"I think I've had an interesting life, one that I I've really enjoyed. I wanted to share my story."
That's what motivated Ken Carson, president of the Florida State League, to write an autobiography. And for good reason. His current position as overseer of the long-running Class A Advanced circuit is the latest stop in a sprawling sports career that dates back to the late '50s.
Carson chronicled his life in From Hockey to Baseball: I Kept Them in Stitches, written in conjunction with Toronto-based sportswriter Larry Millson (currently available on Amazon). Over the course of 173 pages, Carson gives a chronological account of how a hockey-obsessed "rink rat" from Barrie, Ontario, went on to become the team trainer for two expansion franchises in two major sports (the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Toronto Blue Jays). For the past three decades, Carson has been based in Dunedin, Florida, and his longtime association with the Dunedin Blue Jays led to his current position as FSL president.
Perhaps Carson's greatest claim to fame has been participating in two All-Star Games in two major sports, a feat he achieved after serving as Prince of Wales Conference trainer at the 1976 NHL All-Star Game and American League trainer at the 1980 All-Star Game.
"I'm told Bo Jackson, the great football and baseball player, and I are the only two people to have done that," he wrote.
It all began in Barrie. Carson grew up four blocks from his "second home" -- Barrie Arena. He took any work there that he could get, which included stints as an "ice scraper and flooder, a roller-skate tightener, a wrestling-ring sweeper, a program seller, and eventually, the stick boy for the Flyers of the Ontario Hockey Association Junior League." Carson obtained an assistant trainer position with the Flyers while still in high school, tending to a litany of future hockey greats. This set the stage for the first three decades of his professional life.
After stints in Niagara Falls and Rochester, Carson latched on with the Penguins in their inaugural 1967-68 campaign. He recalls the good, the bad and the ugly from those days, writing about the toughness of right wing Ken Schinkel and the tragic death of Michel Briere after his rookie season.
"I was up in Pittsburgh last weekend for the 50-year reunion [of the Penguins' first season], and only about nine of us are left from that team still alive and getting around," Carson said by phone Wednesday. "But hearing some of their stories got me thinking, 'Man, I wish I'd put that in there.' So the book could have been bigger, but I'm satisfied with how it turned out."
The transition from hockey to baseball isn't made very often, in any capacity. In Carson's case, it was due to the simple fact that he hailed from Canada.
"The Blue Jays had to hire a Canadian and the trainer had to be certified," he wrote. "That limited their selection and I qualified."
Some of the most amusing anecdotes in the book involve Carson's subsequent crash course in baseball, and the myriad pranks he was subject to as a result of his naivety. The Blue Jays players, for example, claimed the snuff tins in their back pockets were hockey pucks carried in his honor.
It all makes for a quick, fun read -- and one that almost didn't happen.
"I started about six years ago, had it pretty well finished and lost it on my computer," said Carson. "Oh, man, I was ready to say 'The heck with it.' But my wife, Lillian, said, 'No, you've worked too hard.' So she locked me in my office again and the second go-round took a year-and-a-half to do."
All's well that ends well as Carson now takes pride in having written a full account of his professional experiences.
"I would never change my life with anybody," he wrote. "I have been fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time and have never had to fill out a resume."