Your early twenties can be a difficult and fraught period. You’re coming into your own as a semi-formed person, trying to decide who you are and what you want to be, probably subsisting on gnarly combinations of fast food and cheap beer. Unless, that is, you’re Texas Rangers’ left fielder Evan Carter, in which case you just won the World Series!
Carter turned 21 in late August, only a handful of days before he got the phone call every minor-league baseball player dreams of. When he debuted for the Rangers on September 8, the team was in the thick of a pennant race, trying to ward off several challengers and secure a spot in the postseason. You could say they accomplished that goal—and then some. The Rangers squeaked into the playoffs during the final days of the regular season, then went supernova. Texas won each of its first seven postseason games—sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles in the early rounds—on the way to the first World Series title in franchise history. Hard-fought series against the Astros (to win the American League pennant) and Diamondbacks (to win the whole thing) stood in their way, but the resilient Rangers were up to the task.
A fixture of their fairy-tale run, Carter—who was playing for the Frisco RoughRiders in Double-A just 68 days ago—was spectacular. The young buck batted .300 with nine doubles across 17 playoff games, proving he was worthy of his meteoric, late-season rise through the minors. Mere minutes before joining the Rangers’ victory parade, Carter spoke to GQ about finding glory so early in his career.
Have you come back to earth yet?
I would say I’m still floating. Out of our window right now we can see all the parade people lining up. This is really fun. We’re at the field, so it still kind of feels like, I gotta go get ready to play! Once we settle in for the offseason it’ll be like, Oh my gosh! What did we just do?
Has the permanence set in? Like, No matter what happens in my life, I’ll always be on the first Texas Rangers team to win a World Series?
Man, yeah, it’s awesome! At the end of my career, that’s going to be one of the coolest moments. First one in Rangers history! This was an unbelievable experience.
I want to go back to March, when you were in spring training and you got sent to minor-league camp. Were you expecting to make the big-league team out of camp, or was this the plan the whole time?
I wasn’t expecting to make the team. That was more of an opportunity to get in front of the coaching staff and everybody—your future teammates, you hope—and veterans of the game. I was realistic. I had played a week in Double-A [at that point], so I was like, I’m not here to make the team. But it was definitely a valuable experience to be a part of a big-league camp.
I wasn’t there to not compete, though. I showed up and did the best I could. I tried to show them that I thought I was ready. At all times, I do think I’m ready. At the same time, there were a lot of steps through the minor leagues that I hadn’t really done yet.
When you did get called up, your goals had to immediately shift from just trying to make the big leagues to literally trying to win the World Series! What was that mental whiplash like?
The goal of every minor leaguer is to get called up. When you do get called up, it’s awesome. But you know, we’re here to win. We’re not here just to get called up! We were in a race with the Astros and Mariners there at the very end. Every win counts. All of a sudden, you get thrown into the playoffs! Each week has been bigger than the last one. It’s crazy.
I think it kind of worked out in my favor. There was no real time to sit back and think. That was probably for the better. Alright, regular season is over. It’s on to the playoffs. On to the next, on to the next. Nerves didn’t really have time to creep in. Expectations didn’t really have time to creep in. All these things that you would expect in your first big-league season never really showed up, because everything was moving so quickly, you know? Everybody around me, too, was so great. Having confidence in me—my teammates and Boch [manager Bruce Bochy] alike—they all encouraged me. It was really good.
So for you, it’s better to not think?
The more I think, the worse I am at baseball.
For you personally, what was the biggest difference you saw in the pitching from the minor leagues to the major leagues?
Gosh, everybody has amazing stuff, and at the same time, they’re better at controlling that stuff. They’re going to live on the edges—we saw that against [Diamondbacks’ pitcher] Merrill Kelly in the second game. He just lived on the edge of the zone, and there’s nothing you can really do as a hitter. I experienced that a whole lot more. In the minors, sometimes you get the starter out and it’s like, Alright, sweet! We’re in the bullpen. The guys coming in might not necessarily be as good as the starter. In the big leagues, you get into the pen and sometimes they’re even better than the starter! There’s no real break, I would say. Everybody is there for a reason. You gotta be locked in at all times because they are, too.
Right, sometimes it’s just, “Well, I can’t do anything with that.” Who were the big league pitchers that made you feel that way?
There were a lot, but the one that stood out to me was [Tyler] Glasnow when we played the Rays. He was…his slider was the best slider I’ve ever seen. Then obviously he’s throwing 99 on top of that. He’s really, really good. It’s a funky motion and the stuff is electric. Everything about it is just…different.
You spent most of the season in Double-A, but before getting called up to the bigs, you spent about a week in Triple-A. Did you even have time to get to know your teammates there?
I knew some people from spring training and stuff. I’d been around them and played with them. Triple-A is weird. They’re always bringing in new pitchers because lineups always change in the big leagues. So, there were definitely some guys I was not familiar with. But as far as the position players, I knew a lot of them. They were guys I came up with.