‘Creative genius’ David E. Carter had insatiable love for baseball

David E. Carter packed a lot of life into his 80 years as the tributes suggest since the news of his passing became public Monday.

Among the tributes was how he once saved a man from drowning and how he served as an inspiration for hundreds, if not thousands, of students, putting them on a career path of success simply by taking the time to share and care.

He grew up in humble means on Indian Run Road in Flatwoods and graduated from Russell High School where his freshman teacher told him he didn’t have what it took to succeed in college. He ended up with college degrees from UK, Syracuse, Ohio University and Harvard Business School. He was told he wasn’t good enough as a writer to publish a book and then he wrote 110 of them. Tell him he couldn’t, and he showed you he could.

A book about his life, You CAN Get There from Here, was written by lifelong friend Don Moore with Carter. It showed how growing up in northeastern Kentucky is not a deterrent to being successful. Carter won seven Emmys and a Clio (the advertising world equivalent to an Oscar) through his advertising agency productions. He was always creating. Longtime friend Keith Kappes said two words described him: “Creative genius.”

His passion for creating separated him from others. He achieved much in a life full of adventures and left behind a treasure trove of film documentaries, books and ideas.

Carter loved researching and mining for information while putting together dozens of documentaries that brought history to life. It was part of his DNA and it gave us some remarkable images to remember and watch over and over.

Some of his best work involved baseball because that is where, aside from family, his passion burned brightest. Baseball was life to him from an early age until his last days of life.

Randy Carpenter, who emotionally said “he was like father and brother to me,” was texting with him until his final days. The text talk was about baseball. “His last text to me ever was April 13. I asked him how he was doing. He said, ‘Very weak and then he said, ‘How about those Tampa Rays?’ The last communication he said to me was: ‘I go to sleep watching MLB every night.’”

Carter brushed shoulders and had conversations with National Baseball Hall of Fame players, including the great Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and 20 others. He was so proud of the two videos that were recognized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame film festival and reside in Cooperstown. He was also involved with helping the Negro League players who had come to Ashland for reunions in the early 1980s, including a documentary on Lou Dials and developing a set of baseball cards for them.

Moore said baseball was what connected him and Carter the most. When he would visit Carter in Florida, they would take in spring training games in Fort Meyers, home of the Twins and Red Sox. Carter had tickets to both teams, Moore said.

“Diane (his wife) loved baseball as much as he did. I would go down and he would talk about a pitcher and she’d talk about his stats,” Moore said. “They both had a great love for baseball.”

Moore said when he proposed to his wife, Kim, at a Lexington Legends baseball game, he received kudos from his friend. “Dave loved that. He said, ‘That sounds like something I would do!’”

Moore said it was not unusual for Carter to come to town, say let’s go get a hot dog and the pair would end up in Cincinnati watching the Reds. Baseball was always a connector that bonded them.

“Another time when I was in Sanibel, he said, ‘Don’t plan anything this afternoon’ and grabbed two baseball gloves and a ball. We got in the car and went for a drive. We ended up at the Twins’ spring training stadium. He arranged for us to go out on the field and pass baseball and take a few ground balls on the big league diamond.”

Moore said when he retired from Ohio University that Carter told him to go to CP-1 and watch baseball, “the love of my life. He joked and said nobody knows you. You should take a hair dryer and point it toward the pitcher, and they will think you’re a scout. Less than a week later, I had a real speed gun come to me in the mail from David and a baseball hat from the Baseball Hall of Fame. The first time I took it with me (to the park) parents kept staring at me and finally one came over and said, ‘Can I ask who you’re with?’”

The hallowed grounds of Central Park’s big diamond, where Carter played Babe Ruth baseball and made everlasting friendships, was also an important part of his life. In 2008, he went to the park and walked out onto the field just to stand in the dirt around shortstop. By chance, Gary Wright was at the park at the same time. The men knew each other but didn’t know the other was in town. They began talking and remembering how special a place CP-1 was for them so many years ago.

“I thought that was something else,” Carpenter said. “Two adult men drawn to that soil because of how much it meant to them.”

Wright sank $125,000 into the rundown diamond, including having a new press box constructed that is named after his father, T.R. Wright, who spent countless hours at the field coaching baseball in the 1950s and 1960s. He also had new brick dugouts installed. The all-dirt infield was also transformed into a grass infield to complete the facelift making it a gem of a diamond. It was a spectacular field although most teams had already moved away from it. The remake did bring a few games back to the park.

What happened after that was the start of what Carter called the “Ashland CP-1 Movement,” that became annual summer visits for those who played games in the park. Carter turned that heartfelt chatter into a documentary, “Ashland’s Field of Dreams.” The CP-1 Hall of Fame started in 2015 with Carter and Wright selecting the first class of 14 members before handing off those duties. It has continued and celebrates the next class in August, bringing the number to 90. The vision was cast, expanded on and has brought great joy to those whose names are etched on plaques, by class, on the back of the press box.

Carter was proud of the Ashland CP-1 Movement because it brought together three of his loves: Ashland, Central Park and baseball. He will be long remembered for his contributions to Ashland and other areas where his life took him.

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