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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Carter: A Name, Not A Number

Gary Carter Stadium in Port St. Lucie…has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Won’t happen, though, because Gary Carter was a catcher and isn’t a corporation. Some company few Mets fans had ever heard of before 2010 or have any idea what exactly it does owns the rights to the name of the Mets’ primary Spring Training facility, and the Mets aren’t about to revoke those rights. Somebody wants to pay the Mets, the Mets are in no position to scale high moral ground and return the money.

So how about the Gary Carter New York Mets Spring Training and Minor League Complex? It’s a little bulky, but it covers all the bases. Since there’s more to the Mets’ operation in St. Lucie than just the field where the Mets sell naming rights and play exhibition games — and since the umbrella operation doesn’t seem to have an official name — there’s an opportunity there. There’s a chance to call it something. Something appropriate.

The Gary Carter Complex…when it’s mentioned as a matter of course on SNY or WFAN, will it sound like something for which they advise you to seek counsel if you’re prone to taking frequent curtain calls? Oh hell, that’s all right. Curtain calls imply you just did something worth pumping your fist and waving your helmet over.

Carter certainly did his share of that on our behalf from 1985 to 1989.

On the other side of Florida, in St. Petersburg, Mets minor leaguers once trained at the Payson Complex, named for the lady who owned the team. So there’s precedent here. Give Mets minor leaguers the privilege of learning their craft at the Carter Complex, named for the man who owned the town.

Two towns, actually. There was New York, circa 1986, and there was Port St. Lucie in 2006. Gary Carter managed the St. Lucie Mets to the Florida State League championship six years ago. That was a one-season deal (on the heels of winning a division title at the helm of the 2005 Gulf Coast Mets), as Carter followed his managerial muse elsewhere, but the Kid has been an undeniable fixture in the Treasure Coast region: as a longtime citizen of Palm Beach Gardens; as a benefactor of Palm Beach County schools through the Gary Carter Foundation; and as baseball coach at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Honoring Gary Carter where he lives (approximately 40 miles north of his home) would recognize his contributions to his community and give the Carter family a chance to relish the recognition on a going basis.

Aside from the geography, there is the irresistible symbolism of Gary Carter’s name gracing the site where New York Mets baseball experiences its rebirth every spring. Gary Carter arriving in Mets camp in the spring of 1985 represented hope and anticipation as perhaps no new Met before him had. Gary Carter was there to lead us toward the promised land. The journey began that first Carter spring. It reached its completion just two autumns later.

He was a helluva hitter and catcher for all seasons, but when I think of spring and the Mets, I think of Gary Carter and 1985.

The Carter Complex is my simple response, I suppose, to the recurring question about what to do, if anything, with No. 8. You can fill in all the possible answers yourself, whether you’re in favor of immediately retiring it because of Gary Carter’s battle to keep going, respectful but reticent to make that grandest of historical gestures given the franchise’s ideal numerical hierarchy, or of the belief that the best way to pay proper homage to the uniform number of a Mets Hall of Famer is to circulate it among his worthiest successors.

I don’t feel like getting into an argument about it, not even with myself. I see all the angles on this, I think, and given the right spin, I can agree with any of them. It’s a sports fan tic to require a final score on every issue. That, I believe, is why we are drawn to Hall of Fame evaluations, “all-time” rankings and why a number should or shouldn’t be retired. And as people who stand by while the physical condition of an athlete who contributed so mightily to our happiness grows dire, we are overtaken by a desire to do something about it…to push another run across the plate, as it were. Again, the sports fan instinct at work.

Gary Carter’s number on the left field wall at Citi Field wouldn’t diminish the inherent honor attached to placing it there, but it also isn’t the first number I would have thought to affix there had we not been compelled to contemplate Gary Carter right now. That’s why retiring No. 8 doesn’t seem at all wrong, yet neither does it seem perfectly right. To my Met mind, the Gary Carter New York Mets Spring Training and Minor League Complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., seems unquestionably fitting in terms of tribute and taste.

