Baseball Great Gary Carter

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New York Yankee Derek Jeter, retired from baseball at the end of this season.  Recounting the class Jeter has and his love for the game of baseball and competitive spirit made me think back to the interview I did with the late baseball great Gary Carter.

Gary “Kid” Carter was not only a Hall of Fame baseball player, he had a Hall of Fame attitude.

Gary was known as “Kid” because of his youth-like excitement, constant smile and love of the game. Along with that smile came one of the fiercest, most competitive players ever to step foot on the field. In his rookie year he “tried to win every sprint and hit every pitch out of the park.”

I first saw Gary as the outstanding catcher and hitter for the Montreal Expos in 1975, then as a New York Met beginning in 1985. Growing up in Long Island, my entire family were Mets’ fans.  In his first game as a Met  on April 9, 1985, Gary  hit a tenth inning home run to give the Mets a 6–5 Opening Day victory over the St.Louis Cardinals. Not only did the Mets win 98 games that season, Carter hit a career high 32 home runs and drove in 100 runs.

I only wish my dad, probably the most die hard Mets fan ever, was still alive when I spoke with Gary about overcoming adversity and what it takes to reach your goals.  Gary ‘s insights reflect the more than 21 years playing in the major leagues – being named Rookie of the Year , a 3-time Gold Glove winner,11-time All Star, hitting over 300 home runs,1986  World Series champion and a Baseball Hall of Fame inductee in 2003.

Gary fondly shared with me that his dad and older brother were a great influence:  “Everything my brother did I just wanted to do better.  I was born with talent but loved the competition!”

Being the Best

“I was always motivated to be the best, when I was a rookie and drafted by the Expos, it was for short stop not as a catcher. The Expos converted me to catcher, and to be honest I was not very good at first, but I had the drive to make sure I got better and stayed in the big leagues. My focus was on my goals and success.  If I did not make it what else would I have done? For me, it was always about desire and enthusiasm, I always wanted to win all the time.”

Gary was very specific about why he believes people don’t reach their full potential.  “I believe what holds people back from pursuing their goals is fear of not succeeding, fear of failure.  You can fail 7 out of 10 times in baseball and still be considered one of the greatest, so they key thing is you need always to push on.”  Gary went on to explain:  “God has a plan for all of us.  You just need to recognize it.”

It Doesn’t Come Easy

“Nothing will ever come easy.  It is a matter of how much you want it,” he said.

Talk about not coming easy…Gary spoke about the 20 surgeries he had during his career. “If I did not have the desire, enthusiasm and love of the game with 12 knee operations, a shoulder operation, 2 ankle surgeries and having  broken both my thumbs then I would not have been in the game as long as I was. The inner drive to overcome all challenges motivated me. I always loved to play in front of a large crowds. I never wanted to make the last out. I never wanted to be a trivia question that had a bad ending.”

“I accomplished everything I wanted to – I would never turn the clock back.  It boils down to choices.  What do you want to be remembered for?  I always believed that The Lord defines  me – I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me.”

Carter died of brain cancer on February 16, 2012. He was 57 years old. The picture above is artist Joe Petruccio’s tribute piece to Gary Carter. I am sure if “Kid” was here today, he would be tipping his hat to Derek Jeter along with the rest of us.

Copyright 2014 Jerry Gladstone