Before I ever realized the joy of geekdom, I was, believe it or not, a baseball fan. Well, I guess I can't say "fan", but I watched much more of it than I do now. Granted, my enjoyment of baseball probably stemmed from my father's love of the game. As often as he could he would pack up the family and we would head out to the stadium to watch a game. His favorite team? The New York Mets and, as an extension, they quickly became my favorite team. The era? 1986.
I saw a few games during the '86 Mets' season so I'm quite familiar with the winning team. Consisting of Keith Hernandez, Mookie Wilson, HoJo, and pre-coke Darryl Strawberry and Dwight "Doc" Gooden, the '86 Mets were a joy to watch. I didn't quite grasp all of the rules of the game, but I loved being at the field, under the sun, watching the games with my family. My favorite part of the entire experience was the giant Apple that would spring out of the top hat at the back of the field whenever a home run was hit.
My favorite player on the team was Gary Carter. When I heard of his passing last week, I was devastated. Though I haven't been a fan of baseball in years, or even thought of the man until he hit the news with word of his recent brain cancer, I was still affected emotionally by his passing. I remember the way he played with intensity, dropping to his knees to catch an errant pop-fly. He brought an excitement to the game that audiences don't see nowadays. He played for the love of the game. Sure, he probably made a good living out of it too, but he was still getting paid to do what he loved. His attitude toward the game is what earned him the nickname "The Kid".
As an 11-time All-Star, his contributions to the game of baseball are evident, as are his contributions to the New York Mets' franchise. His RBI in Game 5 of the '86 World Series brought the Mets to a win over the Houston Astors and set the stage to win the series in Game 6. Carter was often accused of being self-absorbed during his tenure with the Montreal Expos, but he didn't come off like that in the eyes of a 6-year old. All I saw was a grown man who was as excited about baseball as I was.
Gary Carter passed away on February 16, 2012 at the age of 57. His passing doesn't change my opinion of the current state of baseball, or even bring me back into the fold of being a baseball fan. I will always remember the man as a childhood idol, someone who brought me hours of entertainment and enjoyment. Though sad, death is truly a part of life, and something that everyone must deal with at some point. When the world lost Gary Carter, a part of the 6-year-old in me died as well.
R.I.P. Gary Carter, April 8, 1954 - February 16, 2012