"It was all about Tom Glavine, Steve Avery and John Smoltz," Wagner recalled following Glavine's masterful performance in the Mets' 4-1 victory over the Dodgers in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Thursday night. "I thought I'd be a Braves fan forever."
That is, until Wagner made his Major League debut with the Astros in 1995.
Gradually, his appreciation of the Braves waned, but his respect for Glavine continued to grow. Even if his dislike for his boyhood heroes became clear.
"Man, I couldn't stand them," said Wagner, who spent nine seasons with the Astros and two with the Phillies before joining the Mets in 2005. "But tonight, shoot, I felt like throwing that old war paint on. It was vintage Glavine. It was so great watching him tonight. It was like when I watched him growing up and cheered for him back then."
Wagner had been witness to Glavine's masterful performance on Oct. 10, 2001, when the Braves beat the Astros, 1-0, in the NLDS. Glavine went eight innings that night and gave up only six hits and two walks, while striking out three.
When asked if he remembered how good Glavine was that night, though, Wagner confessed that it all seemed typical.
"I'd never seen him throw poorly," said Wagner. "I just remember him pitching like that always."
The two are now good friends, even carpool buddies. And, of course, teammates.
Wagner drove to the ballpark on Thursday and laughed about Glavine's unusual anxiety.
"It was great to see him like that, because I always saw him as being the most poised guy in the world," said Wagner. "But then when he got in the clubhouse, he just got in that cool, calm, relaxed attitude again. And it helped the team."
And it felt like October baseball had finally arrived at Shea Stadium.
Sure, the Mets took a 1-0 lead against the Dodgers in the NLDS on Wednesday with an energetic 6-5 win. But the warm afternoon sun made it feel like something was missing.
On Thursday, after an overnight front ushered in a chill in the air, Glavine put on a classic performance that made it clear that playoff baseball was alive and well in New York.
The 40-year-old lefty allowed only four hits and two walks to help the Mets claim a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
"He's a big-money pitcher, a big-game pitcher," manager Willie Randolph beamed. "He was superb as usual. Tommy stepped up again for us -- big time."
It's been quite a year for Glavine. He began the season 11-2, went through July with no wins and two losses, and watched his ERA balloon to a season-high 4.13 on Sept. 1.
Career postseason wins
Career postseason starts
Career Division Series starts
In the midst of it all, in August, he was diagnosed with a blood clot in his pitching arm that had the veteran questioning whether he'd ever play baseball again.
"Obviously, that's the kind of thing that you don't want to have happen, and you worry about what it means for the rest of your career," said Glavine. "But certainly in the short term, I was worried about not being able to take part in this. I mean, this is what I wanted to be a part of, and I was excited to try and make the most of the opportunity, now that I've been here in New York for a little while."
Glavine knew full well what happened the last time he appeared in the playoffs -- he lost both starts in the Braves' Division Series defeat to the Giants in 2002, when he allowed a combined 17 hits and 13 runs in 7 2/3 innings.
"Look, it happened and there's not a lot I can do about it now, obviously," Glavine said. "But you know, it's the kind of thing that once I got to today, it really didn't enter my mind. It was more about just trying to go out there and pitch a good ballgame and try and take advantage of this opportunity of being in the postseason again."
That he did, holding the Dodgers without a hit in the first three innings and pitching out of jams in the fourth and fifth, before coming out of the game after the sixth having thrown an easy-looking 94 pitches.
"That's what I enjoy so much about watching him pitch," said Wagner, who pitched a perfect ninth inning for his second consecutive postseason save. "It's just a soothing feeling the way he always makes things look so easy. It's just real nice to be on his side now."
Chris Girandola is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.