BILLERICA -- Two motor coaches are sold out and ready to roll.
Destination: Cooperstown, N.Y.
It is T-minus 18 days and counting to a celebration of baseball immortality.
Joe Higgins, assistant director of the Billerica Recreation Department and devoted baseball man, will be among 102 people riding out of town on those buses on July 25 to proudly be in Cooperstown when "Billerica's own" Tom Glavine is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 27.
Initial plans for the town-sponsored $299-per-person pilgrimage began last year, said Higgins. But really it has seemed 40 years in the making; since that day a prescient Billerica Little League coach named Jim Bowley told little Tommy's parents, Fred and Millie Glavine of Treble Cove Road: "We're going to pay to watch Tommy play someday.
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"A lot of towns have had players that became major leaguers," said Higgins, who has also been Billerica High's head baseball coach for seven seasons and whose four sons all played baseball for Billerica. "But not too many have somebody who went into the Hall of Fame."
The 48-year-old Glavine on Jan. 8 became the first Massachusetts native voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America since Springfield's Rabbit Maranville in 1954, and the first ever voted in on the first ballot.
Celebration Tours of Quincy, which organized the upcoming town trip to Cooperstown, had a number of rooms secured in Albany, N.Y., on which to pounce as soon as Glavine received 91.9 percent of the vote.
"The only problem is the hotel is in Albany (about 70 miles from Cooperstown)," said Higgins. "But that was why we were able to get a decent rate."
Higgins said he received many calls from retired Billerica teachers and school administrators wanting to be on this trip to see a former honor-roll student from the Class of 1984 enshrined into the most hallowed hall in American sports. Roger Richard, who was Glavine's hockey coach at Billerica, will be on one of the buses.
Ten other people who are also part of the tour will drive to New York on their own, bringing to 112 the total number in the Billerica Recreation Department's group. Higgins said several of Glavine's former teammates will likely go to Cooperstown on their own. Jon Sidorovich, Glavine's baseball coach at Billerica High, will be there. He confidently booked his hotel room near Cooperstown several months before the writers vote.
The two motor coaches will depart from the Billerica High parking lot at 9 a.m. on July 25 and roll 250 miles straight to Cooperstown.
After spending that Friday afternoon touring the town and the Hall, the Billerica group will be driven to their Albany hotel.
They will be back in Cooperstown both Saturday and Sunday for the Induction Weekend festivities.
On Sunday afternoon, Glavine will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in a strong class that also includes his former Atlanta Braves teammate Greg Maddux and manager Bobby Cox, as well as Frank Thomas, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre.
Higgins is not certain whether the Billerica crowd will get to spend any time with Glavine.
"Game-time decision," said Higgins with a laugh. "But the word has gone out to the family that we will be there."
It should be easy for the fourth-winningest left-hander of all-time to spot his hometown crowd. Many will be wearing red T-shirts made up for the occasion. On the back is Glavine's No. 47, and on the front is listed some of his considerable statistics and career highlights.
" 'Billerica's own' is on there, too," said Higgins.
There is no charge to attend the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. There is nearly unlimited free seating on the lawn of the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown.
Since no tickets are sold, Hall of Fame officials do not know how large the crowd will be on July 27. The largest crowd was in 2007 when Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken were inducted, which was estimated at 75,000. This year's crowd is not expected to be that large.
But it could still be substantial. Baseball fans are anxious to cheer in a strong class of living inductees after no living person was inducted last year.
Higgins said the town wants to plan a future day to honor Glavine, who lives in Georgia and is a special assistant to Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz.
"But Tommy is kind of a low-key, behind-the-scenes person," said Higgins. "The town wants to have a day for him. But we want him to feel comfortable. We don't want to do something if he's not comfortable with it."
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