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Ex-Met Carr to Become First to Sign With Ducks

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

Island Duck.

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

games with the Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Florida Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers

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

affected.

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

their rosters.

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.

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