Joe Carter hit a 3-run, walk-off homer for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993 that clinched the World Series for them. Even people in other parts of the world knew him from the clip of his jumping up and down in celebration as he rounded the bases.
He put Millwood Public Schools in northeast Oklahoma City on the map that year because that was where he played three sports and graduated.
Carter then went on to play college baseball at Wichita State, and then went to the major leagues.
Joe Carter Field
Monday, he was back at Millwood Schools to help open a new baseball field named in his honor. It was built with the generosity of many people in the district and Oklahoma City.
“This is a tremendous honor,” said Carter. “The World Series that was great. This right here – this is legendary. And I love you guys for it.”
And, as many years ago before his graduation in 1978, the crowd responded to him with wild applause and shouts.
The day before his 57th birthday, Carter spoke as a humble man who was happy to be back among a number of family members, as well as old friends and new ones he met in the process of developing the field.
“Everything I learned, everything that I accomplished, it was from all the great teachers, and all the great coaches I had here at Millwood,” said Carter.
Everywhere I went, you guys were with me. Everything that I did, you guys were there with me. When you saw me jumping around the bases acting like a little kid because I hit a home run that helped the Toronto Blue Jays win the World Series – Millwood was there with me. And I applaud you guys for that. And thank you, because you know what? One person cannot do it all by themselves.
And so surrounded by a significant number of people who knew him from his high school days, he threw out the first pitch to open the ballpark.
After the ceremony he talked briefly to Free Press about the value of the field.
“It makes you are better ballplayer, because when you have better conditions, when you have fans that are cheering for you and you come out here, it uplifts your morale,” said Carter. “Every day they take this field, they’re not embarrassed anymore.”
The Millwood Falcons started warming up for the game they would play later with their east side rivals, the Douglass Trojans. There was a Carter on this Falcons team, too. Joshua Carter is Joe Carter’s nephew.
Head Coach Willie Batson told Free Press the past several years the team practiced on the softball field and the football field.
They had to play all games away because of no functioning baseball field for regulation play.
One of the players, Daniel Ivory said the team had to play some of their “home” games clear over at Dolese Park. The park is at NW 50th and Meridian on the other side of the city.
“It’s a great honor” to be on that field, said Ivory. He was eager to get out on the field and start warming up.
His coach was eager, too.
“This is great,” said Batson. “We’re excited.”
The field was a work of love from Millwood alumni and several people in Oklahoma City who thought it a shame that the school had no baseball field.
The push for broader public support started with a conversation between Tim McLaughlin, one of the owners of the OKC Energy Soccer team and David Rainbolt, a community leader in Oklahoma City.
“David has a huge heart,” said McLaughlin. “He’s a wonderful community leader. He said ‘you guys need a baseball field,’ and he took the lead role.”
McLaughlin said that from there they were able to get the Love family of Love’s convenience stores on board with the project as well as the Wes Welker Foundation which donated the equipment for the park.
He said that while the Fields and Futures program was for Oklahoma City Public Schools, they had the experience and the know-how to make this project happen more smoothly.
He credited Oklahoma County Commissioner Willa Johnson who got county equipment to do the initial clearing of the spot on the northeastern corner of the independent district’s land just north of the intersection of I-44 and Martin Luther King Avenue.
Many others contributed in the background as well.
The gathering was an impressive collection of public leaders from the east side of Oklahoma City. Their pride was clearly visible.
City of Oklahoma City Councilman John Pettis represents Ward 7 that includes Millwood and most of the east side of the city.
“This is historic,” said Pettis. “As a Millwood grad, I am definitely glad that this happened. We always heard about Joe Carter, but we didn’t have anything to celebrate his legacy. This gives students a true place to play baseball.”
State Senator Anastasia Pittman said the new development was the process of bringing back “value to our community.”
“The northeast community is excited about this opportunity to have an icon still living. Most people honor icons after they’re gone,” Pittman said.
Mike Shelton, HD 97 representative from 2004 to 2016 when he hit his term limit said that when he attended Millwood and played baseball, they all knew who Joe Carter was and that he had played on the team.
“That was always the level that we tried to reach – to reach Joe Carter’s level,” Shelton said.
Jason Lowe followed Shelton in that seat and talked about growing up hearing about Joe Carter and that he had made big accomplishments. He said Carter’s story had inspired him.