John Carter never made the show but was grateful to play.
Carter, hired June 28 as the new Oberlin Schools athletic director, spent seven seasons as a minor league pitcher, much of it in the Cleveland Indians organization.
While never playing in the major leagues — nicknamed “the show” by players — Carter said playing single A, double A, and triple A baseball gave him experiences, opportunities, and perspective he wouldn’t have had in the impoverished and sometimes violent south side of Chicago where he grew up.
A 44-year-old husband and father of three, he attended Simeon High School, now known as Simeon Career Academy. The school has graduated great athletes including New York Knicks guard and former NBA MVP Derrick Rose, Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker, and Ben Wilson, who was the top high school basketball prospect in the nation when he was fatally shot in 1984.
As a black youth growing up in Chicago, Carter is aware he also could’ve been a homicide statistic. Baseball was a route out.
Minor league life is filled with long bus rides and low pay but it paid off for Carter. He retired in 1997 and in 2000 was hired as community relations manager for the Indians, where he spent seven years.
In 2011 he earned a degree in communications and sports administration at Kishwaukee College, a community college about an hour west of Chicago. Carter said he’s no savior but hopes the perseverance he showed can set an example for youths.
“My story and my journey, it’s not clear-cut. I went to college but I didn’t graduate right after high school,” he said. “I have a story to tell for kids who need the help.”
Carter succeeds Ty Stillman, hired June 13 as Firelands’ athletic director after spending the last three years in Oberlin. Carter, hired as Fairview Park Schools’ athletic director in 2010, was familiar with Oberlin because Fairview is also in the Patriot Athletic Conference.
Carter, of Lakewood, said his interest in Oberlin was twofold. First, he needed a job. He said his contract with Fairview wasn’t renewed due to differences with new superintendent Bill Wagner.
Second, he wanted a chance to work in a bigger and more diverse school district. Oberlin has about 1,000 students, nearly 21 percent black and nearly nine percent Hispanic, according to the Ohio Department of Education. Fairview has about 560 students and is nearly 86 percent white.
Carter said he also was impressed with Oberlin’s International Baccalaureate program and the high number of students who play sports. He said he’ll encourage those who don’t play baseball to consider it.
Carter said it’s particularly important to encourage black boys to play baseball. The percentage of black youths who play baseball has dwindled, leading to a steep drop in those who play in the majors in the last generation. Just eight percent of players on major league rosters in April were black, compared to 19 percent in 1986, USA Today reported.
Carter has been helping youths play baseball since becoming executive director of the Cleveland Baseball Federation in 2007. He said he’ll continue working in the part-time position while athletic director.
Carter, who received a three-year contract and will earn $61,000 annually, was one of about 20 applicants, said Oberlin superintendent David Hall. Eight were interviewed by two committees comprised of coaches, community group members, parents, and students.
Committee member and parent Jessa Nu said her committee unanimously voted for Carter. She said committee members were impressed by his commitment to involve more youths in sports. “His energy is just unbelievable,” Nu said.
Carter said his experience in community relations will help in promoting the district, but the 2016-17 school year will be a learning experience. He wants to meet with community residents and learn about Oberlin before developing concrete goals.
“I know a lot about Oberlin from the outside, but I need to learn Oberlin from the inside,” Carter said. “My number one goal is to understand the Oberlin community.”
Stillman’s last day on the job in Oberlin will be July 31. He’ll work with the incoming athletic director for a couple of transitional weeks.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.