Collecting the beautiful game

I’ve always been a baseball card collector first and foremost. This summer however, in about July, I started thinking again about a different game from my youth. Soccer. Or futball. To me it’s soccer since I grew up in the Pacific Northwest in the US. It’s a game my dad loved and still loves now as I grew up. Baseball was and is in my blood, my lifeline. My dads sport was soccer. He loved it so much he was a referee for years and was in charge of all refs for our local league. For a few years I was a ref as well. Sideline judge and center. For a high school kid it was good money for 45/90 minutes of work and it taught me the game. I can still spot offsides. Those skills are a bit rusty, though, I’ll admit. So my thinking came from this background. I was a ref and a goalie/keeper. JV starter but never really that great. Still had a lot of fun diving out at strikers and getting dirty on a rainy muddy field – lots of those in Seattle! Especially during the fall soccer season.

This summer I started hearing more about soccer again and it’s growing popularity. I wanted to start collecting soccer cards, since I love baseball card collecting and it sounded intriguing to me. I initially started in Discord groups and while helpful, there was a lot of focus on current players and prospecting. A few talked vintage soccer. I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t want to dive full on into the modern game that I didn’t know very well. Ills fully admit at this time I had an inking or a thought that soccer might take off more. I think it came from following people online, specifically Twitter, some Discord groups, some Blowout. The World Cup is coming in 2022 and will be in the US in 2026. This could be huge for soccer. This was just a notion , though and not the true driving force. It was a factor. I thought this through and decided early on that I didn’t actually want to focus on prospecting much for the World Cups. Too hard to predict. I thought that maybe there might be a trickle down effect on older cards. I’ve seen this happen in basketball. A big increase of interest in modern can lead to a boom in vintage. That factored in some.

But I also just love vintage and the history in vintage cards. I made my choice and dove into researching soccer cards on EBay. I also found a very helpful Facebook group full of collectors who’d been collecting soccer their entire lives. In particular vintage. They were amazingly helpful and and friendly. They came at things from a collectors POV. So did I. I really wanted to learn and pick up vintage – and as it turned out, pre-war cigarette cards. I’m talking cards from the 1900s – 1920s/1930s. As I looked I realized something. The cards were cheap! They still are and are a bargain. I was happy browsing through EBay and the listings. There are so many from Ardath to Carreras to Ogden’s and more. I highly recommend as a place to learn about all the sets. It’s been very helpful to me.

I couldn’t have learned as much and picked up what I did without the help of fellow collectors in the Facebook group. Their attitude was great and I learned a lot about the soccer card market and history. When you start collecting soccer please respect and remember those who have collected it forever and have enjoyed it as a hobby. Try to connect with collectors, learn from them. I had so many questions early on and they helped with each of them.

The rookie card is new again

It is also very important to know that to a lot of lifelong soccer collectors the idea of the “rookie card” is new and a different way of thinking about things. To those in the US this is normal. But in soccer it’s brand new and there is still a lot of confusion about how to define a rookie. Especially in vintage with so many different brands of cigarette cards, stickers, and more. Please be careful when researching and always always research before making a big vintage purchase. Sellers will try to take advantage of the newness of the rookie card concept for soccer.

Lists of the greats

I started my foray into vintage soccer by reading a lot of lists about the best footballers of all time. It helped me get a handle on the names and who I wanted to pick up. I actually started with John Charles by picking up a few of his cards from 1956 for about $5 each. Churchman’s cigarette cards. Then I picked up a small lot of cigarette cards. That was fun but I got advice to be careful with lots. They can be fun but also risky. Like packs of cards. So I paused and started going back to the lists and found a few names that I really liked. I loved their stories and who they were to the game. They were Dixie Dean and Sir Stanley Matthews. I recommend checking their Wikipedia pages for an overview of their careers.

Dixie Dean pickups. 1927 Mac Caricuatures, 1927 DC Thompson Dixie Dean (not his rookie), 1928-1929 Dixie Dean Players Cigarettes.

Dixie Dean and Stanley Matthews

About this time I was beginning to think the vintage soccer card market would take off in about a year. Instead it started happening fairly quickly. Prices were already jumping some from when I looked in July. So I decided to move forward and do heavy EBay searching and picked up several Dixie Dean and Stanley Matthews early cards. I managed to pick up a pair of Stanley Matthews RCs, the 1934 Ardath Cigarette card. One is actually in an album with the full set, glued in. I’d originally thought of taking the Matthews out but decided quickly when I got it that I couldn’t do that and had to leave it alone. Too much history there. So I started with Dixie Dean and Stanley Matthews. I picked up a few other cigarette card sets. They are amazing and there is so much history to the cards. I love vintage baseball so it was a natural transition for me. I love history in general. So of course I’m going to love 90-100 year old cards. My oldest soccer card is a 1908 Ogden’s Ernest Needham. It was one of the first I picked up. It’s now off to PSA for grading along with 2/3 of my Matthews and Deans. I did this so the cards will be authenticated and protected. Fakes could be a huge problem down the road. If I do sell I wanted the assurance they were real.

