When I learned of the passing of Gary Carter this week, I immediately thought of my son, Jonathan’s 10th Birthday. Jon was an avid METS fan, and Gary Carter was his favorite player. He bought a #8 METS Jersey. Later in life- after he was married- he and his wife, Valerie, would name their puppy- “Carter”- to this day having to explain he was named for the famous catcher- and not the former president.
But, - back to his birthday. I had learned that Gary Carter was among the sports stars who would be attending Ken Kaiser’s Annual Charity Dinner in Rochester. Ken was a major league umpire- from Rochester- who brought in a star-studded line-up every year for this event. I called Ken and asked if it would be possible for Jon to meet his sports idol- prior to the dinner. “No problem,”- said Ken. Just bring him over to the Airport Holiday Inn, and I will work it out!”
I wanted it to be a surprise, so my wife, Mary, and I simply told Jon that one of his “presents” was something we had to take him to get! As I recall, Jon was not too happy about that. “Why do I have to go?” he asked, and all we could say was “Just trust us; you will like it!”
And off we went. We arrived at the Holiday Inn. I found Ken Kaiser in his temporary office, and he called Gary Carter’s room to tell him to expect a visitor.
I’ll never forget the look on Jon’s face when Gary Carter opened the door. I have it all on videotape. (If I can ever find it!) He sat with Jon – who for the first time in his life- was almost speechless. In fact, as I recall, it was my wife, Mary, who did much of the talking. Having watched every METS game with her young son, she was quite knowledgeable about their season. She said Jon cried when they lost the playoff game to the Dodgers that year (1988), and Gary Carter admitted- that he did, too!
It was such a pleasure to see our son’s childhood hero— live up to that expectation. He was a clean-cut player who was willing to graciously spend a few minutes with a young fan.
Jon would later work as a sports reporter in Binghamton and have a chance to interview his baseball hero. He would travel to Cooperstown to see that hero inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. But, those are HIS stories, and he has written about them in his own blog. Just Click Here to see it!
For now—we all mourn the loss of a true gentleman. I am grateful my son was able to find such a hero in professional sports. May his legacy continue to inspire us all!