The card that traveled 8,000 miles

CA1F7F81-377B-45EE-B1A3-9F44EC9DDC48.jpegStephen Vogt really came through with this one.  So this card traveled about 8,000 miles.  I sent it first to Ryon Healy, it came back to MN, then I sent it out again.  To be honest I thought it was long gone when Mr. Vogt got released and then picked up by the Brewers.  It didn’t.  Somehow he kept track of it through all that.  That’s what I’m most impressed with.  I know I would have lost it, even if I had good intentions.  I really want to know how he kept track of it for over 8,000 miles.


It arrived still in the top loader and a penny sleeve (which I don’t remember sending but maybe).  The card is in impeccable condition.  It could easily have gotten damaged in transit.  But it didn’t.  Through who knows what weather and how many different trucks and vehicles it survived.  I’m really impressed that Mr. Vogt kept track of it so long. Signed it, and sent it back to me.  It shows a lot of character in my opinion.  This is definitely a favorite card of mine now.

Thank you, Mr. Ryon Healy and Stephen Vogt for signing!


Lewis Tilman: For my kids


I got a wonderful return this week from Mr. Lewis Tillman.   He was kind enough to take the time and sign two cards for me and answer my question.  For Mr. Tillman, his favorite part about playing football is the fact that it put him in position to take care of his kids.  As a Dad, I can completely relate to this.  I worry more than I should about my kid’s futures.  It speaks a lot to his character that this is his main concern.  He worked hard all his life in order to provide for his family.  Certainly a value I can relate to and understand.  This little note is something we can all relate to.

Thank you, Mr. Tillman, for the return and for pointing out what we all work hard for –  our family and kids.

Wally Westlake: The good fortune to play

The good fortune to play in the Major Leagues


Wally Westlake is one of those players that we should remember.  He is a name that can be forgotten among the stars.  His career is one that spanned and touched a lot of the history in this game.  This is a great article from SABR about Mr. Westlake’s career, and well worth the read.  He is also the first white player who got hit by a black pitcher.  This is detailed in an article at  He also played with Hank Greenberg and Jackie Robinson and learned from the great manager Casey Stengel.  These are the names we all know.  Mr. Westlake was there with them.  From what I can tell, he handled himself with class and in a moment that could have turned ugly, when he was hit by that pitch, he just moved on and played the game.  What really connects with me is that Wally Westlake played for ten years and fought for every moment in time to play the game he loved.  This is a work ethic and class that we would all do well to remember.

When I asked him what aspect of baseball brought him the most joy, he replied: “to have the good fortune to play in the Major Leagues.”

A humble answer from a man who played with the greats, who played the game well, and strove hard to stay in this game and become an All-Star who got to the World Series.

This humbleness, this joy in the game, is what we need to remember.  I’m just glad I was able to share this.


Time for an autograph: From Olympic Gold to Spring Training and a Cubs great

Spring Training 

This is another reason I love getting autographs through the mail. It can help a lot when a three day weekend comes to a close!  For me, I was only home because I had a sick kid to take care of (recovering from Influenza B now).   After some evening errands, I had these returns waiting for me in the mail.   My first official Spring Training return is the Aaron Slegers.  The envelope was bent, despite writing “Do not bend” on it, so I was glad it survived! The card itself was only slightly bent.  The signature survived.


I’m hoping he gets a chance this year in the Twins rotation.  A bit of a long-shot prospect, I think, but he could surprise.  Maybe he’ll end up as a long reliever in the bullpen for the Twins this year? It’s not a bad signature, either.  Thank you, Mr. Aaron Slegers! I look forward to seeing you pitch this year.  Also, one thing I noticed about the 2018 Topps is that I didn’t do any preparation on the card surface, and the signature turned out just fine.  So that is another plus for the 2018 Topps set.  2017 took a little preparation.