1935 Wills Cigarettes Stanley Matthews and 1908 Ogden’s Ernest Needham

If you want to grade, I highly recommend using a third party. I finally made this choice after a recommendation from WatchTheBreaks. I sent off 9 cards for a 45 day bulk submission knowing full well it would take close to a year. I’m fine with this but do miss my Matthews and Dean cards! I sent them off about 3 weeks ago now. I might get them in the summer due to PSAs backlog and of course all the other issues we’ve had this past year.

So for those looking to start collecting soccer, I recommend a few things.

Collect the era, the players, and teams you love. Finds a player that resonates with you as a collector. For me this was Matthews and Dean. I loved who Matthews was – a gentleman player and person. Dean has been called the Babe Ruth of soccer. They appealed to me.

Keep it simple. Start with reading lists of the greats. Get to know the names. Remember all the countries. I focused on England because it just happened. Remember Brazil, Spain, Germany. I need to pick up some Lev Yashin cards.

Spend a lot of time researching listings on EBay. The tobacco/cigarette card section on EBay UK is fascinating. Pick up some cheaper ones just to get a feel for the cards. It’s amazing to own something that old. To me at least.

The best part about starting this journey into collecting pre-war football was the joy it brought. I remembered how much I do love soccer and the history in it, and the pre-war cards are a part of that history. It’s been great focusing on a part of the hobby I love: the history it represents. This can be so easy to forget. We all want the latest prospect and player and love the thrill of that hunt. I do also. I’ve stated picking up some modern players like Erling Haaland (my favorite). But I will always love the pre-war cigarette cards first. They are history and represent lives forgotten and lost and their cards are a way for them to live on, for us to remember now. Collect what you enjoy and love and focus on that. The rest will come.

Thank you for reading!

Hope and joy in the cardboard

We are not living in normal times this year. As we finish March we should be thinking about vacations, doing some spring cleaning, Easter, and enjoying the sun and getting outdoors. There should also be baseball. This hits home to me. Baseball is a core part of who I am and I’m struggling with it. It’s the first time in my life that it’s not there. In all my life it’s gotten me through some tough times. Buts it’s been ripped away, along with so many other things we should be enjoying now.

Instead we are all dealing with something nasty and confusing called Covid 19. A virus that does not discriminate and can take anyone. It can cause a lot of fear and confusion. I know I’ve felt overwhelmed and scared and angry all in the span of an hour this week. Let alone the entire week. I’m sure we are all feeling this. Now those of us here in Minnesota are facing a shelter in place for the virus. It’s scary and overwhelming. But we need to listen to it. We need to dig in and just stay home. Stay home to support those on the front lines who are fighting this war for us. It is a war. No question about it. Nurses, doctors, cops, mail workers, restaurant workers, all those in health care and first responders deserve and need our respect and support and love and joy. We have to stay positive in all this.

That can be extremely hard right now. We have young school kids who should be in school learning but are at home (one is, our childcare is still open, a miracle). We are very lucky there. All that aside I struggled this week. Last Sunday was tough. I was angry frustrated and scared all day. I really couldn’t get past it. This week was better. I’ve focused on making my space support me. I’ve worked really hard on controlling what I can control. I repeat it constantly. And I do let myself feel the emotions and try hard to work through them. That has to happen also.

What works the best for me and hopefully for others reading this is to focus on your joy. We are all going to be at home with family for a long time. Some may get sick. Hopefully we don’t. But during this time focus on something of joy. Give joy to others – practice social distancing please! – as you can. Check in on neighbors and friends online. Put out lights on your deck to let others see the hope and that we are still there. Any kind of light to show we are there and there is hope and we are in this together.

For me my joy is the hobby of baseball card collecting. I’ve really focused on it and going through some collections I bought recently and hunting for sets I loved as a kid like 1994 Donruss and 1993 Upper Deck. Reading the backs of cards again and enjoying the shiny 90s inserts worth just $1 now but were so fun to chase back then. I’ve remembered more of why  I love collecting. It’s the history and photography in the cards and collecting autos, which are pieces of history to me. That’s my passion aside from creative writing which I’m also working on. And making something good. I can feel it.

But my point here is to focus on your energies. Work through the fear and anger and emotions and live with them. Focus on the joy you can show others. Write messages on paper hearts and display them in windows. Hope. Joy is OK in this time. We need it more than ever as we stay home and fight this war against the virus together. Remember it’s there. We will get through this. Stay together. Help each other. Be kind. Reach out. Use the web for this. Use it for what it was meant to be. Share stories of hope and love and kindness and we will get through this.

