Baseball team remembers Carter's passion for the game
February 26, 2012
By Joshua Reid / Sports Editor
"It was a very special moment," said Kent Bottenfield, associate head baseball coach at Palm Beach Atlantic University. "Some guys went to the field and prayed, some stayed in the dugout. Everyone did their own little thing to honor Skip before the game."
That was the atmosphere at Palm Beach Gardens High School on Feb. 21 before the Sailfish took the field for their game against Florida Memorial University.
The Sailfish honored their former skipper by having a moment of silence before the game, as well as playing the very first pitch of the game with only eight position players, a tribute to his number eight jersey.
"That was Logan's idea," Bottenfield said, referring to senior pitcher Logan Thomas. "He came up to me that day and initially wanted to do that through the entire first inning. I thought about it and I knew Skip wouldn't want us trailing going into the second inning, so we only did that with the first pitch. It was a great tribute and I don't think Skip would have wanted it any other way."
The team also debuted patches with the number eight and Carter's name on their left sleeve in honor of their fallen coach. The Sailfish will wear the patches the entire season and will continue to have Carter's jersey hanging in the dugout.
"He's part of the team," Bottenfield said. "This is his team, his players. He'll always be remembered among the guys."
"He brought a winning atmosphere the day he came to PBA, something that never has been here," Thomas said. "He and Coach (Bottenfield) have taught us to never let up, that the game is never over, and (Tuesday) was a prime example of that." The Sailfish cruised to a 13-1 victory on Tuesday night.
"The game was kind of like a tribute to him," said Mike Perkowski, a junior. "The first score definitely gave us that jump we wanted. Our performance was something he definitely would be proud of."
Carter's diagnosis last spring precipitated the hiring of Bottenfield as associate head coach. Bottenfield had a 20-year friendship with Carter from playing with the Montreal Expos. The connection was made when he was called up from the minors and started pitching to Carter in games they both started.
"What Gary loved most was to share the passion and joy for the game he had with other people," Bottenfield said. "It was difficult coming in here (to PBA) at first, but I made it clear to the players that this was Skip's program, not mine."
"He has definitely touched the players here at PBA, that's for sure," said senior Travis Murray, a catcher who transferred to PBA his junior year. "As a catcher, he spent more time with me and offered tips and helped me improve in my position. I'll certainly cherish the memories I had with him."
"He wasn't just an incredible coach, he was an incredible person," Thomas said. "He taught us how to use baseball as a platform for Christ, and highlight our talents and bring it to Christ to glorify him, not us."
According to Thomas, Carter's professionalism rubbed off on the team as well.
"He taught us how to respect everything, from baseball to life," Thomas said. "He used baseball as a platform for Christ, and he wanted us to do the same."
As for the rest of the season, Thomas feels it will be a special one.
"Later on in the schedule we play some tough teams," Thomas said. "But as Skip and Coach taught us, 'don't let up.' That's our motto."
"We've always said, 'Lets play for Skip, we're going to play for Skip,' but now it's a reality," Thomas said. "We actually took it to the field and now it's a reality. This season really is for Skip."
"We're going to celebrate the life of an incredible man who just happened to be an incredible coach," Bottenfield said. "He had an incredible effect on these guys, and his legacy will continue and always be remembered among the team."