Vin Sylvia: Newly retired Chris Carpenter planning to move back to NH
MANCHESTER --- Sports lore is full of sad stories about star athletes having a difficult time adjusting to life after the cheering stops and the locker room is no longer their office.
I wouldn't worry about Chris Carpenter.
The Raymond native, Trinity High of Manchester graduate and former Cy Young winner and two-time World Series champion was in an almost jovial mood Saturday as he discussed his plans to move back to New Hampshire on a year-round basis and his hopes of beginning his post-playing career in the Cardinals front office.
Returning to New Hampshire for the Granite State Baseball Dinner, as he has around this time every year since the New Hampshire Fisher Cats began hosting the event with Children's Hospital at Dartmouth a principal beneficiary, Carpenter said he still has to hash out the details with St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak but looks forward to doing something different in the game he loves.
Twenty years ago last summer, Carpenter went straight from Trinity into professional baseball as the Blue Jays' first-round draft choice. Likening his playing career to a college education and entering the front office to going to grad school, yesterday he said, "I'm ready to earn my master's degree.
"Mo and I are going to talk about it come January," Carpenter said. "I want to learn a different part of the game - enter the front office and learn everything about it. I want to find out exactly what a general manager does, learn how to put a team together. It doesn't mean I'll never teach, never put on the uniform again, but right now I'm looking forward to doing something different in baseball."
The desire to spend more than holiday visits with his wife, Alyson, and kids at their home in Bedford has something to do with the preference for a front-office job over an on-field role, too.
Carpenter's son, Sam, turned 11 this month. Daughter Ava is 8. They'll finish out the academic year in the St. Louis area, but then they'll begin making Bedford their year-round residence.
"Alyson's parents are still in New Hampshire, and so are mine. She wants to see more of our families, and so do I," Carpenter said. "We're going to move back in the spring and give it a try."
But they'll also remain close to their other family, the Cardinals.
Signed by St. Louis as a free agent in December 2002, he missed the entire 2003 season while recovering from a torn labrum. But he won 15 games the following year, helping the Cards win the National League Central. A biceps injury kept him out of the postseason, including St. Louis' sweep at the hands of the Red Sox in the 2004 World Series, but one of the great pitching runs in the Cardinals' long and storied history had begun.
In 2005, he went 21-5 in the regular season and 2-0 in the playoffs, and won the National League Cy Young Award. In 2006, he went 15-8 in the regular season and had a postseason record of 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA as St. Louis won the World Series. Injuries limited him to five appearances in the next two seasons combined, but he totaled 33 victories in 2009-10, then helped the Cards win the World Series again in 2011, going 4-0 in the postseason.
Even though he didn't get beyond a couple of minor-league rehab outings in 2012 and didn't pitch at all this year, he was considered a major contributor to the Cardinals' run to the World Series, primarily as a mentor to their young pitchers.
All told, Carpenter went 95-44 with a 3.07 as a Cardinal, 144-94 with a 3.76 ERA overall. In St. Louis, where baseball is followed as passionately as it is in Boston, Carpenter's all-time rank among pitchers in the hearts of Cards fans is second only to that of Hall of Famer Bob Gibson's (apologies to old-timers still carrying a torch for Dizzy Dean).
"The St. Louis community will always be a part of me, and the Cardinals organization always will be a part of me -- of me and my family," Carpenter said.
He said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, his batterymate in Carpenter's early years with the Cardinals, would prefer the former ace remain part of the St. Louis clubhouse in some sort of instructional capacity. The time might someday come for that, Carpenter said, but instead of tutoring on the field, he's ready to be tutored in the front office.
Carpenter is moving on to a new phase of his life, and he looks more than ready.
Vin Sylvia is a New Hampshire Union Leader deputy managing editor. Email him at email@example.com.