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01/07/2003

The Kid's In The Hall

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Gary Carter Topps Card

I just know that every headline writer in the country is going to steal that line.

Gary Carter was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame today. I've always liked Gary Carter. There are a number of reasons I like Gary Carter. Would you like to know what three of those reasons are? Of course you do. Otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this.

1. He was a catcher. Having been catcher throughout the majority of my baseball playing life (through high school), I've got a soft spot for anyone who plays the position.

2. He was on the Mets. Specifically, he was on the Mets' 1986 World Series team. If I have a soft spot for catchers, I have an even softer spot for anyone on the 1986 Mets. Except Darryl Strawberry.

3. He loved playing baseball. And this to me is the most important reason. Except for reason number 2. But maybe just as important. This guy never lost his excitement for the game . He never grew up and became jaded by the business of professional baseball. Gary Carter was just as excited to pull up his stirrups his last season as he was when he was a little leaguer. Not that I saw him as a little leaguer. You know what I mean. There was always a smile on that guy's face. He just enjoyed the game and he made everyone watching him enjoy the game just that much more. I don't have a specific memory of Gary Carter (although the lead off hit in the ninth inning of Game 6 comes to mind), but rather I just like to think of him as the Mets' catcher. It wasn't one home run he hit (and make no mistake, the man could hit home runs) or a particular defensive play he made. It was more the feeling of security knowing that he was behind the plate every inning of almost every game and the feeling of excitement that he would be coming to the plate every ninth batter.

I know that my knees are a little screwed up from catching (also football) and I didn't play nearly as long or as hard as a major league catcher. You wouldn't think that my knees would still have some pain from playing over 20 years ago but being a catcher - a good catcher - requires you to really sacrifice your body. And if you loved being a catcher and playing baseball, you really didn't mind sacrificing your body. And Carter seemed to love being a catcher and playing baseball. You couldn't be a good catcher simply based on technique. Sure, you need the proper skills to be a catcher, but the most finely tuned athelete could make a bad catcher if his heart wasn't into it. Conversely, you can take a guy with average skills and make him a great catcher if he loves the position. Carter has had a number of knee surgeries (19, I think. Of course, I could easily research this to make this entry more factual. But then again, if you're that interested, so could you) and he still can't walk without pain today. But he loved being a catcher and a baseball player. And I think he might be feeling a little less pain today.