By Rich Coutinho
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The year was 1985 and the Mets had begun to assemble the core of a great team with Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, and Ron Darling leading the way but the offense needed another piece and the pitching staff needed a veteran catcher to lead their young pitchers through games. That man was Gary Carter known as “The Kid” and that nickname was very appropriate because he played with the enthusiasm of a young Met fan. And many feel this was the final piece to the building of a championship team.
The back of Gary Carter’s baseball card speaks for itself. But what I will remember about him the most is Gary Carter–the man and the way he lived his life. He was a great teammate and one of the leaders on that championship team. I remember the great moments–the game winning hit in Game 5 of the NLCS, the 2 Homers in Game 4 of the World Series and the guy who got the “Buckner inning” started. I had the pleasure of getting to know him as a young reporter and the other thing I remember about him is how kind he was to everyone. And I mean everyone–every single person he met. Gary Carter had a way of making everyone around him feeling good about themselves.
From a Met fan’s perspective, he loved interacting with fans and not just the obligatory autograph. He spent time with them and made them feel like part of the Met family. There was also a “competitive fire” in Carter and that was never better illustrated than in the 1986 post-season. He was having an awful NLCS but when he stepped to the plate with the winning run in scoring position, he relished that challenge. And the rest is as they say, history.
And the way he battled this disease was not a surprise to anyone who knew Gary Carter. He fought it as hard as he could even though he knew the fight was an uphill battle. For the Met fans who don’t remember Gary Carter, ask your Mom or your Dad about him and watch that 1986 World Series video together. For those who do remember, pass the memories on to someone else. In the meantime, let’s honor him this year by helping someone who needs it because that is what Gary would want.
We should all try to be more like Gary Carter–care about people, don’t be selfish, and understand that when people look to you for leadership, you have a responsibility to provide it. And providing it will keep the legacy of Gary Carter alive. That is how you keep the memories of great people fresh in our minds.