Olympic Gold


This one means a lot.  I wasn’t alive when it happened (apologies if I make you feel old) but the “Miracle on Ice” is a seminal moment in sports.  I watched the Winter Olympics with my family growing up a lot.  I remember fun evenings watching downhill skiing, ice skating, bobsledding.  I always feel optimistic during the Olympics.  The world feels a little safer and calmer while the athletes are competing.   I know that always hasn’t been the case historically, especially with 1980, but recently it seems that way.  Especially this year with tensions due to North Korea.  There’s that side of it, the symbology of the games, and then there’s the competition.  These athletes are the best in the world.  They make their sport look so easy.  There is so much raw emotion and so much pressure involved.  This year I saw all of that with Lindsey Vonn’s skiing.  It clearly meant so much to her to be back competing.  And bittersweet that this is likely her final year.  I felt for her as she gave the interview after winning bronze.  There was just so much pouring out of her emotionally.  One can’t help but feel for her.

So there’s all of that wrapped into this little autograph.  I love how he wrote 80 and “Gold” on it, and he’s holding the torch.  It’s such a unique and powerful moment.  The signature stands out beautifully against the dark surface.  It looks great framed above my desk.  Thank you Mike Eruzione!

A Cubs All-Star Great

Mr. Vance Law! He was kind enough to sign 3/3 for me.  My favorite one is the 1990 Donruss.  This signature on this set takes me right back to being a kid.  These were the cards I could afford most of the time and would buy a few packs of after going to the batting cages or hanging out with my friends.  Every now and then I’d buy Topps (1991) but it was mostly 1990 Donruss and Fleer 1991 when I was 9 and 10 years old.  Their bright colors appealed to me back then and featured such a large checklist of players.  I hunted for my Mariners and the stars but also enjoyed the Cubs back then.  It was mostly due to their logo at that time.  It’s what first caught my eye.  They were in the National League so I didn’t get to see those teams play much.  But I enjoyed pulling Cubs cards from packs from Vance Law to Ryne Sandberg.  The best part about 1990 Donruss was the backs, with the stats and bios.  That’s where I learned about players.  This was my version of Wikipedia.


The joy in 1990 Donruss 

So I have fond memories of Donruss and this signature from Vance Law shows how the set can shine.  The big and bold signature and inscription contrast and stand out perfectly with the somewhat infamous red borders.  What’s I love about this signature is just how clear and strong it is, including the inscription.  It shows deliberate effort, care, and pride.  Thank you very much, Mr. Vance Law, for taking the time to sign my cards.  Whenever I look at I can be taken back to when I was just a kid enjoying the base cards of players and teams I liked.   That’s the main reason I do this.  For the reminders of what it’s like to be a kid.  That can only help me as I raise my own.  To remember the joy, and to be in the moment with them as they grow up.


Baseball is a metaphor for life: An interview with John McCormack, head baseball coach at FAU

John McCormack Feb 18

Mr. John McCormack, head coach of the Florida Atlantic University Owls baseball team, was kind enough to answer a few questions I sent him when asking for an autograph.  His words about coaching and teaching the mental side of the game, the grit needed to succeed later in life, are strong and something to remember.  They are apt as Spring Training inches closer and the sounds of baseball fill the air.  They remind us of the hard work, the practice needed to reach the bigs, to reach our goals.  We need to remember to persevere through the tough times.  When things don’t make sense like we think they should.  Just keep working on it, put in the time, the focus, and it will translate and be there when you need it the most.  This is the grit that will get you to the joy of succeeding in that moment that turns the game, that turns your life.

Thank you to Mr. John McCormack for answering my questions.

  1. Did you ever collect cards, autographs, or other memorabilia as a kid? What are some favorite memories of collecting or meeting any players?

Yes like most kids I collected baseball cards, not too interested in autographs, but had a few. The cards were my main interest.  Steve Garvey and Pete Rose were the favorite ones.

    2.  What is your favorite part about coaching college baseball?

The players, they keep you on your toes at all times. It is also great to see young people mature and accomplish their dreams.

  1. What do you tell your players when things get tough, and they need to learn how to build grit to persevere and push through it?

Baseball is a metaphor for life. They must learn to fight through adversity especially in this games when failure is a huge part of it. If they give up now they will eventually give when the stakes are higher in life.

  1. Who are the most talented players you’ve coached, and what do you see that makes them different? I saw that Alex House was drafted by the Astros in 2017.  Do you think he could make the majors soon?

The most talented players are the guys that have physical skills but also have a really good handle on the mental part of this game. The tougher and smarter they are mentally the better player they are and it increases chances for success.

Alex is a good pitcher he is a little ways away from making the big leagues, he is going to have to work and capitalize on his chances when they come his way.


