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Marlins’ call-up provides Carrolls Father’s Day gift

Your son officially becomes a Major League Baseball player — not a bad Father’s Day gift for a man still recovering from open-heart surgery.

Brett Carroll, former Bearden High School star, moved up from the Florida Marlins’ Class AAA affiliate in Albuquerque, N.M., and joined the big team in time for the Sunday, June 17, game at Kansas City.

“He actually got there in time to dress out Sunday for Father’s Day, so it’s a father’s day gift,” said Mike Carroll, Brett’s father, who recently retired as Farragut High School athletic director. “We got a call Saturday, I was on the golf course and his mother [Laura] was on the golf course, too.”

An outfielder who has started five games for Florida and played in six (as of June 24) Brett’s impact as a player has already been felt — and ESPN showed it to the nation following a game at Chicago against the White Sox Wednesday, June 20.

“He made the E-S-P-N highlights, they showed him laying down a bunt, and then they showed him with a game-saving catch in the outfield,” Mike said. “He came up and made a diving catch with the bases loaded.”

Brett cooled off a bit playing his first home series, against Minnesota, and started the week with a .158 batting average.

Upon talking to his son after the call-up, Mike described Brett as “excited, surprised.” However, “Brett’s real calm — matter of fact he probably had to tell me two or three times before I understood what he was telling me. Brett’s hard to understand on the phone.

“He said he was nervous that first day when he ran out to center field.”

It’s been an interesting few weeks in the Carroll family.

“About seven weeks ago I had open-heart surgery,” Mike said during a break in the middle of a rehabilitation session. “When they take your heart out of your body and repair it and put it back in your body, I was tickled to death to be around for Father’s Day, to tell you the truth.

“[Brett] was still in double-A ball, playing in Carolina, and he was on his way to Chattanooga, and the bus dropped him off at Cedar Bluff in the middle of the night so that he could come to the hospital [Parkwest] in the middle of the night and be with me.”

A couple of days later, “They called him up to triple-A, but his car and all his personal possessions and everything’s in Carolina to this very day [as of June 21].”

While other Carroll family members, including Laura, attended one of Brett’s Major League games in Chicago, Mike isn’t sure when he’ll get to go. “I can’t get fired up to go to Miami because they play down there in that doggone football stadium,” Mike said. “And they don’t have a big crowd.”

However, “I’ve been going up to Bailey’s Bar and Grill every day to watch him play these first four games, because they get that Sun Sports channel that carries the Marlins,” Mike said.

Florida’s next trip to Atlanta to play the Braves is Monday through Wednesday, Sept. 17-19, while the Marlins’ next trek to Cincinnati to face the Reds is Friday through Sunday, Aug. 24-26.

Mike said he’s realistic about the volatile nature of Major League baseball rosters.

“Being in the Major Leagues, you never know if you’re there for one day or not,” Mike said. “But the best I can tell, they brought him up to play, ’cause he’s started four straight games [through June 20].”

Brett started the season at Double-A Carolina (30 games, .270 average, three home runs), then moved up to Triple-A Albuquerque, and in 33 games there hit .302 with six home runs and 28 RBIs.

As for statistics, “Brett’s numbers have never really impressed anybody, that’s just not his thing,” Mike said. “They think he’s got a good arm, and he plays hard.” Brett’s arm is considered the best non-pitching arm in the Marlins’ organization according to the team Web site.

Drafted by the Marlins in the 10th round in 2004 after a standout career at Middle Tennessee State University, Carroll was invited to Major League spring training this season.

Though slated to be a right fielder and lacking the speed of many Major Leaguers, Mike said Brett “begged them to let him take some reps in center field.”

After the organization was having problems finding a reliable center fielder, Brett became the man.


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