Glavine humbled by students

Glavine humbled by students at school event

ALBERTSON, N.Y. -- There are times when Tom Glavine gets a face-to-face chance to reflect on his good fortune.

Monday was one of those days.

The 40-year-old Mets left-hander, who's just 10 victories shy of reaching the celebrated 300-win plateau, and teammates Julio Franco and John Maine, spent nearly two hours playing wheelchair Wiffle Ball, answering questions and signing autographs for students at the Henry Viscardi School at Abilities. The institution of nearly 200 pre-K through grade 12 students is specifically for kids who are either disabled physically or medically fragile.

"It's humbling, it's uplifting, it's inspiring," Glavine said after spending some fun and quality time with kids in the school's noisy gym. "We're lucky. We're lucky that we're healthy first and foremost. And we're extremely lucky that we're able to play a sport for a living. I mean it doesn't get a whole lot better than that.

"And for us to do what we do and have the blessing that we have, and come here and see these kids who are living life with the cards they've been dealt ... it's a tough thing to watch and to imagine what they are going through. But at the same time it's uplifting because they don't act like it."

Watching the kids, some of whom must travel up to two hours one-way by bus each school day to attend the school, gave Glavine time to pause and give thanks.

"They have pretty good spirits," Glavine said, aware that the students at Henry Viscardi will never get a chance to play baseball professionally. "For them it's like, 'OK, this is our life.' This is what they are doing and they are having fun. I'm sure in their quiet time there are probably some different feelings. But being out here with them today and having a good time and seeing them smiling ... having some of the kids come up to me and tell me [how] to pitch some of the kids when they were coming up to bat ... that was pretty cool."

The Mets on hand played the game sitting in wheelchairs and lost, 4-0. Glavine said he was too old when a student asked where he went to party. Franco said he spends his time away from the ballyard with his family and reading the Bible. Glavine, a native of Concord, Mass., was roundly booed when he admitted growing up a Red Sox fan. Everyone in the gym sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." The moving wall in left field contained a sign that read: "The Brown Monster." Mr. Met's head bobbled.

"This allows them to see their heroes up front," said Patrice McCarthy Kuntzler, the school's executive director. "Some kids have never been to a ballgame for one reason or another. This enables them to do that. They look up to these guys just like any other kids."

Glavine more than once described the experience as humbling.

It won't be long before Glavine will be pitching in stadiums surrounded by thousands of fans. He owns a career record of 290-191 and he is already anticipating the days ahead. He admitted he's trying to block the 10-win challenge from his mind.

"Spring Training for me this year has a little bit different anticipation because I know that I'm on the cusp of starting a season that could result in something that I desperately want to do and that would be a special thing to accomplish," Glavine said. "So I think there is a little more anticipation and excitement because of that. But beyond that, I'm trying not to think about it. I'm trying not to dwell on it."

Glavine said his aim this spring is go get in shape, be ready to start the season, get off to a fast start and to try his best to make all his starts. He knows questions about his reaching 300 victories will come in bunches.

"I'm going to try my best not to get caught up in it, because if I do, I know it's probably not going to be a helpful thing,'' Glavine said.

Glavine might take a tip from Shane Walsh, a sophomore from Yonkers, N.Y., who participated in the "Meet the Mets Day" activities.

"Basically, to never give up," the wheelchair-bound Walsh said when asked what he'd take away from hearing Glavine, Franco and Maine speak.

And what, Walsh was asked, might Glavine and the Mets learn from the kids at Henry Viscardi?

"That we are no different than anybody else," said the young fan.

Glavine tidbits: Glavine said he couldn't fault the Mets for not having signed any high-priced free agents, or making any high-profile trades to bolster their pitching staff.

"On the one hand, yes, you are surprised, because I think with all the indications that was what we were going to try and do," the pitcher said. "But at the same time, seeing what guys are getting paid, seeing, or at least hearing, some of the rumors of what some of the guys where were asking us to give up in trades, no I'm not surprised."

Glavine said he thinks the Mets were wise not to pay the price to sign Oakland free-agent left-hander Barry Zito, who signed with San Francisco.

Glavine's assessment of the Mets' starting prospects going into training camp: "Last year, we came together with quantity and maybe not so much quality," he said. "And we pieced it together and did a good job. And I think this year, while there is some question about what those guys are going to be, I'm excited about seeing those guys go down there and compete because there are some pretty good arms."

Kit Stier is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.