Don’t tell my dad this, but when I was a kid I would occasionally go without food at school so I could spend my lunch money on baseball cards. With the money my mother gave me for lunch each day, I could buy three packs of 1987 Topps cards. At the time it seemed like a pretty sweet trade in exchange for some lousy cafeteria food.
I was obsessed.
I just loved holding those cards in my hands and reading all the stats. I would spend hours learning all the players names, what teams they played for and what town they grew up in. A couple of those players had played in my backyard as members of the Newark Orioles of the New York-Penn League. It was always exciting to see the name of my hometown listed in their minor league stats.
Each Sunday, while eating breakfast before we headed off to church, I would pore over the league stats in the newspaper to see how my favorite players were doing. I’d skim each column for the names that were on the cards I had designated as my favorites by putting them in plastic sleeves: Mattingly, Randolph, Strawberry, Gwynn, and Puckett. My guys were always near the top of the list!
And they were my guys because I knew their faces. I knew their hometowns. I knew where they played in the minors. I knew all these things because I had spent hours looking at their baseball cards.
But somewhere along the way things changed. As I got older I became less interested in collecting cards. Dealers and retailers had ruined it for me. They had turned my favorite hobby into an industry. Manufacturers produced so many different sets that it became impossible to keep up. And the cost of packs soared in a few short years from 35 cents to over $3 for some brands.
So I gave up on collecting baseball cards for good. Or so I thought.
Having a son does funny things to a guy like me. It makes you nostalgic. It causes you to reminisce about your own childhood and miss being a kid. So to compensate for the loss of your own youth, you begin to search for ways to pass on the best things you enjoyed as a kid to your own children.
For example, baseball cards.
The cost of collecting is still pretty high these days. Though Topps has remained as the lone manufacturer of officially licensed baseball cards, packs are still about $2 a pop. It would take a small fortune for a kid to buy enough packs to complete a set. No more trading lunch money for multiple packs at the grocery store.
Despite the cost, I’ve been trying to find ways to turn Josiah on to the hobby I enjoyed so much as a kid. I’ve bought him a few packs of cards in the past but he’s showed little interest. That’s when I came up with what will hopefully become an annual father/son tradition …. “Opening Day.”
Yesterday we bought Josiah a single pack of 2010 Topps baseball cards. But he’s not allowed to open it until April 4th. That’s when Major League Baseball starts the new season. It’s opening day for them and it’s “Opening Day” for us! After we’ve found out what players he got in the pack we’re going to follow their stats online all season long. (I just know our guys will be at the top!)
The excitement and anticipation has already sparked Josiah’s interest in baseball cards. Yesterday he put all the cards he’s gotten in previous years in plastic sheets and put them in a binder on his shelf. He even organized them by team and has quickly learned that the “All-Stars” are the best guys. He put those guys at the top. Last year he got a Justin Morneau card. Now his hometown is listed on someone’s minor league stat column too!
But truth be told, I’m probably more excited than he is. I can’t wait to tear open that pack and see if we got any Yankees or any promising young rookies. And I can’t wait until the first time we huddle around the computer to see how our guys did the night before. For the first time in over twenty years I’m excited about opening a pack of baseball cards. But I’m more excited about the fact that for the first time ever my son is excited about baseball cards as well.
Just 26 more days until “Opening Day!”