Carter attends former team's season opener

Manager Gary Carter of the U.S.A. Team looks

Manager Gary Carter of the U.S.A. Team looks on during the XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game at PNC Park. (July 9, 2006) (Credit: Getty Images)

JUPITER, Fla. -- Though he is unable to coach anymore while battling brain cancer, Gary Carter wouldn't miss the season opener of the Palm Beach Atlantic University team he coached the past two seasons.

The Hall of Fame catcher, who spent five of his 19 major-league seasons with the Mets, "doesn't have a lot of energy, but when it comes to baseball, he finds the energy," said his daughter, Kimmy Bloemers.

Carter arrived at Roger Dean Stadium, the spring training home of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins, about 15 minutes before game time Thursday and exhorted his Palm Beach Atlantic Sailfish to "get a win" over local rival Lynn University. "When he's on the field is when he's happiest,'' Bloemers said, "and he's here for his guys."

After receiving a standing ovation from both teams and a few hundred spectators while riding around the field in a golf cart, Carter watched a few innings with about two dozen friends, neighbors and family members before returning to his home about five miles from the stadium.

Among them were Jeff Reardon and Tommy Hutton, both friends and neighbors as well as former teammates on the Montreal Expos.

"His whole life is baseball, baseball and the Lord, and of course, his family," Reardon said.

Reardon said Carter was the best catcher he ever threw to in his 16 major-league seasons, but what was even more important was Carter's support after Reardon's son died in 2004.

"He was there for me big-time, so I want to be there for him," Reardon said. "Me and my wife never forgot that."

Even while struggling with cancer, Carter doesn't ask for much. He talks about other things, such as his autism foundation and his college team.

Another former Expos teammate, Kent Bottenfield, was recruited to take over the Sailfish as associate head coach on Carter's recommendation shortly after Carter learned he was ill.

"To me, it's been amazing how he's handled this with grace and kindness, and lived it out with great faith," Bottenfield said.

Bottenfield said that when he first moved from Nashville to take over the team, he and Carter talked for extended periods every day. Carter would come to team practices two to three times a week.

As his cancer has progressed, they talk less often.

"Baseball has been a good distraction at times,'' Bottenfield said, "but we didn't want to talk every day and build up the frustration that he couldn't be here."

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