Non-Fiction

Still a Kid at Heart

My Life in Baseball and Beyond

Written by: Gary Carter and Phil Pepe

Published By: Triumph Books
 

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            There are those who like Gary Carter and those who don’t.  Some say that “goodie two-shoes” Gary Carter is a media favorite simply because he made sure that the media noticed him…that he shoved himself in the media’s face.  Some say that all Gary Carter can talk about is Gary Carter.  I grew up a New York Mets fan and the 1986 season was one of the most exciting baseball seasons I have ever experienced.  I watched Gary Carter help bring my favorite team to the World Series that year and I will never forget that season.  Even then, I liked Gary Carter’s style, his willingness to play through whatever pain and his determination to bring his best to that playing field.  I’m a fan of Gary Carter and so I was more than happy when someone gave me his book, Still a Kid at Heart: My Life in Baseball and Beyond, a memoir co-written with Phil Pepe.

            In this book, Gary Carter takes us back to the very beginning, back when he was a kid competing in the Ford Motor Company’s Punt, Pass and Kick Contest.  An athlete with aspirations of a career in sports, Carter believed that his path would lead him toward a life in the National Football League.  A knee injury and the words of a Montreal Expos scout changed all of that and in 1972, Gary Carter signed on to play baseball in the Montreal Expos organization, a decision that would change Gary Carter’s life forever.

            The first half of Still a Kid at Heart discusses Gary Carter’s baseball career – the ups and downs, the spectacular moments and the downside of getting older in the major leagues.  The second half is very much a smorgasbord of information as Gary discusses his yearning to become a major league manager, the changes in the sport today, his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the best players of his day, today and the future and more.  I loved learning about how Gary Carter came up in the Expos organization and how he became the asset the New York Mets needed to get to the World Series.  Humble as ever, Gary discusses his achievements, but attributes the winning season to the work of the entire team, helping each other through to achieve the ultimate victory.

            I found Cary Carter’s opinion of the changes in baseball to be much like my own.  In his opinion, the use of steroids is a form of cheating and I agree.  However, it is always in Gary Carter’s nature to find the good in people and he continues to find the good in players like Barry Bonds, et al when discussing the issue of electing steroid users to the Hall of Fame.  It is Carter’s belief that steroids can’t account for every achievement in these players’ careers.  I can see his point, but could never see myself cheering for one of these players to be elected to the Hall of Fame. 

            I found myself agreeing with Carter’s assertion that baseball has become centered around money.  As a Mets fan who may never see the inside of the new Citi Field, I understand what happens when a team puts earning money and protecting its assets before its fans.  Citi Field boasts that it has $11 seating for fans who can’t afford high-priced tickets, but can see the players as more than specks on the field from that height?  The Mets have made luxury boxes, high-tech accommodations and corporate reserve seating a priority over the fans that put them into the position they are now in.  Teams are more likely to play members with higher salaries even though they don’t play as well as the lower paid members because they want to get their money’s worth.  The larger the team and the more lucrative the media contracts for that team, the higher salaries that can be offered to the premiere players.  Meanwhile, smaller teams with little or no media coverage suffer.

            I also agree with Carter’s assertions about pitching counts and other statistics.  I hate the way managers use pitching counts to dictate their strategies and it is clear that, while Gary Carter can see that the pitching count has lengthened many pitchers’ careers, he also can see it also takes something away from the game.  The use of statistics also takes away from the game.  Instead of going on gut instinct and experience, managers can simply pull up some stats on a computer and play the game by the stats.  Carter doesn’t seem to like that sort of management tactic and neither do I.

            My one complaint with this book is that parts of it seem like a campaign speech – Gary Carter for Manager.  When Gary discusses his managing experience and his desire to manage a major league team, I can sympathize.  Anyone with such a love for the game and such a decent management background would have this desire.  But to keep repeating all of his qualifications over and over again and…I hate to say it, but…whining about why he hasn’t received this opportunity can be a bit much.  I also disliked the constant “why me” that I read during the Hall of Fame chapter.  It seems Gary Carter was not exactly happy with how long it took to get elected to the Hall of Fame.  Now, understandably, some of that had to do with wanting to achieve this victory before his father passed away.  No problem there.  But a great deal of it seemed to be “why can’t I get in when I clearly deserve it.”  No offense to Mr. Carter, but it took Phil Rizzuto, a nine World Series ring winner and all-around great ballplayer, forever to get into the Hall of Fame and I never heard the man complain once.

            All that aside, I enjoyed reading Still a Kid at Heart and learning quite a bit about one of my favorite baseball players from that 80s era of my life.  Fans of Gary Carter and fans of the 1986 New York Mets will enjoy reading this book and checking out the two sets of picture inserts filled with photos of Gary Carter as a player and a family man.  Even after reading this book, I can’t help but admire the man that is Gary Carter, a family man and devout Christian with an undying love for the sport of baseball.  Just before reading this book I learned that Gary Carter has been named manager of the Long Island Ducks, a team in the Atlantic League and I can’t wait to see him play against the Somerset Patriots in TD Bank Ballpark this year.  Now would be a great time to check out Still a Kid at Heart and brush up on your Gary Carter history.  Who knows?  Maybe after this stint in the Atlantic League, Gary Carter will finally get that major league management position he’s been hoping for.

 


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