Paying it forward; Legendary Blue Jay outfielder is now breaking records off the field, set to cross the $1-million mark with his Joe Carter Charity Classic golf tournament

Toronto Star
June 26th, 2014
Page: S7, Section: Feature Pages
Peter Robinson Special to the Star

“Joe Carter hit only the second home run ever to end a World Series, but he’s still hitting them out of the park two decades later, albeit in a different fashion.

“The Joe Carter Charity Classic, which raises money for the Children’s Aid Foundation and other local children’s charities, is set to cross the $1-million threshold in just its fifth year – a benchmark of which the man behind the tournament is clearly proud.

“”I couldn’t have quite envisioned this,” he says of the event’s growth.

“It’s a testament to the committee, our sponsors. Sure, my name is on it, but getting to this point has been about the people who’ve made it happen, whether it’s (committee co-chair) James Dodds, or all the others who help out.

“But, no, I didn’t quite see it would be quite like this so relatively quickly,” Carter continues. “That said, when we started this we wanted it to be the best possible charity event it could be and we’ve achieved that goal.”

“Underlying the growth of the Joe Carter Classic, its celebrity component and the fun had by all who participate, is the concept of giving back and “paying it forward,” a concept Carter refers to often.

“”With kids who are at risk, in abusive situations,” says Carter, “you have to try and give them the opportunity to succeed. I remember one young lady I spoke to one year, who was (sponsored) by the tournament, she just said it perfectly when she said, ‘Everybody needs help.'”

Athletes, entertainers and successful business people giving back is not a new concept, but Carter believes there is also an element to donating time and money that can also help fill the void retired athletes face, unique to their situation once their playing careers are over.

“”Playing baseball is great, it’s a great living,” says Carter. “But when (you retire) and you can give back, it’s another benchmark that you’ve been successful. . . . What it really comes down to is about paying it forward.

“”We are now in a position where we can see kids who’ve got their college degrees, they’ve become educators, lawyers and doctors . . . it’s (gratifying) to see how the funds raised are being used.”

“Carter, of course, is perhaps the most-identifiable figure on the championship Blue Jay teams of the early 1990s. Those teams won two World Series, a pinnacle the franchise would dearly love to achieve again.

“How much did golf figure on those World Series-champion Blue Jay teams of two decades ago?

“There were times when we would have 20 golf bags ready to go on the road,” says Carter. “Ed Sprague, John Olerud, Kelly Gruber, Cito (Gaston), Gene Tenace … a lot of them golfed.”

“Carter is hovering between a one- and two-handicap.

“Low-ball hitter,” he says with a laugh, in reference to the one swing in golf and baseball that are somewhat similar.

“I practise more than I play … sometimes things just get in the way, around the house, life stuff.

“But I have fun, I enjoy the competitive nature of it. As the saying goes, you never have a bad day on the golf course.”