By Kevin Glew
Canadian Baseball Network
Thank you, Miss Vaughn.
That was the final message that longtime Baseball Canada president Ray Carter shared in his Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech on Saturday.
Miss Vaughn was Carter’s Grade 1 teacher in a one-room school house in Cumberland, BC, who, on one bright autumn day, brought out a bat and a ball and told her students to go play baseball.
“It was like magic,” Carter recalled of that first time he played baseball. “From that point, I was hooked for life.”
The entire Canadian baseball community should also thank Miss Vaughn, because after being introduced to baseball, Carter would later pour his heart and soul into the sport and not only significantly improve the national program, but serve as the driving force behind initiatives that introduced the sport to tens of thousands of children across the country.
Yes, Roy Halladay and Vladimir Guerrero may have been bigger names on the stage in St. Marys, Ont., on Saturday, but no one has had a greater influence on baseball at the grassroots level in Canada over the past two decades than Carter.
Also, unlike Halladay and Guerrero, Carter, who was the longest-serving president in Baseball Canada history, was never a superstar on the diamond. He was a centre fielder/third baseman, who pitched the odd inning, and never made it past the Senior Men’s level in British Columbia.
“I was not the best player in the province. I was not the best player in my area. I wasn’t even the best player on my team,” said Carter. “But I loved the game.”
In fact, when Carter was growing up in the ’50s, he loved playing almost any sport.
“I came from Vancouver Island and our town was very sports oriented,” said Carter. “When I young, there was really no television, so I played sports. I played on some good basketball teams and I played baseball and I played soccer. I just loved playing sports.”
Carter continued to play sports into his adult life as he became an engineer, but it wasn’t until 1975, when was 33, when one of his engineering colleagues asked him to help coach his son’s baseball team that he caught the coaching bug.
Carter enjoyed coaching so much that he assumed a leadership role in the local program, before serving as president of B.C. Minor Baseball for two years and then in the same capacity at Baseball British Columbia for eight years.
As he got deeper into leadership roles, he realized that baseball was generally an afterthought among younger athletes in Canada.
“I really enjoyed being involved in baseball and I thought it seemed like baseball was really just a filler sport between hockey seasons,” said Carter. “And I thought if we’re going to get better than we’ve got to do more and I considered that a challenge, so I thought I’ll get involved and try to improve things.”
It was largely through his association with Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers John Haar and Wayne Norton that Carter became involved with Baseball Canada. He served as vice-president of the organization in 1998 and 1999 before being elected president in 2000.
During Carter’s reign over the next 16 years, the men’s and women’s national teams enjoyed unparalleled success, securing 13 international medals, including the men’s Senior National Team's first two gold medals at the Pan Am Games in 2011 and 2015. Carter was sitting behind home plate when Pete Orr (Newmarket, Ont.) made his mad 270-foot dash home from first base after an errant pickoff throw to score the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning of the gold medal game against the U.S. in Ajax, Ont.
“I was sitting with the premier of Ontario [Kathleen Wynne],” said Carter. “So when they won I abandoned the premier and jumped out onto the field past security and everything. Later I thought to myself, ‘I could’ve been arrested,’ but it didn’t bother me, I was that excited.”
Another career highlight for Carter was helping to establish the women’s National Team in 2004 after a colleague had told him that he’d never get women to play baseball in Canada. The women’s team has since won five international medals – including two silvers – and is now ranked second in the world.
“I’m very proud of that program and they’re doing well thanks to [manager] Andre Lachance, who’s been very dedicated to the program,” said Carter. “And girls are starting to play baseball across the country now.”
One of the Baseball Canada programs that Carter is most proud of is Challenger Baseball, which allows children with disabilities to participate in the sport and be part of a team.
“The Challenger program is very, very important to me,” said Carter. “I’ve always said that it shouldn’t matter if you’re physically challenged or mentally challenged, you should have an opportunity to play this great game. I just feel like every kid should have the opportunity to play . . . And if you don’t get a tear in your eye from seeing the enjoyment these kids get out of the game, then you don’t have a heart.”
The B.C. native has also overseen the development of the DQ Rally Cap program for initiation players, which provides coaches with tools to teach skills and build enthusiasm for the game in children at an early age. Carter was also a driving force behind the development of the National Coaches Certification Program, which offers standardized training for coaches across the country and has resulted in the development of higher calibre players that are increasingly being selected in the early rounds of the major league draft.
For the more than four decades he has devoted to baseball, Carter has also been inducted into the Delta, B.C. Sports Hall of Fame (2006) and is a life member of the Western Canada Baseball Association. He was also a Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient in 2012.
Earlier this week, Carter also received a Major Achievement Longtime Contribution Award at a town council meeting in Delta, B.C.
“I was ready to leave the stage and the mayor said, ‘Just one more minute.’ Then he said, ‘We’re naming a street after you,’” shared Carter.
The city had already named a ball field after him, but Carter learned that the street leading up to that field will now be known as “Ray Carter Way.” In the summer of 2016, the Canadian 15 and under Boys Championship tournament was renamed the Ray Carter Cup. All of this, coupled with his induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, has Carter feeling honoured but a little overwhelmed. One of his only regrets is that his wife, Ida, was not there to celebrate with him. She passed away from cancer six years ago.
“I keep thinking that she would’ve loved to have been here,” Carter said. “She would’ve loved this.”
But as Carter addressed the crowd in St. Marys on Saturday, he could look out and see his daughter, Jennifer, son-in-law Mike and grandchildren Tyler and Emma smiling back at him. They were there to see their dad and grandpa receive the ultimate Canadian baseball honour.
And you can’t help but think that Miss Vaughn would be proud too.