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Glavine, Drury follow different paths in picking between baseball and hockey

Tom Glavine enjoyed hockey stardom as a high school kid in Massachusetts, finding greater success then on the ice than on the pitching mound.

Somehow both New Englanders became household names in sports circles on opposite fields of play.

Years before turning into a Stanley Cup champion and a prized free agent acquisition of the New York Rangers, Drury helped pitch his Trumbull, Conn., baseball team to the 1989 Little League World Series championship.

He pursued his love of the game until a broken wrist during his junior year of high school changed his fate. Unable to get out on the diamond, Drury found a greater pull to the rink.

"It basically shut down me playing baseball for a year, but let me play hockey with a cast," said the 31-year-old Drury, one month into a five-year, US$35.25-million contract with the Rangers. "That's a big year recruiting-wise, scholarship-wise. That was basically it.

"That summer prior to my senior year, the writing was on the wall which was great, because I obviously love hockey. I loved it then, and I love it now."

Glavine is 10 years older and a product of a deeper part of New England. Up in the higher reaches of the Northeast, hockey is king in some places, and the Boston Red Sox are a religion.

Coming out of high school in Billerica, Mass., Glavine had choices. He wasn't set to pick between baseball and hockey just yet.

Glavine's hockey talent, by his estimation, exceeded his baseball ability at the time, but experts in both sports saw something special.

In a whirlwind month of June 1984, the left-handed pitcher who guided his team to the Eastern Massachusetts Championship was nabbed by the Atlanta Braves in the second round - pick No. 47, the very number that has become as linked to him as his tantalizing change up. But the star centre and MVP of Merrimack Valley also got picked by the NHL's Los Angeles Kings.

He was so highly regarded on skates that the Kings chose him in the fourth round (pick No. 69), five rounds and 102 selections before they took Luc Robitaille - a likely Hockey Hall of Famer with 668 goals - and two rounds before 741-goal scorer Brett Hull was snapped up by the Calgary Flames.

"I never really went down the road of how I am assessed in terms of the NHL because I never really thought beyond playing college hockey," Glavine said. "Right after I got drafted by both sports I really had to sit down and assess where I was at talent-wise and figure out where I had a better chance of playing or making it to the major leagues and staying for a while. When you throw in the determining factor being a left-handed pitcher, I had an advantage in this sport that I didn't possess in hockey.

"That made it a lot more easier."

The Braves made an offer too good to pass up, and he never really looked back.

Saying goodbye to hockey wasn't the hardest part of the decision. Giving up the chance to go to college proved much tougher for this four-year honour roll student and member of the National Honor Society.

Skipping school was never an option for Drury. His older brother Ted paved the athletic path and proved to be a hockey success when he reached the NHL.

He didn't leave home to go to prep school or head to the junior ranks. Ted Drury didn't even go to a so-called "hockey factory for NHL players" as Chris put it. Once he got out of high school, Ted attended Harvard, a strong hockey school for sure, just not as popular as Boston College or Boston University - Chris' post-high school destination.

"For me, it was college either way. Growing up in my household, that was it," Chris Drury said. "That was the ultimate goal, basically, to play college hockey or college sports. And if you could get some money off the tuition, that would be great, too.

"He was very inspirational, showing me the way," he said of Ted. "He made it, and for him to do it right in front of me was huge."

But baseball burned in him then as it does now. The No. 23 he has worn through various stops around the NHL is a tribute to former New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly.

"I just didn't watch for a while," Drury said of baseball. "I went to college, and I still was toying with the idea of trying to play at BU. My freshman year we won the national (hockey) championship, so I missed half the season already. When that became apparent that that was over, it was hard to watch. It was hard to talk about it.

"Then that went away, and I probably watch more than ever now, much to the disdain of my wife and family."

Glavine paints a similar picture.

He still watches hockey as a fan of the game, but with the critical and seasoned eye of a playmaker that no longer hones his skill on the ice. Glavine doesn't put himself in the skates of the players he sees, he just understands why things do or don't go well.

"Once I made my decision to play baseball professionally, and kind of took off with that, I don't think I ever really had a conversation of, 'I would've done that,"' Glavine said. "It took me a while for me to go to a game and really get rid of my desire to get out there and play. I still haven't fully gotten rid of that, but it's much less of a burning situation in my stomach than it used to be."

Today, his hockey life consists of getting on the ice with his three sons, coaching their teams. He skates but doesn't play.

Now he is closing in on the end of his professional baseball career, a 21-year journey that this season saw him become the 23rd pitcher - and only fifth left-hander - to win 300 games.

Glavine hasn't decided yet if this is it, but if he does continue playing he is certain that 2008 will be the last year he toes the rubber.

"I certainly never envisioned a baseball career turning out the way that mine has," he said. "I don't really know that I ever really thought what my hockey career would have been beyond making it.

Citing his work ethic and his natural ability, Glavine said he is confident he would've at least reached the NHL. He saw players he competed against get that far, and even succeed - guys like Tom Barrasso, Don Sweeney and Brian Leetch.

Drury doesn't really let his mind wander that way.

"I would never say, 'Yeah, I could've been a major leaguer.' I never would disrespect the game like that," Drury said. "I certainly think that I could've played at a high-level, Division I college. From there, you never know."


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