Keeping the faith
NEW YORK, NY, USA: Sometimes, you hear about the death of a famous person who was extraordinarily giving, and the story needs to be told. That person is Gary Carter, and I am a New York Mets fan because of him. This is the same Gary Carter enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame, the same wonderful catcher voted MVP for his accomplishments on the baseball field.
The same one who won a World Series championship and received a ring, and the same one who had so much enthusiasm while playing baseball that he was called the “kid.”
After his active playing days, Gary managed minor league baseball clubs. His teams almost always won their league championships. I wondered why the parent team, the Mets, never called him in to manage them because his teams always played with enthusiasm and heart.
Segueing to my opening thoughts, years ago my wife and I had friends whose son, Jon, was diagnosed with leukemia. Jon was 8 years old at the time. His ambition in life was to be a professional baseball player. Now what American kid at that age doesn’t dream of playing ball? Instead, this skinny 8-year-old, having no understanding of what was happening, was restricted to a hospital bed for almost a year.
I received a request from Jon’s parents to try to get a photo from some famous sports personality. I phoned an MD friend of mine who was connected to a strong baseball organization. I left message after message for the photo. I would have done anything in my power to give encouragement to this young lad. I had known this MD for more than 25 years, and yet I never even received so much as a response from him. It is very difficult and frustrating to want to help and to not be able.
Jon’s mother took the idea and phoned the Mets. Her phone call was transferred to the Mets’ clubhouse, where the person picking up the phone repeated her request out loud. Gary Carter was passing by while getting dressed for a game, and hearing the word “leukemia,” took the phone and started chatting with her. He not only visited Jon once a day, he got some of his teammates to converse or visit with him. What great medicine.
Quite some time later, Jon fortunately got better and wanted to visit the Mets and see Gary Carter. Gary not only met him, but took him to the dugout and handed him a ball on which he had written, and told Jon, “Keep holding this ball and you’ll hang on to life.”
I found out later that unknown to us, Gary’s mother had passed away from leukemia when Gary was 9 years old. Among others in the clubhouse who enthusiastically encouraged Jon was Mel Stottlemeyer, the former Yankee great, and at that time the pitching coach for the Mets. Mel, incidentally, lost a son to this same dreaded disease. It was their ability to give and help that raised the bar and made a huge difference in Jon’s life.
Jon fortunately got better and eventually became a spokesperson for the American Leukemia Society, encouraging awareness and supporting its research. He finished No. 1 in his class at college, got married and is now a father of a healthy young boy. Jon’s parents are still very active in the Leukemia Society and are proud to give and participate, always appreciative of the hope and encouragement that they were fortunate enough to receive.
Gary Carter recently passed away. Shortly after, I was shown a letter that Jon recently had written to Gary to express his deepfelt appreciation:
“Weakened and fattened by chemotherapy, without hair, I met Gary outside of the Mets dugout before the game. There, he signed a baseball for me with the inscription ‘To Jonathan. Get well soon! Keep the faith. Best of luck. God Bless, Gary Carter.’ Over the next three years, I received scores of painful spinal taps and bone marrow biopsies as part or my treatment. At every procedure, I held Gary’s autographed ball in my hands for strength. Having his words in my hands and his baseball near my heart gave me comfort and reassurance.”
Other teams may win more games, produce more championship teams, have longer TV contracts, but for me, the Mets had a winner who taught how to give without worrying about material rewards. His caring and decency is being passed on.
Let’s go Mets!