Gerise Carter died in March of 2018, leaving behind a grieving husband, five children, more family, friends, coworkers and seemingly the entire town of Bloomfield. Gerise’s funeral drew so many paying their respects it shut down the southern end of Broad Street, which runs through the middle of the Essex County town.
Diamond Nation.com related to its readers the story of how one of Gerise’s three sons, Danny, a freshman at William Paterson University, hopped on a plane to Florida a day later and returned to the Pioneers lineup. Danny wasn’t trying to prove anything. He was simply following through on what he believed his mom would have wished.
(This is a Flashback Friday edition of this March, 2018 story and includes updates.)
Everyone knew Bloomfield’s Danny Carter could hit. No one gets into the starting lineup of an NJAC club without some major stick knowledge. Carter had wrapped up an amazing career at Bloomfield High last spring with a .488 batting average and a Second Team All-State selection.
Now a freshman at William Paterson, Carter is doing something otherworldly for William Paterson, something that defies logic on so many levels. He started well his first five games as a collegian, a fragile time that certainly can be challenging be it at the Division 1, 2 or 3 level.
But neither Carter nor anyone else, be it his family, friends, teammates or coaches, could have foreseen what would follow and the challenges the young man would face at this time in his life. Carter’s mom, Gerise, a pediatric nurse and mother to five children, died on March 5. She was a critical-care pediatric nurse for 30 years at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J.
Gerise’s exceptional work was recognized in 2017 when she was named a March of Dimes Nurse of the Year finalist. She was also a recipient of the Daisy Award, a prestigious honor given only to extraordinary nurses.
Gerise Carter’s family and friends packed Sacred Heart Church in Bloomfield last Saturday for an emotional farewell usually reserved for government dignitaries or beloved celebrities. A large section of Broad Street had to be shut down by police so cars could be parked four-wide along Bloomfield’s main thoroughfare.
Carter’s father, Mike, is the longtime Bloomfield High football coach and former baseball coach. Dan’s older brother, Mike, Jr., is fresh off an outstanding four-years as a starting outfielder at Rutgers University where he was the team’s captain and a Third Team All-Big Ten Conference selection last spring.
Sisters Kelly and Megan and brother, Brian encompasses the rest of the much beloved Carter brood. The Carters are certainly among the very first families that come to mind when you think of Bloomfield.
There is grieving that must be addressed and family that must be tended to after the death of a loved one, for sure. No one just “goes on with his or her life.” But, for now, Danny Carter would return to the most peace-inducing activity in his life — the game of baseball. And he did so with a flourish.
“A family decision was made that Danny would rejoin his team as soon as possible,” said Mike Carter, Sr. “If you knew his mom, she would have insisted that he get back in the game.”
Danny left on Sunday for Lakeland, Florida, less than 24 hours after his mother’s funeral, to meet his William Paterson teammates at the Russmat Central Florida Invitational. Mike, Sr. texted this writer later that day, “Danny took a 6 a.m. flight to Florida today: 2-run single and sac fly. WPU up 9-1. ‘ATTA BOY!”
Danny Carter’s bat was just getting started. The Pioneers right fielder and No. 2 hitter played four of the team’s first six games in the tournament and went an astonishing 9-for-17 (.529) with 6 RBI, capped by a 4-for-5, 2-RBI effort on Wednesday against Ripon College of Wisconsin.
“Since he was a little kid, his mom always told him, ‘Play like Jeter,’ and she was a Phillies fan,” said Mike, Sr. “Our family needed a pick me up and Danny came through.”
During these most difficult days, Danny Carter somehow lifted his batting average to an even .500 for the season (16-for-32). He’s played in nine of the 6-5 Pioneers’ 11 games. “The William Paterson coaches and Danny’s teammates have been great,” said Mike, Sr., himself a 1983 WPU grad and Pioneer football player.
“Our first priority was his family,” said William Paterson coach Mike Lauterhahn. “Once they were on board it made sense to us for Dan to be down here with his friends and teammates and doing what he loves most.
“While I can’t imagine what is going through his head right now, his focus once the game begins is amazing. He comes from a tough family and a tough town. We have great kids and great coaches here and we are spending as much time with him as he needs.”
William Paterson closes out its Florida trip with games on Friday and Saturday before the team returns home on Sunday. In Danny Carter’s case, that return is highly anticipated.
The Carter family has much heavy emotional lifting ahead before the sun truly shines again for them. However, as the throng at Sacred Heart Church showed last Saturday, and as Danny Carter learned this week in Florida, they won’t be facing that challenge alone.
FAST FORWARD TO DANNY CARTER TODAY: Carter, now a college junior, finished that grief-filled freshman season in 2018 with a team-leading .354 batting average that is still simply too difficult to comprehend. He also had 51 hits, including nine doubles, four triples and two HR and drove in 22 runs. He slugged at a .514 clip and reached base at a .405 pace for an gaudy .919 OPS.
Carter followed that remarkable freshman season with a very strong sophomore campaign in 2019. He batted .294 with 42 more hits as his career hit total soared to 93. He had five doubles, a triple and three HR to go with 25 RBI.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” says Lauterhahn, now in his 13th season as the head coach at William Paterson, his alma mater, “but the number I’m most impressed with is 3.4. That’s his GPA. After everything he’s gone through, that’s amazing. Sure we help him through it the best we can but he’s also become a leader for us. That speaks volumes about the person he is and the values he comes from.”