|PBA Interim President William M.B. Fleming Jr. shares his memories of Gary Carter during the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapel service.|
“’The Kid’ was my friend for 20 years,” PBA Interim President William M.B. Fleming Jr. said. “No. 8 might not be on campus or in the dugout, but he is with us today at Palm Beach Atlantic University because he is victorious.”
No. 8 is the retired jersey number of Major League Baseball Hall of Fame catcher and PBA baseball head coach Gary Carter. After a nearly nine-month battle with brain cancer, Carter died Thursday at the age of 57. Friday during PBA’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) chapel service in the DeSantis Family Chapel, President Fleming and other PBA staff close to Carter shared with students what he meant to them.
Bob White, PBA head volleyball coach, director of spiritual life for athletes and former athletic director, recalled the first day he met Carter at a PBA softball game in 2008. Carter's daughter, Kimmy Bloemers is head coach.
“We sat side-by-side on lawn chairs talking,” White said. “In the middle of our conversation his phone rang. After he finished the call he said, ‘Sorry that was George Bush.’ It was George Bush, Sr. I thought to myself, ‘I’m sitting here talking to a guy who’s talking to the former president of the United States.’”
White and Carter would become colleagues in 2009.
“Oct. 13, 2009, I had the honor of introducing the new head baseball coach Gary Carter,” he said.
White referred to Carter as a “fun guy” and shared humorous anecdotes about Carter’s “loud voice.”
“I remember that he could be very loud, he didn’t need a microphone,” White said.
He once had to tell Carter he was too loud when speaking on the telephone in his office in the Greene Complex for Sports and Recreation.
“He said, ‘Oh Bobby, I’m sorry.’" White explained. “About 10 minutes later his voice was back where it was.”
|PBA students sing during Friday's FCA chapel.|
White was at his team’s practice when he received the news that Carter had died. He went back to his office and prayed and the Lord put on his heart the verse Isaiah 40:31.
“Coach Carter soars like an eagle in heaven," White said. "Jesus Christ was important to him, that’s why he’s with our savior in eternity.”
Campus Pastor Bernie Cueto said he often sent Carter text messages of encouragement throughout his battle with cancer.
“He would always text me back messages like, ‘Thanks Bernie. I appreciate your prayers and support. You’re the best,'” said Cueto. “He lived his faith out loud. He is even more alive – now.”
FCA invited C.J. Wetzler, a youth motivational speaker affiliated with Life Church in West Palm Beach, to speak Friday at their weekly chapel service prior to the death of Carter. Wetzler said he did some research as he didn't have the opportunity to know Carter as well as the PBA community.
"After reading about Gary Carter on the Internet, what stuck out in my mind is a photo of him signing a baseball for a fan," Wetzler said. "The message read: 'Remember no matter what you do, do the best you can'. That's how Gary Carter lived his life."
Wetzler told students they should ask themselves the question, "Why do I play sports?"
"There's a more noble cause as athletes on a college level -- to live as an example -- to be different," he said. "We are Christians. We play for other reasons than the world. We want to align ourselves with God's purpose."
President Fleming said that Deuteronomy 31:6 reminds him of the example of leadership Carter offered.
“I can reflect on this passage and be inspired by the faithfulness and courage of ‘The Kid’,” he said. “Gary Carter was a catcher, a courageous leader. He was courageous in life, just as he was courageous in fighting cancer. The world is looking at his life because he led by example.”
Memorial gifts in honor of Coach Carter will benefit PBA Baseball. Please make checks payable to: Palm Beach Atlantic University, memo line — Gary Carter Fund. Gifts should be mailed to: Palm Beach Atlantic University, Gary Carter Fund, P.O. Box 24708, West Palm Beach, FL 33416.
All gifts will be acknowledged and the Carter family will be notified. Gifts also can also be made to the Gary Carter Foundation.