Former Braves pitchers Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz are together again this weekend as celebrity players at the LPGA’s Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions event in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. They shared their thoughts with the media on Braves icon Hank Aaron, who died at age 86 on Friday.
Glavine on his days as a Braves minor leaguer when Aaron was the team’s vice president of player development: “You had some interaction with him from time to time. Obviously, as a young player, it was cool – Hank Aaron, Hall of Famer, one of the greatest of all time. So casual conversations were OK, (but) you never wanted to be called into Hank’s office. If you were, that meant you were going home. So you always (tried) to avoid Hank’s office. You wanted the conversations to be away from his office. … When I got drafted by the Braves, I didn’t know a whole lot about Atlanta, but I knew about Hank Aaron. Certainly a franchise that it was neat to be part of because of everything that he accomplished as a player. ... He was always very willing to talk with people, young players especially, and give whatever advice he could.”
Smoltz on his interactions with Aaron: “Seeing Hank every year at spring training or at the stadium was something special. Never took it for granted. … Hank was the type of guy that every time you saw him, he had a smile on his face. Loved the game. Obviously, as far as I’m concerned, the truest home-run hitter in the game in baseball history. … You just knew every year was going to start out good when you got to spring training and Hank was sitting there. I just loved being around him. You know, Hank was so unassuming. There is not a superstar I’ve ever been around that went through as much as he did, both in life and in the game, and he was just a gentle guy that was there to say hello. You felt like you were in the presence of greatness every time you walked in. ... And as I retired, getting to see him at the Hall of Fame every year was such a joy to go up to him and shake the hand of a guy that transformed the game of baseball.”
Maddux on the first time he met Aaron: “Yeah, it (was) a special day. You’re nervous. ‘Hey, I got to meet Hank Aaron.’ You’re nervous, and it’s just an honor. … We would see him in Atlanta numerous times throughout the season. Very pleasant, and he never talked down to anybody. Ever. Everything was positive. You know, he was there, and it was special every time you got a chance to say hi to him. ... Just a special human being and special baseball player.”
Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz are, like Aaron, in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Aaron was inducted in 1982, Glavine and Maddux in 2014 and Smoltz in 2015.