A P.R. spot for the enjoyment of baseball and best wishes from a legendary​ Expo

Small triggers of joy

This past week was one of those long, full, productive, busy weeks that leave you drained for a Friday.  One thing that gave me little triggers of joy through Friday was the fact that USPS Informed Delivery told me I had two return envelopes waiting for me.  I could remember that and I’d grin a little.  Something small, I know, but it helped.  Friday did end up being a good day at work and I did end up with enough time to run home and check out my returns before family dinner and social time.

The two envelopes ended up being two of my favorite returns so far.  I was slightly worried about one of them since it was so thin and only felt like one card inside.  That had me nervous about the condition of the card.  So I opened that first and out slipped a wonderful signed card of Mr. Larry Walker!  As a kid, he was a favorite of mine.  I loved his style of play, and how he carried himself throughout his career.  He was just one of those players that were really fun to watch.  It also helped that one Spring Training I was able to get his autograph on the sweet spot of a ball, with some other Rockies, including Todd Helton (which has faded, unfortunately, that was a Sharpie on a ball).   The Walker has faded a bit some as well, the pen I used to get it was thin.  I’d always wanted to get a card signed and when I saw some recent successes from him coming back, I knew I had to try.  This definitely felt like a bit of a long shot.  I’d also heard online that he liked to swap out cards and include a card of his choosing inside.  I chose cards I liked, but inexpensive ones – always inexpensive ones! Who knows what can happen in transit.

So I sent it off and I think it took about a total of 2 1/2 weeks to get back.  Here is the autograph.

Larry Walker

I actually kind of love how it got smudged.  At first, I had the reaction of disappointment, but then I looked at it again and his handwriting.  It’s bold, clear, intentional.  It actually means a lot and the little kid in me is thrilled to have this note! This is why I get Through the Mail autographs.  For these type of inscriptions and autographs from those players I enjoyed as a kid and enjoy now.  The smudge here just adds to the character of the autograph.  It still looks great, one of the more unique signatures I have seen.   There’s something else I’ve noticed as well.  Guys who signed when I was younger in the 90s, either in person or through the mail, still seem to sign today.  It’s a consistency of character that I find encouraging.  So a big thank you to Mr. Larry Walker for signing both when I was younger (I got the ball in the late 90s, I think), and now.

Walker ball.jpg


Mr. Billy Sample: A P.R. spot for the enjoyment of baseball

Billy Sample Return

The next return means a lot to me.  A bit of context.  I’ve been a writer for the past ten years, starting in college.  I made a stab at writing novels (wrote 4 bad ones) but that hasn’t gone anywhere.  This blog helps keep the writing going as a fun hobby.  I’m taking a break now and am working toward an MBA.  How a business works actually fascinates me, much to my surprise.  Current, y I am taking Accounting 200.  Early on I really actually kind of liked it but the first exam was a kick in the rear.  Fail.  But also a good opportunity to really figure out how I can study for them.  I wasn’t the only one in the class who failed it!

So I am someone who is a writer and apparently someone who also might enjoy business and maybe eventually starting one.  What is epic to me about Mr. Billy Sample’s return is the note he included with it.

“Alex, I enjoyed your letter.  It sounded like a P.R. spot for the enjoyment of baseball.  Best of health,” Billy.

It’s shot but it really gets at the core of who I am.  A writer.  I’ve loved writing and doing this blog.   In the letter, I asked what his favorite part of baseball is, and told him mine.  Something must have connected for him to write the note.  So it’s encouraging to me to know that.  Thank you, Mr. Billy Sample, for taking the time to write a little note.  And to include the Fleer card. And add an extra signature with inscriptions on the index card.  I’ve heard before that he’s a great signer and good to us collectors.  I can certainly confirm this!

Mea culpa 

I do have to say that I also made a small mistake.  On Thursday night I opened a pack of 87 Topps and pulled a Billy Sample.  I wrote a letter and put it in an envelope and sent it off Friday morning.  When I wrote down the address I paused, thinking, did I already send? I went ahead and sent him the 87.  Then the same morning I get that card out, I get this return.  I did ask for just the 87 card signed, and one for a friend who could really use it right now,  I think.  I just want to say apologies to Mr. Billy Sample for sending out another card right after getting this great return! This tells me I need to keep better track of who I send to, for sure.

