Teammates remember Gary Carter

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Palm Beach Atlantic University baseball player Logan Thomas stood at the podium of Christ Fellowship Church, holding the red No. 8 Sailfish jersey Gary Carter wore as coach of the Division II program, recalling their last exchange.

Only three weeks earlier, Carter attended the program's home opener at Roger Dean Stadium in nearby Jupiter, despite his eight-month battle with brain cancer in its final stages.

"The last thing I remember hearing Gary Carter say is, 'Let's get a win today boys,' " Thomas said.

Former teammates, friends and well-wishers assembled Friday night to salute Carter's life at the Hall of Fame catcher's home church. They remembered his competitiveness, spirituality and even his cleanliness, even noting his refrigerator and locker were immaculate.

Carter died last Thursday at age 57.

"You know he won cleanest locker every year," said Carter's oldest daughter, Christy Kearce, with a smile.

Fellow Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench as well as former Montreal Expos teammate Tommy Hutton spoke at the service. Carter's three children -- Kimmy Bloemers, D.J. Carter and Kearce -- also offered remembrances of their father.

"As we sit here tonight, I feel inadequate with the things that he accomplished -- the family, the pastors, the friends, the respect," Bench said. "I mean, to think about that smile, to think about the person that he was. He never called me Johnny, not one time our entire time together. He called me J.B. He was like a kid. I know I called him The Kid from the first time that I ever saw him. He had that enthusiasm, there was excitement every day."

Former '86 Mets teammates Wally Backman, Lenny Dykstra, Howard Johnson, Bobby Ojeda, Jesse Orosco, Darryl Strawberry and Tim Teufel were among those who attended. Former Expos Tim Raines and Andres Galarraga, Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven and Gary Sheffield also showed their respects.

"It's a sad day. It really is a sad day," Backman said. "It's the first teammate we've lost. And we all loved Gary."

Dr. Jack Graham, Carter's pastor, paid tribute to Carter's faith, saying: "He was the [Tim] Tebow of his time."

Said Strawberry: "When you look back at that time and the way we were and the bunch we had, a lot of us were young, wild and crazy. Kid was the most stable one in the clubhouse -- him and Mookie Wilson. It's a very sad time for all of us, because we know we were champions because of Carter coming over. That was the missing piece."

Orosco recalled learning on his honeymoon in Italy that the Mets had acquired Carter from the Expos in a trade for Hubie Brooks in December 1984.

"They didn't have many English channels out there," Orosco said. "One place happened to have one. And it was in the offseason. One sports thing came over the air, and it said that Gary Carter got traded to the Mets. And I started jumping like crazy. My wife was like, 'What's going on with you?' And I'm like, 'We just got Gary Carter. We have a chance to win now.'"

Ralph Trigsted, who coached Carter in baseball and football at Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton, Calif., said the respect for others Carter displayed as a professional athlete existed even in those prep days. They remained close for 43 years. Trigsted attended Carter's induction to the Hall of Fame.

"It was absolutely the same. He was, 'Yes sir. No sir,' " Trigsted said about the teenage Carter. "I was all of 22 years old when I met him. He's just special. I'm still coaching and he would be the best athlete, even to this day, even though kids are bigger and stronger."

Carter was a four-year varsity athlete in baseball and basketball. He was a three-year letterman in football -- only because freshmen were not eligible for varsity.

"He could kick the ball to the moon. He was amazing," Trigsted said. "We didn't have fences that day in baseball, and he hit the farthest ball I have ever seen. I think it's still rolling."

Said Dr. Tom Mullins of Christ Fellowship Church: "Gary Carter was a good man. ... He lived life with a passion."