If you're putting together a baseball franchise, you
might as well start with a leadoff hitter. Chuck Carr, who once led the
National League in stolen bases, is about to officially become the first Long
The centerfielder will be introduced by the independent Atlantic League
team at a news conference this week, sources familiar with his signing said.
Carr, 31, made his major-league debut with the Mets 10 years ago this month. He
played briefly later that season and in 1991 for manager Bud Harrelson,
manager and part-owner of the Ducks.
For Carr, like many players in the Atlantic League, this is not his first
time at the plate. He has a career .254 major-league batting average in 507
and Houston Astros.
The switch hitter is known for the speed and baserunning ability that
brought him 58 stolen bases for the Marlins in 1993. He also is known for an
energetic, and some might say, abrasive personality. Sports Illustrated once
ranked him as one of the Top 10 Jerks in Baseball.
But he was genial, self-effacing and popular as a member of the Atlantic
League's Atlantic City Surf last season. In an interview toward the end of the
schedule, he said: "That's the thing about life. You make a lot of mistakes. A
lot of people say 'I wish I did this differently, I wish I did that
differently.' But what are you trying to do, live a perfect life? Life is about
making mistakes, correcting them and going on and learning."
He just laughed when he was reminded of the verbal jousting he once did
with then Met Bret Saberhagen. "I don't regret anything," Carr said. "I just
thank God I was there."
Even when opponents were calling him a hot dog, Carr's teammates and
managers generally supported him. With the Marlins, coach Vada Pinson said,
"Every team needs an individual like that." Manager Rene Lachemann said Carr
had potential to be a Gold Glove centerfielder.
The son of a minister in San Bernardino, Calif., Carr got used to bouncing
around very early. He was so depressed when the Reds cut him when he was only
18 that he considered taking his own life. But friends encouraged him and he
was given a second chance with the Seattle Mariners. His confidence rebounded.
Legend has it that he advised a teenage Ken Griffey Jr. to find a position
other than centerfield.
Carr proved to be a survivor despite criticism that he was too small (5-10,
165 pounds) or too cocky. He suffered a severe knee injury making a diving
catch for the Brewers in 1996. When he came back the next season, manager Phil
Garner said Carr's speed was as good as it ever was, but his batting was
After that, he played pretty well for the Astros (.276 in 1997) and played
briefly in Taiwan, then considered quitting. He signed with Atlantic City last
season after Cardinals outfielder Eric Davis, a friend from Southern
California, told him to keep following his passion until someone came and
snatched the uniform off his back. Besides, Carr said, his children were
getting tired of having to share video games with him.
He would love to give his children-he has four kids, all 7 or younger-the
chance to see him play in the major leagues. "Just being out on the field is
fun," he said last fall.
To get back on a big-league field, though, he will have to improve on the
.263 average he had in 49 games for the Surf in 1999.
For now, he gives the Ducks a recognizable name. "It's out there that I
have an attitude problem," Carr said. "Then you hear fans say: 'He's a nice
guy, he's down to earth.' "
This weekend, he will be down in Florida. The Ducks and the entire Atlantic
League will hold their spring training in Baseball City, at the Kansas City
Royals complex. Each club will bring a core of players-the Ducks are expected
to announce other signings this week-and will hold a draft Tuesday to fill out
The Ducks are tentatively scheduled for their first exhibition game next
Wednesday. They know at least they will be able to pencil in the first slot on
their lineup card.