Sacramento River Cats

Area Baseball Beat: Carson’s tribute to late wife is for important cause

Sacramento may not remember that Doug Carson was the first player from this region taken in the first Major League Baseball draft, but what he has done in the fight against breast cancer will never be forgotten.

In 2002, Carson created Albie Aware in memory of his wife, Albie, who died that year from breast cancer at 55.

Doug and Albie were classmates at Bishop Armstrong High School (now Christian Brothers), and when St. Francis opened in 1965, she enrolled there for her senior year. Alberta Ciucci had vowed never to marry an athlete.

In 1966, Doug and Albie ran into each other at Folsom Lake. Albie must have forgotten that the school’s student body president also was the quarterback and an all-state catcher who was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the second round in 1965.

On Friday night at Raley Field, before the River Cats play the Reno Aces, the Albie Aware Breast Cancer Foundation will be honored during the River Cats’ annual “Swing for the Cure.” Doug Carson, his son Matthew Carson and 10-year-old granddaughter Peyton Albie Carson will throw out the first pitch.

Albie Aware will receive a donation from the River Cats from ticket sales and an auction of game-worn pink jerseys to continue its fight against breast cancer, the most common type of cancer among U.S. women and the second-most common cause of death from cancer among U.S. women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Albie lost her life because we were not aware of all the tests and treatments available at her stage of the disease,” Doug Carson said. “Our mission is to save more lives and empower people with breast cancer through awareness, education and support. Our goal is also to raise money to help others in the community who face their own battles with this disease.”

A breast cancer diagnosis is life-changing.

“We want to make people aware of cancer prevention methods through nutrition and exercise, to encourage self-examination and a follow-up doctor’s appointment for early detection, to be aware of the diagnostic testing available to determine the best treatment for breast cancer and the early detection of a recurrence, and to provide financial assistance when these tests are not covered by the insurance provider,” Carson said.

Albie Aware benefits from many fundraisers, including the area’s high school baseball and softball “Albie Swingin’ for Life Tournament” during spring break and the “Lady Legendz” softball tournament in October. In the six years of the baseball tournament and two years of the softball event, more than $58,000 has been raised to support men and women diagnosed with breast cancer in Sacramento, and the “Legendz“ tournament has raised $22,000 in three years.

Back when Carson and Albie were still just friends, he remembers when scouts were beating down his door the year before the draft was instituted.

“When I was a junior, there were 11 scouts in my home trying to sign me,” Carson said. “The amounts ranged from $125,000 to $150,000.”

He didn’t sign then, and after being selected 33rd overall by the Tigers, he passed on a signing bonus of $8,000, incentive bonuses of $20,000 and a $10,000 college scholarship.

“I didn’t sign with the Tigers because I wanted to catch and they wanted me as a shortstop,” Carson said. “Stanford, Santa Clara and Arizona State offered me full scholarships. I settled on Santa Clara.”

After his junior year at Santa Clara, Carson signed with the Pittsburgh Piratessfor $8,000. His pro career lasted 11/2 seasons.

“My dream was snuffed out due to major spinal injuries,” Carson said. “I took a back swing to the back of my skull that shattered some vertebrae. I realize that it’s part of the business, but the mental scars left behind live with you forever. It still bothers me today because my opportunity was stolen from me.”

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