ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (BP) – Jason Holly, the youth minister at First Baptist Church in Elizabethton, remembers when Texas Rangers rookie outfielder Evan Carter was a boy playing in the local Grasscutter football league for 6-8-year-olds. Holly had a tiny Superman logo printed specifically for Carter.
“I stuck it on the back of his helmet, and only his,” Holly said. “And I said, ‘You’re Superman.’ He was just that good.”
Rangers fans are starting to agree with that assessment. Carter, who started the 2023 season in the minor leagues with Texas’ Double-A squad, is finishing it in the World Series. The 21-year-old became the youngest player since Mickey Mantle to bat third in a World Series lineup in Friday’s opening game.
He made an immediate impact for Texas, doubling off the wall in the first inning to drive in the game’s first run. Texas went on to win 6-5 on an 11th inning homer by Adolis Garcia. Carter has reached base safely in all 14 games he’s played in this year’s postseason.
“It’s a dream come true,” Carter told Derek Jeter in a postgame interview about playing in the World Series. “You always want to be ready to go in the minor leagues. To think that I’d have been in the World Series this time, this is unreal.”
Holly coached Carter in youth football and baseball until Carter’s middle school years. He remembers joking with Carter’s dad that the kid would be going a long way in baseball.
“He was just that talented, at a very young age,” Holly recalled. “When he was in little league, I remember throwing the ball to him as hard as I could, and he was about 9, and he just would hit it right back at you. He was a phenomenal athlete.”
Carter’s family is part of Central Community Christian Church, a nondenominational congregation outside of Elizabethton. But he regularly attended programs and events at First Baptist Church during his childhood and teenage years.
“Evan and his family are very grounded people,” Holly said. “They’re very humble. They’re very gracious. Evan has always been this even-keeled kid. With his faith, he’s always stayed steady.”
That’s why Holly wasn’t surprised when, after Carter was called up to the Rangers in September, he took his first batting practice wearing a blue T-shirt with the message “Jesus Won” prominently displayed across his chest.
“I always felt like Evan was grounded on the Lord, and he had his eyes, his ears and his heart the right way,” Holly said.
In an interview in the dugout prior to his Major League debut, Carter wore that “Jesus Won” shirt while speaking to the media about being a part of the Rangers team.
“It’s unbelievable,” Carter said to start the interview. “I’m grateful, and I thank God for the opportunity.”
That shirt has become practically ubiquitous in Elizabethton, as Carter’s performance and profile have continued to skyrocket since his arrival with the Rangers. Fellowship of Christian Athletes sells a Carter edition of the shirt, with “EC” and Carter’s number 32 on the sleeve. Carter and his wife Kaylen shared on social media that they want to use their platform in baseball to give back to their community in Carter County, Tenn.
Proceeds from sales of the shirt benefit Central Cares, a program from their home church that helps provide for children in impoverished situations, and to help provide an environment for young baseball players in their community to succeed.
Holly said that Carter and Kaylen have been together since sixth grade.
“You can just tell how they treat each other that the Lord is front and center for both of them,” he said.
Holly, who also teaches at Elizabethton High School, said the “Jesus Won” shirt has given him the opportunity to engage a lot of students who wear it with the message. That’s just one way he says that Carter has made an impact on his community and how he is a role model to others.
“Evan’s a very humble, quiet person,” Holly said. “The thing he tells a lot of people is, ‘You can be great without being loud, and you can be great without causing problems, and you can be great without being flamboyant.’”
In that sense, Holly said Carter is similar to Elizabethton’s other star athlete, former Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.
“Both of those guys kind of have the same character,” Holly said. “They’re quiet, family people. They just show kids that you can be the right person and be awesome.”
Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.