So do it, Mets. Do it now. Do it so Gary Carter’s name is on the door when the Mets return for their annual rebirth in a few weeks. There’s no earthly reason to wait.

16 comments to Carter: A Name, Not A Number

  • This is a wonderful proposal. And I’ll point out that his tenure as a manager in St. Lucie was for two years, having managed the Gulf Coast Mets to a mind-bending .698 winning percentage before losing in the championship series.

    Josh Thole was first introduced to catching on this team.

  • Great idea, partner. And allows me to put off the Gary Carter retire-the-number-or-not post that I can’t bring myself to write.

  • Will in Central NJ

    The renaming of the complex after Gary Carter strikes me as entirely appropriate and proper, given his days with the parent club, his tenure managing the St. Lucie Mets, and his nearby residence. You have presented a fair, reasonable and sound argument.

  • Joe D.

    Greg,

    A wonderful suggestion that truly came from the heart. However,as we know, when it comes to business, the Wilpons do not act from the heart nor the soul.

    If they decided to retire Kid’s number, the gesture would come at the wrong time and be seen as an empty, last minute decision made due to the tragedy, reminding us there was not enough sentiment to retire his number all those years after he entered the Hall or when word of his illness came out last season.

    I think it would be most appropriate to either say a special prayer or (sadly) have a memorial tribute during opening day ceremonies. When the sad day does come, the wearing of arm bands, keeping the flag at half mast and having Kid’s name or number displayed in a similar fashion somewhere on the field or a wall for the remainder of the year.

    And miracles sometimes do happen. Let’s hope so in this case, even if the chance seems so remote and unrealistic – don’t forget, this is the same guy who refused to be the last out in the 1986 world series.

    Refuse the last out again, Kid. We’re all praying for it.

  • I concur with both Greg and Joe D. This is a grand gesture that makes sense and would seemingly come from the heart and not be a knee-jerk reaction that, to be honest, most people would say if any of the “big Mets” without their number retired were to, God forbid, have a similar health tragedy.

    The Mets get so few things right in this area, I think they have played the retired numbers the proper way. And if Piazza gets into the Hall of Fame with no controversy in the next couple of years, I think they will retire 31 post haste–regardless of who is signing the checks (letters of credit).

  • Guy Kipp

    Don’t hold your breath. This is the same organization that still hasn’t seen fit to induct Tug McGraw into its franchise Hall of Fame.

    • Not to be macabre, but I missed Tug’s September 1993 induction because I had to go to a funeral in Queens (as if all the other Mets home games that year were so cheery). Funeral was over in time for the ceremonies, but a presidential visit to the area blocked access to the roads surrounding Shea. After 16 days and nights spent in the company of the 1993 Mets, I did in September what they did by May: gave up and went home.

  • Dak442

    What a splendid idea. Over the course of my years reading here, you seem to have come up with more, and better ideas, than the guys who get paid by the club.

    Guy: Wow! I never noticed! How on earth is Tug not in our Hall?!

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    Great idea but it is never going to happen. They are to tied in to Digital Domain Park or whateverit is called. They get alot of money from them!

    Plus there is a rumor another team will be moving into that complex so that four teams will remain on the East Coast of Florida once the Nats leave Melbourne, FL.

    In order to keep spring training on the East Coast, teams have clauses in their stadium contracts that four teams have to be close to each other.

  • sturock

    Good idea. Mets need to name more things after their great players and Gary was one of the greats. I’m all for naming the minor league/spring training complex and I have no problem with retiring his number either.

  • […] While everyone in the blogosphere is fretting about the Mets’ lack of retired numbers, Greg Prince has a terrific proposal for how the Mets should honor Gary Carter. http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com/2012/01/24/carter-a-name-not-a-number/ […]

  • George

    If they do rename the park for Mr. Carter, I would like to suggest a statue of Mr. Carter outside the entrance.

  • […] and everybody else reacquaint themselves with baseball activity at what should already be named the Gary Carter Complex in Port St. Lucie, I maintain my stance on potentially retiring 8. If the Mets were to do it, that would be the right […]