catcher. It doesn't matter if it's me or Ramon [Castro], he won't shake either of us. He believes in us and trusts in his stuff."
For some, Glavine's accomplishment has taken the backseat to what his personality adds to the team dynamic. David Wright grew up watching Glavine pitch, and he only knew him through stats and broadcasts before joining the Mets.
"Now, to be on his team, I admire him and respect him that much more," Wright said. "To see the kind of person he is, to see what kind of teammate he is, to play with a future Hall of Famer like that and to have him invite you out to dinner. Everyone will remember his 300th win, but those little things like that are the things I'll remember. There are so many things he's brought to this team as far as leadership."
And so to his teammates, he is not just Tom Glavine, Hall of Famer to be and 300-game winner. To them, Tom Glavine is Tom Glavine. And even 600 wins couldn't make up for that.
Lauren Kobylarz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.