When I turned 16, my mom sent a letter to the Florida Marlins, addressed to then-broadcaster Gary Carter. I don't know what the letter said, but I do know that a couple of months after my birthday, I received an autographed picture of Gary Carter in the mail. You can see that to the left.
That was the closest I've ever come to meeting Gary Carter. (He wrote, "Dear John".)
I had another opportunity - in 2006, Carter was among the 1986 Mets who were scheduled to greet fans the day tickets went on sale at Shea Stadium. It was a cold and wet morning in January or February, and I was in New York that morning, but I didn't go. I used the weather as an excuse, but it came down to the fact that I wasn't ready to meet my boyhood hero. I think I was afraid he wouldn't live up to my expectations.
Well, today, what amounts to breaking news on this site happened while I was at school (thanks to Justin in NYC and Steve in NYC for separately letting me know this): Gary Carter will be named the new coach of the Long Island Ducks.
They're an independent league team, like Carter's last minor league managing job, best known for signing some washed-up major leaguers for one last chance at being picked up by a major league team (most recently the likes of Carlos Baerga and Jose Offerman).
Instead of joy at the fact that Carter is moving closer to New York and maybe something back with the Mets, I was instantly nervous at the news.
What if, on my trips back to New York, I run into Carter on the street? What if we just bump into one another somewhere? What would I do? Would he be nice? Would he remember that he sent me an autographed picture 14 years ago? Where would it happen? Would I be dressed OK? Would I have a camera?
It didn't even occur to me that I could possibly meet him on my own terms, at a Ducks game, until Justin texted me a second time telling me that if I wanted to go to a game he'd go with me. I wasn't even thinking rationally about the situation. Of course I could go to a game. Heck, my first thought when he signed with the Orange County Flyers was, "I wonder if I could go to a game and meet him?" But the immediacy of the Ducks (of course I could go to a game - and possibly meet him) has me all screwed up. I'm not sure I even want to meet him. I just want the image of him catching for the Mets in the 1980's in my head forever. Perhaps meeting him might ruin that.
Anyway, this is exciting stuff. Guaranteed the Ducks are good this year - Gary Carter's minor league managerial success has been well-chronicled here. But it seems to me like Carter is making his move towards the Mets - he couldn't manage the Mets, so he's going to the next best thing.
A baseball team located physically on Long Island? That applies to both the Mets and the Ducks.
On Monday Carter will be introduced at Citibank Park, home of the Ducks. Of course, next season, the Mets move into Citi Field.
Coincidence? Probably not. Probably well-calculated. I bet this is the last minor move Carter makes for a while. He's back in New York, he'll start getting some attention.....next time we hear his name in regards to managing, I bet it's because a major league team has hired him.
I think I hope I get to meet him before he makes that move.