Friends, teammates celebrate Carters life

Kevin Kernan
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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — On a warm Florida evening, they came to remember The Kid.

There were Hall of Famers, teammates, front office personnel, major leaguers, friends, family and the players he coached at Palm Beach Atlantic University. They all came to a memorial service for Mets great Gary Carter last night at Christ Fellowship Church.

“Gary was a baseball angel,’’ Gary Sheffield told The Post. “Gary was like train tracks, he kept you going in the right direction. He did that for me when I was with the Marlins and he was a broadcaster.’’

Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, who came in from California for the service, said, “We grew up in Southern California together, always played in each other’s golf tournaments and have been good friends for a long, long time. Gary was a Hall of Famer as a player and a person.’’

They remembered the smiling Hall of Fame catcher who had such a joy for life, the leader who started the Game 6 rally in 1986 with a hit built on pure determination. He remained “Kid’’ until the day he passed away last Thursday of brain cancer at the age of 57.

Hall of Famer Johnny Bench gave a moving eulogy.

“Gary, I’ve got to say, idolized me,” Bench said with a smile. “I can understand part of that and as we sit here tonight, I feel inadequate with the things that he accomplished — the family, the pastors, the friends, the respect. I mean, to think about that smile, to think about the person that he was, his respect for the game his love for his family.

“I called him The Kid from the first time I saw him,’’ Bench explained. “Gary loved the game so much and the only thing he never achieved was the one thing he wanted most after the game of baseball was to manage in the major leagues. Nobody was that smart to hire him, but the benefit came to the young men right here sitting in their [PBAU] uniforms.’’

Darryl Strawberry said Carter was the glue of the World Champion 1986 Mets.

“The character he displayed in the clubhouse represented us more than anything,’’ Strawberry said. “When you looked at the bunch we had, a lot of us were young, wild and crazy. The Kid was the most stable one in the clubhouse. It’s a very sad time for all of us because we know that we were champions because of Carter coming over, that was the missing piece. He took us to another level.’’

Logan Thomas, one of Carter’s players at Palm Beach Atlantic, held Carter’s No. 8 Sailfish uniform and said the last thing he remembered his “skip’’ saying was, “Let’s get a win today boys.’’

Lenny Dykstra, who continues to battle his demons and is under house arrest, was permitted to fly in from California. Dykstra declined to talk to the media.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who was a backup catcher to Carter in 1985, said Carter always was thinking of others.

“Gary had servant’s heart in everything he did, on and off the field,’’ he said.

A servant’s heart. That was Gary Carter.

“I encourage you to love life like my dad,’’ said Carter’s daughter Christy.

“He was the [Tim] Tebow of his time,’’ said Dr. Jack Graham, one of Carter’s pastors. “Gary showed us the light.’’

Tommy Bowes, stadium superintendent at Mets spring training complex, saw Carter as a player, then a manager in the Mets system, at Gulf Coast League and Single-A St. Lucie, where Carter won championships.

“Gary brought the winning spirit, he nicknamed my ground crew ‘the A Team,’ ’’ Bowes said. “He always had time for every one of us. We took it hard. The ring I wear is the championship ring from the St. Lucie season, I don’t take it off.’’

Another championship for the Kid.

“He lived live with no retreat,’’ Carter’s Pastor Tom Mullins said.

D.J. Carter, Gary’s son, concluded the service by reading a poem and saying, “God’s Hall of Fame is for eternity.’’

With that, they bid the Kid adieu.

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