WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (BP) — After battling brain cancer for nearly nine months, Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter died Feb. 16 in West Palm Beach, Fla., where he had been head baseball coach at Palm Beach Atlantic University since 2009. He was 57.
Nicknamed “The Kid” for his infectious smile and enthusiasm, Carter was diagnosed with four small brain tumors in May 2011 and had been receiving chemotherapy and other medical treatments for a type of cancer deemed inoperable.
Carter leaves behind an incredible legacy in many circles for his athletic abilities, charitable endeavors and unyielding faith.
His most recent career path led him to join his daughter and son-in-law, Kimmy and Kyle Bloemers, at Palm Beach Atlantic University where Kimmy is the head softball coach for the Sailfish and Kyle is an assistant athletic director.
Inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003, Carter was one of the greatest catchers ever to play the game. Spending a majority of his 19-year playing career with the Montreal Expos and New York Mets, Carter helped lead the Mets to a World Series championship in 1986 as he started a two-out rally in Game Six to propel the Mets to an improbable victory in seven games.
Following his playing career, Carter went into coaching and managing within the minor league ranks and independent baseball before settling in as PBA’s head coach in October 2009.
Carter had made Palm Beach County his permanent home since 1982. His Gary Carter Foundation was instrumental in raising funds and awareness for such causes as juvenile diabetes, children with autism and in providing education resources to local schools.
Carter is survived by his wife of 37 years, Sandy. The couple has three children, Christy Kearce, Kimmy Bloemers and D.J Carter, and three grandchildren.
It seemed almost providential that Carter came to Palm Beach Atlantic when he did, Kimmy Bloemers said. The family always had a home in South Florida, where the Montreal Expos came for spring training. After his career in the majors, Carter traveled a lot as a broadcaster and baseball manager. When Palm Beach Atlantic approached him about the coaching position, he embraced the opportunity to invest in a Division II program at a Christian university and spend more time with his family.
Although Carter wanted to improve the team, he had a higher purpose in mind.
“My primary goal is to help these young athletes become better Christians and prepare them for life, not just baseball,” Carter said in 2009 when the university announced he was joining the staff.
Many of PBA’s ball players chose the school because they wanted to learn under the famous catcher.
“When I heard he was the coach here, I didn’t believe it at first,” Sailfish second baseman Michael Lyon said. “Some Major League players don’t care to give back to others like he has.”
Murray, who plays Carter’s old position, said the coach took him under his wing and taught him both the physical and mental aspects of the game.
“He’s always positive, trying to motivate people to do their best and give 100 percent,” Murray said, adding that Carter enjoyed telling the team stories from his past, including the two-out, two-strike base hit that sparked the Mets’ three-run rally in the bottom of the 10th inning in Game Six of the 1986 World Series.
“But he’s always quick to say he never would have made it as far if he didn’t have Christ as his Savior. He’s always giving glory to God.”
Michael Brown is assistant athletic director for communications at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Fla. With additional reporting by Susan Edgar of World News Service.