By Rich Coutinho
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It was 1985 and my first season covering the Mets. For a young Fordham grad, it was quite a daunting task. The Mets’ clubhouse had tons of personality, a bit of arrogance and a whole bunch of talent. One of the most talented was a catcher the Mets obtained from the Montreal Expos. He  was at the same time the fiercest competitor I ever met and also the absolute nicest person I’ve ever dealt with on a one-on-one basis.

Gary Carter never made me feel like a rookie, he afforded me the same respect he gave the veteran writers. Gary always had time for me: win, lose or draw. I won’t pretend to be in Carter’s inner circle — but he is the type of person that makes you feel good about yourself. He was always full of confidence and always remained positive.

Well, the time has come for us to return the favor. He needs all of our support right now. The journey he’s facing is the toughest of all.

Many people tell me his form of cancer is the worst. But I refuse to believe that because I know he doesn’t believe it. I also know that Carter’s spirituality and closeness to God will help inspire him to work hard at his treatments, no matter how painful they are.

1986 was such a special year and we all remember the Buckner play, the Knight homer and the Game 6 NLCS comeback. What often gets lost in the shuffle is Carter’s game-winning RBI in Game 5 of the NLCS — and his 2-homer game in Game 4 of the World Series in Boston. How important those moments were for the team. And who could forget that without his 2-out single in Game 6 … There is no Mookie, no wild pitch, no Buckner play.

Truth be told, Carter gave the Mets a plethora of moments en route to the Hall of Fame. And he did it with class and dignity throughout his big league career. In fact, I remember speaking to him after that Game 6. He spent most of that session admiring how well the Red Sox played, saying he knew exactly how they felt because he’d been on the losing end tons of times in his career.  Class all the way.

He needs our thoughts and prayers now more than ever — and not because he’s a baseball player or a former Mets star or a Hall of Famer. He needs our support because a man of his character has so much left to give and so many more people to inspire. He needs our support because a man of his age should not be taken away from his family.

So, before watching tonight’s game take a moment to think about No. 8 — more often times than not, he has put others ahead of him.

Keep fighting, Gary Carter, and hope to see you at Citi Field sometime real soon, so we can share your story with young Mets fans who never saw you play. We can prove to them there’s such a thing as a great player AND a great person.

In short, Carter embodies everything that is good about baseball. And everything that is good about life, for that matter.

Share with Coutinho your thoughts on Gary Carter in the comments below…

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