He is a living legend for Toronto Blue Jays fans. Joe Carter gets asked almost everyday about his celebration after hitting the walk-off home run that won the Jays the World Series in 1993. The 6 ft 3 stature of Carter can be intimidating but it couldn’t be further from his personality. He is the kind of person that lights up a room with his million dollar smile and makes anyone who meets him feel like they are the only person in the room.
His legacy in the baseball community is undeniable but it’s what he has been doing away from the field that will have a bigger impact on lives across Canada. For the last 8 years he has held the Joe Carter Classic charity golf tournament. “I love where the money is going to,” Carter said with a huge smile on his face, ” It’s wonderful to be able to use the platform that has been given to a lot of us to help some kids in need. I love doing this and to see the smiles on the kids faces when you talk to them and what the scholarship money has meant to them, makes it all worth while.” The funds raised goes towards supporting the education and development of Canadian youth through the Joe Carter Scholarship Fund and the Joe Carter Family Support Fund as well as the Children’s Aid Foundation.
The event pairs golfers with top name celebrities from the worlds of sport and entertainment. That is not an understatement. Some of the this years attendees included Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino, Basketball Hall of Famer Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving and Hockey Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr. That just is the tip of the iceberg of the impressive group of friends that join Carter on the greens. “My golf game is not too bad,” Marino said before teeing off, “I don’t play as much as I used to. I never practice though, I just show up and put my shoes up and hit some balls and just go play and I usually do ok. I shoot around 74 and I hardly ever practice.”
Unlike Marino some of the athletes spend a bit more time on courses around the world.”I am probably better than the average golfer,” gushed Erving, “But I have my struggles on the golf course. I have been playing for a number of years but I have made some concessions. I don’t try to hit it long I just try to hit it straight and try not to leave myself puts that are too long. I try to manage the course and stay out of the rough and eventually get to the green.”
While Erving has been working on his game 2x Super Bowl Champion Jim McMahon said he wasn’t having a good outing. “My game on Wednesday was horrible. It was a little windy and I am struggling with a cold, but I just didn’t hit the ball well. I need to improve my short-game but it doesn’t see to get any better the more I play.”
Ottawa Senators defenceman Dion Phaneuf was sympathetic to McMahon’s struggles. “My golf game is not good. I haven’t been able to play as much I would like too, Hopefully I can hit a few in the faraway and stay out of trouble.”
As for Joe, he remembers won celebrity who just couldn’t seem to hit the ball anywhere on the course. “Don’t get me wrong, all the guys are pretty decent but last year Chris Tucker didn’t do well. He is a funny guy but he says he is a scratch golfer because all he does is scratch everywhere and he was in the woods the entire time! ”
The event has raised millions of dollars and has changed the lives of hundreds of children across North America. In it’s 8 years the event has grown immensely selling out within hours of the dates being announced. “The first year I remember hanging out at the hotel after we finished the round,” Carter reminisced, “We had about 20 celebrities come out. Charles Barkley was one of the first ones to come out and we went to this bar after and there were about 7 or 8 of us sitting around there.”
From a small gathering in a bar to a huge afterparty, that this year brought in performers such as Run-D.M.C. and Arrested Development.
When you put aside the big name celebrities at the event there is a lot of good work being done by the legendary Jay. Since the event started the Joe Carter Classic has raised over $2.5 million dollars to benefit the Children’s Aid Foundation. “I love playing golf, but I love giving back more.” Carter said.
In 1993 the legendary call made after Carter’s hit is replayed year after year . “Touch ’em all, Joe,” shouted broadcaster Tom Cheek, “You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.” After witnessing the generosity and kindness that Carter shows to the community and kids in need, I think it’s safe to say that in the end this is a bigger home run.