We use the words hero and great in sports to the point where they become cliche and lose their meaning and impact.
Gary Carter was a baseball player, who made a good living playing a game most of us played as kids and only dreamed of having the fraction of talent he possessed. We cannot use the word “hero,” in describing Carter and any other athlete when compared to a soldier who saves his comrades in a firefight, or a policeman who risks his life in protecting a person from peril, or an act of unselfish bravery by a nondescript man who runs into a burning building to save a child or stands up to a thug in a subway while coming to the aid of a stranger.
Or a parent who goes through the daily grind to set an example of morality to his child.
Carter would be the first to say he’s not a hero or great when compared to those examples.
In reading over the past 24 hours of testimonials from teammates, opponents and fans who never met him we get a glimpse into the player and man who meant so much to so many. He came to many of us as an athlete, but captivated our imaginations and captures our respect with the intensity he played the game and the dignity and integrity in which he lived his life.
With his faith, his genuine goodness as a human being, and his compassion for others, he touched many in a way that went beyond his hitting and ability to handle a pitching staff.
With the way he lived his life, Carter molded the lives of an adoring family and inspired many he never met. The ultimate testament came from teammates who said they wish they led their lives as Carter did his.
In that way, he was truly heroic. It is said a man with friends is truly rich, and Carter was wealthy in which many of us can only dream.