Thank You Mr. Carter


I recall the day as if it were yesterday …

It was a Sunday afternoon on a clear, sunny day in July, 1978. I was thirteen years old.

Living across the street from Meades Park in Kirkland,Quebec – made baseball very easy for me. A ball , a glove and bat were all that was required to play the game. Oh yes – other people as well …

Given my room with ‘ a baseball view ‘ – all I had to do was peer across the street and see who was at the field playing the game I loved. Sometimes there was a game going on with umpires and everything. In which case , I would bound out of the house , laces undone and flying in the breeze. Thanks to players such as Stan Bahnsen, Woodie Fryman and Steve Rogers – baseball was a passion.Any opportunity I had to play – I was there.

In 1978 – there was a player on the Montreal Expos who was in his fourth season with the club. He was a catcher from California with a golden tan and a smile to match. It seemed the man was always smiling and boy could he play baseball ! Normally, aside from a few, catchers were known primarily for their defensive abilities.Not Mr. Carter. The man could hit and hit long. In 1978 – he hammered twenty out of the park which helped him to accumulate seventy-eight RBI ‘s that season. He would eventually end his career in 1992 with 324 ‘ dingers’, 1225 RBI s and 2092 hits.

Gary Carter was and still is my favourite Montreal Expos’ player.

My Hero

I peered out my window on that July day and saw a few guys playing ball. Not a game – just a bunch of older guys horsing around.

Meades Park, in those days, was a diamond that had no fence surrounding its future hall-of-fame exploits. Although the park was rather new and  placed on a fairly busy road ( Hymus blvd), it was not the place where kids hung out and played the game. Other parks such as Kirkland and Ecclestone were in the middle of built-up communities and were always busy. Meades somehow seemed like my park. My very own ‘ field of dreams’ amid ten brand new houses across the street – one of which I lived.

Upon seeing the players – I grabbed my glove and ball, gave a quick ‘see-ya-Mom-I’m-going-to-play-ball ‘ goodbye and dashed across the street as quick as my North Star running shoes would carry me.

I neared the guys on the field, I recall thinking how big they were. They grew even bigger with each step I took and boy were they good ! Suddenly my enthusiasm gave way to reality and shyness became my greatest ability. I swayed to the right and toward the third base dug-out. The next half hour – I sat and I watched. Who knew that baseball could be played so well by mortals ? A far as I knew – it was only guys like Andre Dawson and Warren Cromartie that could field, catch, throw and hit a ball this well. There was no way I would be joining this bunch on the field. In fact – thoughts of returning home to my dog went through my head. I wished I had not brought my glove …

After a while – one of the guys started toward me. He entered the dug-out and reached in his bag to get a drink of water from a water bottle . The ‘man’ took a drink , wiped his mouth then his brow and placed the bottle back in his black duffel bag.

” Hey Kid !” The voice came my way.

” Hey Kid – do you want to play ? ”

I looked at the man’s face as he approached me. He had a huge smile and a dimple on his chin. His eyes lit up the area and curly hair bordered the baseball cap that sparkled in the mid-afternoon sun.

There was no mistaking that dimple. I had never seen a dimple like that before I was a baseball fan and I do not think I have seen one since. That dimple’s owner was Gary Carter. The man who wore number eight for the Montreal Expos …

I do not recall how long I just stared. A minute – two minutes – an hour ? However much time passed , it was long enough for Mr. Carter to understand that I had recognized him. Instead of making me feel like an ‘ apple among oranges ‘ – Carter made me feel as if I was one of the boys.

“C’mon – we need another guy , we are short !” Was his answer to my perplexed,questioning eyes. ” Hurry up!”

He grabbed his glove and returned to the right of second base. The dry dirt flying into the humid air with each of his future hall-of-fame steps.

Andre Dawson was on third, Cromartie at short and Scott Sanderson was playing first base. Carter was at second and Dan Schatzeder was on the mound. If I had realized this before I started walking on the field – I may have run for my life …

A player I did not recognize was standing at the plate – bat in hand.

In a voice that was so timid , I asked ; ” Where do I go …?”

Someone shouted ; ” At bat !”

For the next several moments – Dan Shatzeder pitched to me and I attempted to hit balls on shivery, nervous legs … I grounded out , I grounded out and then grounded out some more …The entire situation was surreal and even now – my memory is not exact when it comes to the hitting I did that day.

I do remember after the game. Sitting in the dug-out with all these ball players. Dawson was so big and mean looking. Cromartie – comical with his gap toothed  grin. They all made me feel great yet none as much as Carter.

He sat beside me while everyone was packing up and started asking me about ball. He said that I had a real good arm and wondered what position I was playing on my team. I told him third base which , he agreed , was a good place for someone with a strong-arm. He asked if I had ever caught – like him, behind the plate. He went on to say I had great eye-hand co-ordination and was quick on my feet. I told him I had never tried to catch nor had the idea crossed my mind.

Gary Carter  , took the time – his time and brought me to home plate .In the next half hour – he taught me the basics of catching.My crash course and what a course it was …

I went on to become a catcher. I played AA Ball through Bantam and Midget and was very good at what I did. I even made it to Cooperstown ( in a tournament ) !

Thank you Mr. Gary Carter – I could not have done it without you …

God Bless

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