Stay home, practice social distancing. Please. It will help those fighting on the front lines.

We will get through this. And baseball will be back. Remember to keep the joy and hope going throughout. For me cardboard and this hobby is that joy, and my family. Find it for yourself. Be deliberate about it. It’s ok. It will help us all in this fight.
#stayhome together




TonyGwynn AutoThis post is just going to be about the joy or collecting.  It’s about the fun of the hobby and why I got into it. It can be easy to get wrapped up in drama and the negative sides of the hobby like grading scandals, bad behavior of autograph seekers, and so on and so forth. It’s importat to remember why we love this hobby and why we  got into it in the first place. I want to hear those those stories from collectors. Why did you start? What is the best part of this hobby for you? What do you like to collect the most? Who are your favorite players?

Walter Ioos Jr

I’ll start. I got into collecting as a kid in the early 90s, very late 80s. For a lot of people the late 80s sets are their set – 87 Topps, 89 Topps, etc. For me it is probably 1993 Upper Deck baseball. I was really into collecting then and the photography just spoke to me. It nearly inspired me to try for a sports photographer career. Specifically this was because of Walter Ioos, Jr. photos and the subset in 93 UD. I actually managed to get his auto through the mail a couple years back. The 93 set is my favorite. I’m working towards completing the set and an refocusing on getting more of those cards signed. I’m trying to get as many signed as possible but it will be tough with the big names in there especially Griffey.


Alex Rodriguez signed this in person at Spring Training. Took a full minute or more to sign it. I’m never parting with it.

Autographs are my other favorite thing to collect. It’s befause I went to Spring Training for several years in the early 1990s and had such a blast there. I met players like Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Paniagua, Lou Pinnella, Tim Davis, Joey Cora, and got one of my favorite autos in Dave Neahaus. I was one who’d get up at 4:00 while in Peoria to get to the parking lot and hope for an auto. I’d be there at games with cards and a ball. It was and still is my passion. It’s connexting with the players and that experience that drives me. Baseball has always been my haven and safe place from negative, oppressive thoughts and cards and autos always calm me down and bring me back. So that’s why I do this. Autos and cards are reminders and triggers against that. I think that’s probably true for a lot of us in different ways.

In the past year I’ve been focusing more on getting into vintage cards as they represent the history of the game and I’ve met people online who have been amazing helping me get into it. I’ve started looking to buy collections from others and going through them as oppose to buying a lot of new stuff. So if you’re reading this and have a collection to sell or trade I’m interested. I’m looking for any vintage from Hank Aaron’s to commons from 1976 Topps. I’m also looking for 90s inserts like Artist Proofs, First Day Issue, and others. I’ll take anything Griffey. But I just love going through collections and and sorting through storage boxes.  I’d much rather spend $5 on a box of junk wax that may have something in it than $5 on beer or towards a bad movie ticket. It’s calming and fun and who knows what’s in there. At the very least there are often cards of guys who sign through the mail.

Thsts my other focus these days. Through the mail or TTM is easy to do and helps me be a kid again. If you want to get started I recommend visiting SportsCardForum or (also known as SCN). SCN is $15 a year and well worth it. Be sure to include a self addressed stamped envelope and write a nice hand written letter. One more piece of advice, never send anything you wouldn’t want to lose! Anything can happen to mail and does.

That’s really my focus for collecting. First and foremost I love collecting autographs. Not necessarily the big names but I’ll also look for just nice looking signatures on well designed cards with great photos (like Topps Stadium Club). Next I’m into looking for more vintage and buying collections that have cards from the 70s to 200s.  Then I’m looking for Twins and Mariners, in particular the 95 team.

So that’s my story (parts of it). What’s yours? What do you love about the hobby? Why did you get into it? We all like hearing these stories and sharing them can only help us remember the joy in this hobby and the great people in it. Please comment on this blog post or respond to the pinned tweet with your story. After the Fourth of July holiday I’ll come up with some giveaway for a random response. It’ll be something fun and nostalgic and if possible related to your response. when responding use the hashtag #hobbylove.

Have fun and happy collecting!


