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Ducks Open Season Honoring #8

By Mike Silva ~ April 27th, 2012. Filed under: Independent Baseball.

When you think of the late Hall-of-Fame catcher Gary Carter you immediately remember his days in Montreal or leading the Mets to the ’86 World Series championship. Perhaps his final years in Los Angeles and San Francisco come to mind, as well. What you don’t think of is Carter in a Long Island Ducks uniform, but he did spend the 2009 season managing the Atlantic League outfit. Although it was only one season, Carter did have an impact on the entire organization, enough so they will honor Carter this season with a commemorative patch on their uniforms.

Courtesy of LI Ducks Blog

Kevin Baez, the current Ducks skipper, was a member of Carter’s staff that season and shared his experience with me and others during the team’s annual media day. ” I got to know him on a personal level…It’s one thing he did that I kind of enjoyed… he included his coaching staff, which is something I try to do…. I try to take a little bit from each manager that I played for and Gary is right up there for what I look at and try to apply to my team.”

The one consistent term to describe Carter that Baez, Ducks CEO Frank Boulton and General Manager Mike Pfaff used was “winner.” Boulton even noted the enthusiasm of Carter and how he did nothing but talk championship during his tenure. “He (Carter) wanted to win a championship and expected it every day,” Boulton said.

Carter would lead the Flock to a 73-65 record and first place finish. They would lose in the first-round of the playoffs, falling short of his ultimate goal of bringing an Atlantic League championship back to Long Island.

I had a chance to be around Carter that season. I interviewed him one-on-one in his office and asked him some tough questions. We discussed his decision to leave the Mets organization, the comments he made about wanting the Mets job while Willie Randolph was still managing, and his frustration of being unable to land a big league job just because of the perception he didn’t have enough experience. He treated me no different than some of the legendary reporters that he encountered during his big league career. I always remembered that and appreciated it.

To me, that was the takeaway about Gary Carter. Here was a Hall-of-Famer, someone who made millions of dollars throughout his career. Instead of playing golf or signing autographs, he was spending his time coaching players that baseball labeled “has-been’s” or “never-will-be’s.” You wouldn’t know it watching him coach third base, interact with the fans or lead his ballclub. He loved the game of baseball and managing; that type of genuine passion is largely lost in a game spoiled by money, politics and self-importance. He checked his ego at the door and took a step back without losing sight of what the game is about. There aren’t many ballplayers that could do that, much less one with the resume of Carter.

Carter left after that one season in Long Island. His final days were spent managing Palm Beach Atlantic University near his home in Florida; another place where it was just about baseball and nothing else.

The Ducks debuted their #8 patch with a 9-4 over the Somerset Patriots. Gary Carter might not have spent very much time on Long Island, but there was no doubt he left a lasting impacts to those that were lucky enough to be part of the experience.

To listen to me talk to Gary Carter while a member of the Long Island Ducks download the archive of my interview here. 

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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