My earliest memories of baseball on TV are from the mid-1980s. The first World Series I really remember was in 1986, when the Mets took down my Dad’s Red Sox in seven games. Game 6 of that series is legendary at this point, complete with the Bill Buckner misplay and the Mets’ unlikely comeback. Pivotal in that series was the 9th-inning, two-out hit by New York catcher Gary Carter. “The Kid,” as he was called, spent the majority of his career in the obscurity of Montreal Expo-land, but found himself center-stage with the Mets in ’86. The moment was clearly not too large for Carter.

Gary Carter was an 11-time All-Star and dominated the catcher position from the late 70s through the mid-80s. His love for the game and joy for life were evidenced by the continual smile he wore on his face. From all accounts, that smile wasn’t an act for the cameras, but truly reflected Carter’s personality and outlook on life. His smile was on full display as he was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2003.

That smile was received into heaven last week as Carter lost a battle with brain cancer. His funeral is today. The reflections of his fans and teammates since his death are amazing. Carter was the real deal in every way and, though he was a Hall of Fame baseball player, his legacy and impact go far beyond the temporary. Carter was first a man of God, a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. There was a deeper reason for his smile.

Today’s funeral for Gary Carter will be filled with references to his playing days. He truly was a remarkable player. But, beyond that, his funeral will point to all that really mattered in Carter’s life: Jesus Christ. Today, Gary Carter will be honored, but he won’t be there. He’s praising the King and smiling like never before.

Baseball, like everything else on earth, will one day end. We’ll leave it all behind. No achievement on the field, no amount of championships won, not even a Hall of Fame plaque goes with you. Only Jesus Christ can usher you into heaven. Only those who come empty-handed to Him can receive His grace and free gift of salvation. Only then is a funeral Hall-of-Fame-worthy.

Here’s a great article on the impact a life can make on those who may never meet you: