Saturday, March 1, 2003

Q&A with The Kid


Carter proud to be joining Fisk, Berra, Bench in Hall of Fame

By JEFF D'ALESSIO
Florida Today

In July, catching legend Gary Carter will become the first player to be enshrined in a Montreal Expos' cap. These days, Carter runs a foundation benefiting children, spends a lot of time on the golf course and serves as a spring training instructor for the New York Mets.

We caught up with "The Kid" this week to talk about the Hall of Fame, his favorite catchers, "Field of Dreams" and more.

Question:: Do people still call you The Kid?

Answer: Oh yeah. It's nice to be 48 years old and still be called "The Kid."

Q: You don't look 48.

A: Well, thanks. I work at it. I try to take care of myself. My father always looked younger than his actual age. When he was in his 50s, he looked in his 40s. When he was in his 60s, he looked in his 50s. When he was in his 70s, he looked in his 60s. But then when he got in his 80s, well, I think he pretty much looked it.

Q: You and your dad were pretty close. How'd he react when you told him you made the Hall of Fame?

A: My father was overwhelmed with joy. He had a crackle in his voice, and was just thrilled. Never in a million years would I have thought after I talked to him at that point that 17 days later, he would be gone. It was a moment that I'll cherish and remember. ... I was on that roller coaster and then I came way back down again. When you ride a wave, it's kind of nice to enjoy it for a time, but then you also face reality sometimes, too. In this case, I miss my dad a lot. Even though I was 3,000 miles away, I talked to him on a pretty regular basis. Now knowing that he's no longer around is tough to deal with. He was my last parent. But I know he'll be there in spirit, as well as my mom, and that's what I'm going to live by.

Q: You work for the Mets and played five years for the Mets, but you'll go into Cooperstown with an Expo cap, the Hall of Fame decided. Do you think of yourself as a Met or an Expo?

A: That's a very good question. Being that I am a Met presently and the fact that the Expos may be gone after this year - there's been a lot of talk in that capacity - where I'm probably most remembered for is as a member of the Mets, winning the '86 World Series and everything. But you know what? That decision was not allowed for me this year. I guess there were statistics done on my 11 years in Montreal compared to the five years I played in New York and they decided, for the integrity of the Hall of Fame and to give the Expos their place in history, to put me in as an Expo. I didn't have a choice. They just decided for me.

My contention is that if the Expos are no longer in existence, I don't want somebody 20, 30 years up the road going in there, looking at my Hall of Fame plaque and saying, "Who were the Expos?" I know the Mets are going to be around. And being that I'm back associated with them, to be deprived of that decision is a disappointment.

Q: Why do you think it took six years for Hall of Fame voters to call your name?

A: Oh boy. I'd have to say it might have been a little political - primarily because of the extensive period of time I played in Montreal, the talk of contraction, the talk of lack of fan support, the fact that we didn't win up there during my tenure. But the numbers don't lie. The fact that I was dominant at my position over a 10-year period and was able to accomplish the numbers that I did and to be one of four catchers in the history of the game that have the 2,000 hits, the 1,000 runs scored, over 300 home runs and over 1,200 RBIs - and the other three are in the Hall of Fame: (Johnny) Bench, (Carlton) Fisk and (Yogi) Berra - that's pretty good company.

Q: How high did you jump when you got the call from the Hall?

A: I didn't jump very high, but my fist raised to the clouds in the sky. I was ecstatic. It had been a long wait, but those who are patient reap the benefits. I feel very blessed that it happened in just my sixth year of waiting. I tried to make myself invisible for most of the morning, so a lot of the press people couldn't find out where I was. I was playing golf with friends. I didn't look, but one of my friends pointed out that the call came in at 12:08. Of course, my number was 8. And I birdied the eighth hole.

Q: How good are you at writing speeches?

A: Oh, I'm pretty good.

Q: Started this one yet?

A: No, I really haven't. I've gathered my thoughts. I've been able to share at a lot of banquets and different things like that, so the speech part of that is not intimidating to me, by any means. It's just a matter of (wanting to) ... thank all the right people and I want to minimize the amount of time.

Q: Who's your favorite catcher to watch in the game today?

A: The total package would have to be Pudge Rodriguez.

Q: What do you do for fun these days?

A: Golf is my thing.

Q: What's in your CD player these days?

A: I've got some Christian music from our church, Christ Fellowship. I also have The Backstreet Boys and NSync, my favorite groups.

Q: Those are your favorite groups?

A: Yeah, two of my favorites. I like their upbeat ways and I like the harmony that goes on between the two groups. And then I've got a collection of some oldies.

Q: Got a favorite baseball movie?

A: Gotta be "Field of Dreams."

Q: Over "Bull Durham"?

A: "Bull Durham" was a good one, but there's nothing that compares to "Field of Dreams." I'm kind of a sensitive guy and I think about that, "Hey dad, you want to have a catch." That just blows me away.

-

E-mail Jeff D'Alessio at jdalessio@flatoday.net




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