This post is entirely unrelated to Marlins baseball. I think its relevance to baseball in South Florida, where I would assume at least a few of our readers come from, warrants its posting. MarlinManiac wishes Gary Carter a very speedy recovery!
I grew up with a strange awareness of the Montreal Expos. I imagine that my first experience of live, professional baseball was back at West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium, the Spring Training site of the Expos and Atlanta Braves for over thirty years. Montreal moved even closer to home in 1998, when Roger Dean Stadium became their new March home alongside the St. Louis Cardinals. So for a Florida kid, all of my old baseball gear and collectibles are made up of an outsized amount of Expos gear. To this day, I’d bet that every last cap, card, or souvenir Expos ball I own is signed by Gary Carter.
Gary Carter retired from playing ball in 1992, before I could gain any recollection of what it might be like to see the Hall of Famer play. But the news released a little over a week ago, that doctors have discovered a host of new tumors on Carter’s brain and that the best option might involve halting treatment, helped me realize what an impact a player can have on the next generations.
In between little league seasons I attended all sorts of baseball camps in the South Florida area. As far as I remember, Gary Carter showed up at every single one.
We’d get to sit down for a quick Q&A session one day, or Carter would take time to demonstrate fundamentals like fielding ground balls and laying down a bunt. Autographs and pictures were always a given, too. Outside of baseball, I remember once attending a church other than my regular parish with some close family friends. After the service, we realized that Carter had quietly been in attendance. I made my way to the front of the hall, snuck under the elbows of eager adults, and walked away with an autographed baseball card.
Through it all, I hardly knew who Carter even was. I never bothered to check out some of his numbers, like a string of 7.8, 6.6, 6.7, and 6.7 WAR seasons from 1982-1985, until just a few years ago. I didn’t really understand what was different about him and the college players or minor leaguers who worked the camps. But I knew all along that he was Gary Carter, that he was a catcher, and that no matter what, he’d show up for a day at any little league event within 100 miles.
I never thought much of it all until news of Carter’s battle with brain cancer broke last year. My memories of Gary Carter’s presence in my little league days are certainly overblown. There had to be at least one Saturday that he decided to sleep in or play a round of golf, right? Not that I’d have ever known it. Gary Carter’s passion for spreading the game that had given him so much joy was all that ever mattered.