The miracle in baseball

Peace in the moments

I felt the miracle in baseball on Saturday night in Saint Paul at CHS Field. I felt it settle into me like the warm afternoon sun. It hit me as I entered the cool press box for the first time. It’s a simple space with chairs facing large windows that you can slide open to the air and the sounds and smells of the game. It’s simple and sparse and perfect. It brings the game in and lets it breathe. I felt what was special about the game of baseball and why it’s been my safe place, my haven. It’s a place where I know I can always find peace and quite and space to breath and think and process. It’s where I truly belong. In the game of baseball. Perhaps in the press booth, writing about the game, or taking photographs, or both. Baseball and what it can bring to people is my true passion. I want others to know this peace and to seek it out in their life. Maybe it’s baseball for them, or art, or running, or rowing, or reading. For me this peace is in the pace of baseball and what I see there. In this blog I hope I can share that with others and hopefully encourage others to find their own. I know how difficult finding that place can be. It can seem really far away at times. Impossible to reach when the thoughts begin swirling and you can’t catch up to them. I’ve been there many time. For me baseball is always there. I can just breathe. This is the true miracle of baseball.

One can also see ourselves in each and every moment in the game of baseball. This is what I try and show through my sports photography. Those moments and emotions that are in all of us. When I see this I’m immediately at ease, calm.  This helps me keep the shadows away. Seeing these moments in the game that we all experience is part of the miracle and why I connect with baseball and everything about it.

The miracle of baseball is strong in St. Paul with the Saints and CHS Field. The city embraces the park. It’s a part of it, nestled against the skyline and highway and landscape. It’s almost hidden until you’re on top of it. Once you’re inside, you immediately notice the field. It’s right there. So close it feels like you can reach out and touch it from the concourse. There’s just something about the design. Everything feels close but open to the air and pulse of the city around it. Sounds of traffic meld seamlessly with the game’s beat. They’re a part of each other. It’s clear that baseball has become a part of St. Paul. The Saints relish being a part of the community and showing the best of what the game can bring. The park is built for that, to showcase the team on the field and let fans feel close to it. The access is simply amazing for a fan. For me as a first time media member it was everything I could have hoped for. Staff treated me warmly and everyone I met in the press box was friendly and welcoming. In particular I enjoyed meeting Shiango (I know I am not spelling his name correctly, and I apologize), the lead entertainer who sang “Take me out to Sesame Street” with the muppets.


That sentence alone shows me the Saints get it. Baseball shouldn’t take itself too seriously. The Saints realize this and embrace the fun of it. It’s there in every inning. Since I got there early before the gates opened I could see the park awaken with staff as they arrived and began setting things up. There was a care and focus in every action to make sure the game went smoothly. I could sense it as I walked around and took it all in. From the players to the staff everyone knew the preparation needed. They also knew how to enjoy the moments, goofing off. We all need to remember that. We should all goof off and laugh more often. The Saints staff and their players know this.


That attitude and effort pays off at every game I’ve been to. I’ve never had a bad experience at a Saints game. They understand what it takes to present baseball at its best. It should be fun and goofy and loose. When players embrace this and have fun, good things follow (look at the Twins this year).


After watching the stadium wake up I headed to the press booth and settled in, taking notes, feeling the peace before a game begins. These moments are something I’ve cherished my entire life since I was a kid. I’d go to the Kingdome and spend the day. Now I go to Target Field with my boys, or myself, and there is always a point before the game where I can pause, breathe, and truly just be there. This feeling ran through me Saturday night. It brought back those memories as a kid and all the times baseball provided a safe zone for me. For my thoughts. At a game I can truly be myself. I have that when I watch the Twins, and it was stronger in the booth with the Saints. It told me that this is where I needed to be. In baseball, a part of it. It was amazing to me that I could be up here in the booth and also go down and take photographs, close to the action, when I wanted. It took a bit of courage on my part to actually go down to field level and walk into that space. I’m so glad I did. Time slipped away as I took in every moment behind the camera. In my element at last. The press booth, the camera. Looking for the emotions in players, those moments that define the game and its players. The pitcher that night was Eddie Medina.

Eddie Medina Saint Paul Saints

He was locked in for the night and it showed in his rotation and focus on the mound. The Saints seemed to feed off that energy and they pounded the Milkmen for a 14-3 victory. The right mound presence can push a team forward. They can rally around that pitcher and the Saints did. It was fun to watch him pitch from both in the press box and down at field level. I could just see his intensity, in particular when he walked off the mound after a strikeout. He was going to make this his night. And he did. In this moment coming off the mound there is no one else. He seems to be there with his thoughts, perhaps visualizing the next out. He’s in his element. He’s where he belongs, and doing it well.


In the photographer’s area I truly felt like a part of the game. I was that close. It was distracting at times, I will admit, and I missed some moments and focus in my photography that night. Still I found some of the moments that make the miracle of baseball.

Milkmen player catch

This was one of pure skill, a moment where everything goes right. We all have known those moments and the joy in them. It’s reflected in the fans watching this catch. Even the Saints fans realize and appreciate the pureness of skill and athleticism and luck in this moment. This is a flashy part of baseball, a fun part that everyone can see and enjoy  and know. This is probably my best action shot of the night. A moment of pure success.

