Glavine rehab start brings smiles to Gwinnett

LAWRENCEVILLE - When major league pitcher Tom Glavine walked from the Gwinnett Braves bullpen before his start on Thursday, the cheers grew slowly.

The 43-year-old sauntered, a towel across his shoulder, toward the home team dugout. The crowd, starting along the left field line, took notice, almost individually.

First came claps, then whistles, shouts built into stadiumwide cheering.

Glavine signed a few autographs before taking the mound. And when the 300-game winner and future Hall of Famer was announced, the stadium was never louder.

The youth baseball team of the night surrounded Glavine on the mound, all with balls and pens, before his first pitch. When his first two batters watched strike three, people were awed.

The older Braves fans watched Glavine throw eight innings of one-hit ball to win the 1995 World Series, shook their heads when he left to play for the New York Mets and were now sitting a few hundred feet from him, again donning a Braves uniform.

The crowd got to see him win his first minor league game since 1987 and his first win as a starter in more than a year.

His two sons and a friend spent the game in the dugout and in the G-Braves clubhouse. They wore team uniforms, hit pitches off top-pitching prospect Tommy Hanson and took a shower in a professional locker room.

Even as their dad keeps working to return to Atlanta, one son asked if they were going to Rome next week. Rome is where Glavine will make another rehab start if he doesn't feel ready to return to the big leagues.

At every turn, Glavine didn't damper the excitement. He signed every ball handed to him on the mound. He tossed balls to his sons in the dugout in between innings. He answered every question the assembled media asked. And he fed the team that helped him earn his win.

"I think we got LongHorn," Glavine said.

There is always food after games in the clubhouse and it improves with each added A. But even in Class AAA Gwinnett, a big-leaguer buying a spread of food is appreciated.

"Most of the guys, especially guys with (Glavine's) kind of status will definitely buy a spread," said catcher and Parkview grad Clint Sammons. "It happened to me more at the lower levels. The food is not as good in A-ball so when those guys come in its just a huge treat. But we always appreciate it when those guys do it for us.

"It looks like good food."

And everyone had a plate. Smiling.