Gary Carter has always brought out "The Kid" in Mike Cosgrove.
One of the popular catcher's most devoted fans, the New York native has built a Web site (www.thekid8.com) that pays tribute to his hero, amassed a huge collection of the 2003 Hall of Fame inductee's memorabilia, and even named his son "Carter."
"It all started when my first Little League Coach gave me No. 8 and put me behind the plate," recalls Cosgrove. "I checked to see what major league players wore No. 8 and mailed a letter to each of them asking for an autograph. Gary was the only one to respond."
That autograph became one of the first items in a collection that has grown to include cards, magazines, ticket stubs, and game-used equipment. One of Cosgrove's most ambitious collecting missions is to obtain nine copies of each Carter card.
"It's kind of a weird thing. I want nine (of each card) because the sheets that card collectors use hold nine cards," he explains. "I want to have a full sheet of each card."
A second quest has him attempting to pick up a ticket stub from every game in which the 11-time all-star hit a homerun. So far, he has managed to collect 15 of these.
To achieve his goals, Cosgrove scours eBay regularly and trades with other hobbyists.
"When I'm trading with someone I'll throw in a few extra cards and people will usually give me some extra Carter cards," he says.
His favorite item is a rookie card that his wife, June, purchased for him.
"My wife went to a show herself and bought it for me," he says. "Its very special to me."
About 60% of Cosgrove's collection is showcased on his Web site (www.thekid8.com) - an online shrine that also includes stats, a complete list of the all-star receivers homeruns, and a "'Your' Gary Carter Memories" section that encourages fans to share their recollections.
"What people write to me for the "Memories" section shows that Gary is an even better person than he was a ballplayer," he says.
The site has become so popular that "The Kid" himself even knows about it. In January 2002, Cosgrove got a call from Carter's friend Ray Strickland asking him if he would put a link to the Gary Carter Foundation - a charitable organization that helps underprivileged children in Southern Florida - on his site.
"Which I was thrilled to do," says Cosgrove. "And about two weeks later Ray arranged for Gary to give me a call at work to thank me. It just proved once again what a class act Gary is."
This was just one of his encounters with his favorite player. Cosgrove has also met Carter at a card show and drove to the former Expos' Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction in St. Marys, Ontario in 2001.
"That was a great experience...I have a picture of my son and I with Gary from that trip," he says.
And the long-time fan was thrilled when he it was announced that Carter would be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this year.
"I've been lobbying for him to get in since he became eligibile," he says. "It took six years for the baseball writers to do the right thing."
Cosgrove has already made plans to attend the induction ceremony.
"I already have my reservations," says Cosgrove. "I'm going with my brother-in-law and a friend of his who is apparently as big of an Eddie Murray fan as I am a Carter fan. I'm really looking forward to it."