Then we see those moments of failure. The strikeout. A dropped ball. An error. These are moments all of us know also. We understand what the player’s going through. We can commiserate. It’s simple but nice to know others contend with the same issues. Even those who are good enough at something to do it professionally. We love seeing the effort, the work, and the outcome, good or bad. This grit is another little miracle in baseball. We’ve all had those times when nothing seems to be going right but the only thing you can do is push forward. Knowing that this too shall pass. To me pitchers experience this acutely. They have to keep throwing on a bad night when they don’t have their stuff. They have to have short memories and forget those bad moments. Learn from them. Improve on them. It’s why I love watching pitchers and seeing how they deal with adversity. We can all learn from them. To just pick up and keep throwing that baseball.



A big part of baseball is and always will be the joy in it. It’s there all the time and a big part of why I love this sport. The clichés are all true about this aspect. I see it in every game. From the home run to little side moments.

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Baseball as in life has so many of those moments throughout the game. They show who the players are and we see their reflections in our own lives. It’s part of what makes this game great and part of why I go to Saints baseball. I can truly be a part of the game and in its moments. I highly recommend the Saints to any baseball fan in Minnesota. You’ll see just how close you are to the game and get a feel for what makes baseball great. There’s a bit of baseball heaven in St. Paul, Minnesota. Go an enjoy it.

I also need to give a big thank you to Mr. Steve Hamburger. He’s become a friend over the past year since he read my blog post about his son Mark and reached out. I’m glad we got a chance to catch up this past Saturday and I’ll see you again soon!

Steve Hamburger

Also, the Saints won that night. 14 runs. That was a lot of fun. I hope to make it to as many games as I can this year.









Opening Day giveaway: Eric Hosmer relic and some Donruss stars

I had a ton of fun watching baseball and opening cards yesterday. Thanks to an MLBPA giveaway I got to open a hobby box of Panini Donruss baseball and it convinced me I’ll be buying a box of it every year. It’s just fun going through this and reminds me more of collecting in the 90s and all the inserts and chases that weren’t autos, though those are available in this product also. The inserts just give someone something else to chase. The designs are fun and shiny and would be fun to get signed someday.

The giveaway

My giveaway from the box will be a stack of stars and also the Eric Hosmer relic I pulled. To enter just retweet my pinned tweet, thoughts on Opening Day. The winner will be randomly chosen Monday evening. Only active collectors are eligible. The card pictured below is the giveaway, with some more base star cards added.


My Oh My it just continues

This is baseball

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Baseball is a part of my core self, the place I go to when I truly need peace and a haven from everything else going on. It’s something in the special pace of the game that allows me to breathe and rest and truly know the moment in front of me. That time when a ball cracks against the bat, or smacks into the catcher’s mitt. There’s a pureness there that I can’t find or see elsewhere. It’s a simple and complex game. We’ve all heard these types of words before on Opening Day. I know mine fail to capture what I really feel and see in the game. But I have to write something.

My oh my it just continues

Baseball has been with me since I was a little kid. It was there every day as I grew up and dealt with what we all deal with growing up. Bullies, frustrations, successes. When the Spring came and with it Opening Day I knew I could always turn on the radio and just listen. For me it was Dave Neihaus. He was the voice of my childhood and there as I became a teenager and more. There was just so much joy and genuine kindness in that man that came out during every game. My team, as one might expect now, was the Seattle Mariners. I grew up in the 90s and instead of being a part of the tech boom or a fan of Kurt Cobain, it was baseball, books, reading, writing, outdoors, and yes, video games (a lot of Star Wars). I can’t really describe how much it meant to me. Instead I’m going to link to Macklemore’s My Oh My and just ask that you listen. Just listen. This speaks to me so much. I can’t really say how much. Thank you Macklemore for this piece of art.

It’s what I grew up in. Collecting cards. In drawers, binders, boxes. On my desk right now. That radio, staying up late for games. Still do. Autographs. Griffey. Edgar Martinez. Jay Buhner. Rich Amaral. Alex Diaz. Luis Sojo. I’m slowly working on collecting signed cards from that 95 team.

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1995 was my year, a cornerstone year. I was there for all the Yankees-Mariners playoff games. It just continues. I couldn’t believe it. Good things did happen even for a bullied kid like I was. Good things happen. My Oh My. They do. They really do and will again. That’s what baseball was to me and still is. Back then it’s what could get me out of the spirals and fear. It was baseball. Now it’s more. Now it’s my family and kids and photography. But baseball’s still there and always will be. 1995 was proof to me as a kid that the underdog could succeed. That you could believe and just refuse to lose. The whole city believed in that team and I’ve rarely seen anything like it. It shows the power that sports and baseball have to unite us in one thing. Sports fan can hug and high five strangers and have drinks with them like long lost best friends. It’s one of the best things in this world. Sports can turn that stranger into a friend.

