Ducks manager Gary Carter’s Hall of Fame career came on baseball diamonds. But a meeting on a golf course helped dictate his latest career path.
Before the Ducks posted a 7-4 Opening Day win over Southern Maryland to make Carter’s debut a successful one, the former Mets and Expos great said an October discussion with owner Frank Boulton sold him on the idea of coming to Long Island.
“When we first met, I played in Joe Namath’s tournament in Bethpage,” said Carter, who said Boulton gave him a car so he could come to Citibank Park and have a sit-down. “He made an offer and I shared it with my wife and she gave her blessing and I accepted it.”
Long Island fans can thank Namath
for still helping to improve the area’s sports landscape four decades after leading the Jets to its only Super Bowl victory. Like Namath, Carter won a championship in New York, playing a starring role in the Mets 1986 World Series championship team.
Carter is now 1-0 as Ducks manager thanks to a bullpen that logged four innings of one-run ball. Preston Wilson, who was briefly a former Met, went 3-4 with three runs scored and two RBIs in his first game as a Duck while ex-Yankee Brad Halsey limited the Blue Crabs to three runs in five innings to earn the win.
After openly campaigning for the Mets managerial job last year, Carter said he is focused on his current job. The 55-year-old once nicknamed “The Kid” has enjoyed a successful post-playing career, first as roving catching instructor before becoming a minor league manager.
Working in the Mets farm system, Carter was named Manager of the Year of the Gulf Coast League in 2005. He duplicated that accomplishment in the Florida State League 2006, when he led the Single-A St. Lucie Mets to the FSL championship.
After leaving the Mets, Carter managed the Orange County Flyers in the Golden Baseball League, winning Manager of the Year honors there. Like the Ducks, the Flyers operate as an independent minor league team. The Atlantic League houses better facilities and a much higher class of baseball; something Carter said was a big incentive to come to Central Islip.
“This is a 4-A league,” said Carter, who said the quality is slightly above Triple-A level and features many players who are near Major League-ready. “I still have a lot of friends up this way and I love the idea of being on the East Coast.”
“I love this game. Frank said the Ducks are as exciting of an organization next to the Mets and Yankees on Long Island. I saw this ballpark and was overwhelmed because it’s such
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a pretty ballpark, it’s fan friendly and they draw well.”
The Ducks continue to lead the Atlantic League in attendance, averaging 6,092 fans per game in a ballpark with a listed capacity of 6,002. Standing room tickets make up for a packed stadium nearly every game, with the Ducks logging 49 sell-outs in 69 openings last season.
On the field, Carter will be asked to deliver the Ducks its second championship and first since 2004. The club has qualified for the postseason five straight seasons, though it has lost in the first-round four straight years, including three consecutive sweeps despite a roster that has featured more former major leaguers and high-profile players than any other competitor.
Carter said managing in the
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big leagues is still a goal. He added that if the opportunity does not come, he will not be too disappointed.
“I made my feelings known of what I would like, but that’s not the emphasis,” Carter said. “My passion and love is on the field. If it does materialize into something at the major league level in the future, that would be great. If it doesn’t, I understand the way the game works.
“I’ve learned that through my four years as a coach and catching instructor and now four years as a manager. It’s not always the most-prepared or the best person for the job. It goes without saying it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”