WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) To so many, Gary Carter was a Hall of Fame baseball player with a big smile. To ballplayers at Palm Beach Atlantic University, he was their leader.
"I gave them an opportunity to meet as a team and decide as a group if they wanted to practice today and they broke up their meeting and went right into stretch," said associate head coach Kent Bottenfield. "I think they realize it's something that Skip would have wanted them to do."
But the ball felt heavier.
The strike zone harder to hit.
The hop in their step, harder to find.
"We normally have very energetic practices. Guys are real focused," said Bottenfield. "Today, just different."
They'll cling to a final memory.
Two weeks ago, a weakening Gary Carter rose from his bed to cheer his players on.
It was their first game of the season, and his last time on a baseball diamond.
"I knew at the time, the guys didn't know it. You knew that was the last time we were going to see him. He just had to do everything he could to get there," said Bottenfield.
Bottenfield, a longtime friend of Carter's, pointed out that many of the PBAU Sailfish are too young to have seen Carter play.
They might've missed out on the home runs and the hustle, but they still understand the essence of Gary Carter.
"The worst I ever heard him say was I wouldn't wish this upon anybody," said Bottenfield. "They never heard him question why. They always heard him praise God for everything he's done for him."
Bottenfield says that Carter's #8 will hang on their dugout for the rest of the season.