Eternal hope

My first teams were the early 90s Mariners with Jay Buhner, Tino Martinez, Joey Cora, and others. We’d pay maybe $10-$15 for a game. I was lucky enough to get to about 10-15 games or a few more each year. So I really felt like I got to know the players and I knew the Kingdome as well as anyone. Every year at this time as a kid I’d go through the team and learn as much as I could about each player. This time of year was and always will be full of hope. This could be our year if things break right. I loved thinking about who might help us get closer to the playoffs. Who the next hot rookie would be (Bob Wolcott, Tim Davis, Ben Davis, Alex Rodriguez).


Alex Rodriguez signed this in person at Spring Training. Took a full minute or more to sign it. I’m never parting with it.

I wasn’t that great about picking up their cards. I’d usually buy packs. Except A-Rod. I did pick up some of his, and managed to get some of his autographs in person during Spring Training. I still have most of them and have always had a soft spot for A-Rod since. In school at this time I would often draw the Mariners logo in notebooks while in class. None of those drawings actually survived but I got good enough that when we had school events I got requested to do face paint for them.  Talent, right?

The soul of the game: A place of peace 


Mark Hamburger at peace in his element

For players I think baseball has to be where they are at peace the most, truly themselves. On the mound or at bat it’s just that moment and that time. They are truly in their own element and fully who they are. I saw this with Mark Hamburger and the Saints. He’s someone who just wants to play and loves the game so much. It’s in every fiber of who he is. This is shown by his career, how he just refuses to stop playing, hoping for another chance to play. Full disclosure. I’ve met Mark and his family and fully support him in his career and want him to succeed. He is so good with fans also. He’ll sign autographs, spend moments with fans, talk to them. One of those rare players who just gets it. To me this just shows baseball is his place of peace.

It’s been my place so often in life. In middle school and high school I was bullied relentlessly. Verbal abuse nearly every day. Good days were when it was minimal and I could avoid them. Baseball and my family were constants and my rocks. I loved my family and of course still do but when I could get away to a game on my own for a Saturday it was when my spirit was truly at peace. I feel this at other times now as well, through photography, and my own kids when I can be in the moment with them. It’s very had for me to just be at peace. My mind races and can conjure up negative thoughts and dark places easily. Growing up baseball was the place where that was the easy escape. A place where I could rest and be calm. It still is. But I’m getting better at just being there day-to-day. Thanks to baseball and what it is for me, what it initially showed and taught me. I’m not sure I’m explaining this well but that doesn’t matter. I just want to say it and perhaps others will get something from it. This peace is a part of what truly makes baseball the best sport in the world and why it has endured so long. This is the soul of the game and is something our culture sorely needs. We need a sport like baseball to remind us to slow down and just be in the present. No phones, no noise, just baseball. A chance to let our minds rest and process and be calm. We don’t always have to be racing so fast.

A place to be in the moment

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This is baseball’s real lesson for all of us and why I love it so much. Why I tune in when I can, listen, and watch. It’s why I collect baseball cards and autographs and take photographs and write. All of these are ways to stay at peace and in the moment. All these activities calm those negative spirals and keep the darkness away. I hope you have something that can push those thoughts out. For my whole life it’s been baseball, and now my family and my kids and my photography. In my photography I’m always trying to capture what I feel for the game. I’m looking for that in baseball and in life. It helps me focus on that.

Those are my opening thoughts on opening day. I hope everyone can enjoy a little baseball today, some peace, some quiet. Just be.

A small giveaway 

I am blessed to get this today. I’ll even have some baseball cards to open and go through. Just like when I was a kid. Thanks to the MLBPA no less, and a little luck. I won the box in their Totally Distorted Tuesday giveaway. In return I’ll give away something from the box. Not sure what, as I haven’t opened it yet. I’ll pin this post on Twitter and just retweet it to enter. I’ll have it open for the first weekend of baseball and draw the winner on Monday next week.

Opening the box will be happening this afternoon after work as I watch the Twins. My new adopted team. I love my Mariners still, and always will, but I live in Minnesota now. The Twins have a strong place in my heart now and I hope my kids will love them and baseball as much as I have. I want them to see the values in it, the joy in it, the peace it can offer.

Let’s play ball! And go Twins, and Mariners! This is our year.




