Back in 1985, Gatorade established an award honoring the nation's top high school student-athletes. Since then, the Gatorade Player of the Year award has recognized more than 12,500 state and national winners in 12 sports.
Gatorade Player of the Year alumni include household names like Kobe, LeBron, Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, Candace Parker, Kerri Walsh and Abby Wambach — a distinguished group, indeed.
This week we're catching up with Chris Carpenter.
For people outside of the Granite State, New Hampshire’s official state slogan seems a tad harsh: “Live Free or Die!”
Really, those are our only two options? No middle ground or room for any compromise?
Regardless, you have to marvel at how the career of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter — arguably the most successful baseball player ever to emerge from New Hampshire — has essentially mirrored the basic philosophy of his home state’s slogan.
At his best, there was no one better than Carpenter, who has been a World Series hero and a Cy Young Award winner. If not for a series of lengthy trips to the disabled list that forced him to miss all of the 2003 season and most of 2007, 2008 and 2012, Carpenter would be a certain candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
It’s not quite living free or dying, but Carpenter’s career has been defined by a collection of soaring highs and dispiriting lows.
Still, if you told the 1993 version of Carpenter exactly what lay ahead in his professional career, the 1992-93 Gatorade New Hampshire Baseball Player of the Year surely would’ve had no qualms. Even with this week’s news that numbness in his pitching shoulder will keep him sidelined for the entire 2013 season and may effectively end his career, Carpenter, a Trinity High (Manchester, N.H.) graduate, has rightfully earned a reputation as one of baseball’s best big-game pitchers.
“He’s one of the most competitive players I’ve ever been around,” St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told USA TODAY. “He truly willed himself to win.”
If Carpenter’s career is indeed over, he finishes with some impressive highlights on his resume, including 144 career victories, the 2005 Cy Young Award — when he went 21-5 for the Cardinals — and a pair of World Series titles, including a victory in Game 7 of the 2011 Fall Classic when beat the Texas Rangers on just three days rest. Overall, Carpenter owns a 10-4 record with a 3.00 ERA in 18 postseason starts.
He turns 38 in April and is nearly 20 years removed from his days as a young pitching phenom from New Hampshire. From Gatorade Player of the Year to a bona fide Major League ace, Carpenter is fortunate to have stood atop the baseball world. Now that’s living free.