Through the mail card of the day: Tim Biakabutuka 1996 Donruss Elite Series

BE79DEA6-A3F8-409D-8885-B9A7AF26588EThis Tim Biakabutuka 1996 Donruss Elite Series is one of my favorite cards out of the collection I bought. There’s something about the design I really like. Looking back now it feels like this set was a tough one to pull. I did manage to pull a Ken Griffey Jr Donruss Elite from a pack back in 96. When I found this Tim B in the set it brought back fun memories of that Griffey. There were a couple others in this collection, football players, but they don’t sign. Tim Biakabutuka was the only one and I knew I had to send.

As usual I wrote a handwritten letter with SASE and 1 forever stamp for each envelope. The address can be found on For Mr Tim Biakabutuka it seems to take anywhere from 1-2 weeks to 1-2 months, so if you send it could be a wait. When I found this card I knew I had to send. It’s a favorite insert set, and he was a solid player and had a good year for Michigan in 95. He’s also the first Zairian to play in the NFL. This is all taken from his Wikipedia page.

Im really happy with how this autograph turned out. Even in black pen it still jumps out. This is one reason I like the Elite Series set and similar inserts. The silver type background really helps the auto jump off the card. Holographic style cards also have this effect from what I’ve found.

So I highly recommend taking another look at these inserts as options to get signed. I think they would all turn out well.

A collecting shift and through the mail treasure hunting

Recently I bought a large collection of various sports – basketball, hockey, baseball, football, and even some soccer tossed in. It came in big blue tubs full of storage boxes. There were also sets of 90 UD, 92 UD, 91 Topps, 88 Fleer. It was a blast going through cards from the late 80s on into the 2000s. There was literally over a decades worth of collecting history in this and thousands of cards. It’s really interesting seeing how rookie card designs changed. I’ll have some upcoming posts on what I find design change wise. That was a major focus for this collector. Rookies. I didn’t find anything too major. My biggist find was a 1959 ToppsJim Taylor rookie, in excellent condition. I haven’t decided if I’m selling it yet. That was the oldest card in the collection.

I also found some 1960s baseball and even some 60s football. Most of it was 90s-2000s, though. Some of my favorite finds are old prospect names like Ben Grieve, Todd Hollandsworth, Todd Van Poppel, Kevin Mass. I probably have a pretty decent Poppel RC collection now. This theme carried into football as well. I’ve got a very good collection now of Ron Dayne, Jake Plummer, Warren Sapp, and plenty others. It’s a strong lesson and reminder of just how many top prospects don’t make it. It’s helped me realize I’m not going to be much of a prospect hunter from now on. That can be fun but also tough to make money on. I really enjoyed going through this old collection. It made me feel like a kid again, getting excited for the inserts and names and subsets. I was able to find a few notable cards from back in the day that I’ve always wanted.


One is the Carlos Delgado Flair Wave is the Future insert. This was a hugely popular insert set from what I recall and Flair was on the high end of what I could get back then. This was a hot card back then. Not worth much now but happy to have it.  This collection helped me realize again that I do love 90s inserts. I’ll somehow make this part of my PC now. Not quite sure on the focus (teams or players maybe, or just fun designs.  I did also find a good number of Flair base and Topps Finest base cards in the collection, which I’ll keep as well. Again because of the design. I’m not sure either how they fit into a PC yet. Maybe because they were a big part of collecting history in the 90s.

Other fun finds included a stack of Bowman from 92, 93, 94, including some Bowman’s Best. Nothing too major again but there is an Orlando Cabrera Refractor (numbered to 400 I think or less).


The basketball was filled with a lot of Joe Smith, Glenn Robinson, Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess, and names like David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, John Stockton, and other stars. I did find a McGrady RC. Took me back to  when I actually enjoyed the NBA. I found a good stack of Sonics cards from those entertaining years with Kemp and Payton.

Through the mail gold

So while there were not many huge finds money wise, there were a lot of sentimental ones. There was also another value to this collection. Cards of guys who sign through the mail. I’ve filled about 2/3rds of a 900 count box so far of guys who sign. All sports. I’ve still got a ton of cards to search for other TTM guys. My goal is to fill the 900 count box with guys to send to.  It’s got me excited again to get these out and in the mail. I got a few out in the past two weeks and already got a lot back. These are just some of the TTM cards I found.


Buying this collection has helped me focus how I want to collect. I’d rather buy old collections like this than new boxes. I feel like it’s the same risk as buying a box. Less so with my luck and boxes. Even if I don’t “hit” with a collection  there’s always the TTM angle. I usually try to send out a couple cards to guys, so I have one for trade. This can help build my PC.

One issue I’ve run into with this strategy though is organization. I need a good setup – a place to sort through cards (a nice big table or desk), shelving, and a place for supplies. It’s going to force me to reorganize my current space. I want to make it a relaxing and fun space for sorting these collections. What have others done? How have you set up your space? Any advice is appreciated!

Going through this old collection was a blast. There’s no price on that. Later this year (end of the summer or fall) I’ll be looking for other similar collections to buy and do this all over again. Once I get my zen collecting corner all set up. My shift will be from trying to keep up with modern to buying more collections like this, and more vintage, but slowly.

Has anyone else bought collections like this? What are your favorite finds?

Twins Caravan: celebrating cultural differences and apologizing for home runs

eddie rosario autograph photo

In the dark cold of Minnesota winter there’s always a fun event I look forward to each year. The Twins Caravan. It’s almost always a gaureenteed day for frigid temps, howling winds, deep snows, or a combination.  It’d be easy for the Twins to do nothing. But they don’t. Instead of staying huddled on they get on the road in buses and travel Minnesota. It’s really quite remarkable. Arguably our two top players spent the afternoon ice fishing and then drove to Mankato for a wonderful evening of baseball talk and dreaming about warm weather.

I got to the Caravan at 5:30 right as the doors opened. I’m glad I did. The crowd looked bigger than in years past and that was confirmed when they announced that over 700 tickets were sold. Quite a turnout on a cold Monday night!

This also meant that the hot dog line got long fast, so I went and got mine early and settled in until the festivities started at 6:30. The hour went by quickly and soon enough after a highlight film the players were getting introduced. They ended up walking right by my table. Unfortunately the iPhone didn’t cooperate and my photos ended up blurry. This was the best one of Eddie Rosario sauntering in (he never just walks in according to Kris Atteberry).

Too many home runs

The question and answers started out tough from a woman who asked Berrios point blank how many home runs are you going to give up this year? Berrios handled the question well and ended up apologizing for giving up too many last year, and saying he knows it’s a bit of an issue. It was well handled with good humor.

Joy in cultural differences and bring down walls

Another question that stood out to everyone was one that brought up the fact that it was indeed MLK day and it shouldn’t be ignored. The question ended up being incredibly thoughtful – the person asked about cultural differences and what that was like in the clubhouse. They just wanted to know how that worked. There was nothing malicious in the question at all. I’m bungling how it was phrased. Eddie Rosario was the one who answered and said, essentially, that that was the best part. He got to experience different cultures – and enjoyed learning about Germany from Max Kepler – and that differences were something to be celebrated and enjoyed. A sentiment I completely agree with. It was a phenomenal question and answer from Eddie. A great reminder of an aspect about this game that I love. It bridges barriers and knocks down walls. Players from Germany, Puerto Rico, and many other locations share a close knit clubhouse and enjoy each other. This is something to aspire to and remember. Just enjoy learning from each other!

Eddie also talked about how he approached each game and his mindset. He approaches each day with joy and as a blessing, getting up and going. I’m missing some of the details of his answer but what I remember is his comments about joy and meeting each day with energy. I wish I’d written down exactly what he said. It was along the lines of take each day as a new opportunity. Something I can struggle with so it was great to hear this again. Eddie Rosario is quickly becoming my favorite Twin. I’m going to enjoy watching him this year for sure.

Time for the autographs and a nickname for Rocco? 

rocco auto caravan

I got lucky this year and ended up sitting at the table which was called first for autographs, so I didn’t end up waiting very long. Maybe fifteen minutes or so. I always like to get photographs signed, my own when I can, or at least custom edits as I learn Photoshop. I had a Jose Berrios edit I was particularly happy about, an Eddie Rosario photo from the Puerto Rico Series, and a custom edit of Rocco Baldelli.

I also like to get nickname inscriptions when I can and asked Rocco for his. He told me he didn’t really have one.  So that’s something we as Twins fans need to remedy. Rocco the Rocketeer? Maybe? There’s got to be a better one out there!

jose berrios autograph

Berrios was generous and gave me a great “La Makina” inscription when I asked and really took care not to smudge the auto as he added it. He did seem to like the photo as well, and was very gracious. I admire that a lot especially after a long day including ice fishing and answering questions from fans.

jose la makina auto

Eddie told me he really liked the Puerto Rico photo I brought. He mentioned it a few times and gave me a great signature with a smile on his face. Both Berrios and Rosario have great attitudes. There’s a lot of joy with them.

Let them play

A theme of the night to me among the answers was that Rocco Baldelli’s goal is to just let his players play. With joy. I think this is wonderful to hear and could be very important. Making a random connection here – when I watched this year’s National Championship, Clemson vs Alabama, it quickly became apparent that the Clemson players were having the time of their life. They were enjoying every moment and fed off of it, giving them even more energy and drive. That’s the power of joy. I struggle to reach it but when I do I feel it. It’s pretty amazing, really.

I am very optimistic now going into Spring Training for the Twins. I want to see them embrace joy in the game. If they do they’ll take off.

It’s baseball. It’s January. The time to dream. And remember joy to get through the cold.