The personal notes

These kind of returns are why I do this hobby, getting little personal notes from players I loved when I was younger.  It’s amazing receiving a letter like the one from Mr. Sample as well.  It’s encouraging and will help keep me going with the blog and sports writing.  Which I do love doing.

So thank you to both Mr. Larry Walker and Mr. Billy Sample.  Your kind responses meant a lot.



TwinsFest 2018 as a collector and a Dad

Baseball day

TwinsFest is a tradition each year for me.  My boys and I call it baseball day.  It helps me get through the long Winter months when temps get to subzero and blizzards fly.  It helps remind me that Spring does come again and with it Baseball.  The players are always friendly to the fans, and TwinsFest is one of the biggest and best fan events out there.  If you are unsure of going I highly recommend it.   This year I was lucky enough to get to two days, Friday and Saturday back to back.  First off I had a blast.  Second I was quite tired out Saturday evening after chasing my boys around as they played games with Twins players.  I still managed to get a few autographs.  That’s an amazing part about TwinsFest.  The players are really accessible and friendly, happy to chat and play with the kids.  I really appreciate them taking the time to do this.  It can mean a lot to a young kid and to a dad watching them.  My main job is keeping track of them and getting photos.  This year was no exception.  Right off the bat, they got to pitch with Zach Duke, who was super friendly and personable with them.  He was great with both my boys and gave my youngest a low five.  It was really fun to see all this happening.  TwinsFest has become a special tradition with my boys – we call it baseball day. And it helps that my wife gets a day to herself.

Zach Duke

We started with Zach Duke and then headed to my sons other favorite game, basketball.  This I think is really his favorite.  Last year we spent a lot of time here and he met Jose Berrios and got a great picture of him.  First time here there were no players but the volunteers were great.  We can’t forget them, the unsung heroes of TwinsFest.  It wouldn’t be what it is without them.  So thank you for your time as well!

Then it was time for the interlude called lunch. Hot dogs and fries. My youngest (2 1/2) had a brat and half of one of the footlongs.  He can eat a ton! Then it was back to more games.  More basketball, I think, and others there.  Giant connect 4, fishing, and a few more. The next time we went back to the basketball Eduardo Escobar and Stephen Gonsalves was there.  Both were again great with the fans and kids and each took a moment for an autograph. I’ll be starting a Stephen Gonslaves personal collection now for sure.

Stephen Gonslaves

Eduardo was taking photos with kids as well, but mine were too busy playing the games for that! While mine were having fun I had a short chat with Stephen Gonsalves and asked when he might be coming to the bigs.  He said he didn’t know, of course.  Hopefully, he arrives soon! Both him and Eduardo knew how to interact with the kids and give them special moments.  That’s what it’s all about, those memories that you’ll keep with you forever as a baseball fan.  And as a family.  We’ll likely go to TwinsFest every year because of that.  It’s a special time with my boys.

Twins Fest as a collector

The other aspect of TwinsFist is that it’s a wonderful chance to be a collector.  I’ve enjoyed getting autographs my entire life.  It was my thing as a kid and I’ve really enjoyed getting back into through the mail requests.  I don’t get many chances to get autographs in person these days.  There aren’t many autograph signings close to where I live.  TwinsFest is really the only chance I have each year to get signatures in person and I look forward to it every January.   This year I was lucky enough to attend on Friday night for the first time.  Even with leaving early from work I still got stuck in rush hour traffic in the cities and got there about 5:00 or so.  I headed up to the Skyline level as fast as I could, with the hope of getting in the Joe Mauer and Royce Lewis line.  What struck me the moment I got there was the number of people.  The lines were long! I wasn’t expecting them to be quite so packed.  Perhaps the success of last year actually caused more people to show up than the past few.


I made a quick assessment of the lines and headed straight to the Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, and Joe Nathan autograph station.  Looking at the Mauer Lewis line, I judged I wouldn’t make it, and then miss out on both opportunities.  It was the right call.  The line moved slowly and I got lucky enough to get my items signed.  All three players were friendly, Joe Nathan in particular.  I had brought a scorecard from the game where he became the Twins All-Time Saves leader.  I asked if he could inscribe it with his saves total, and he asked if I wanted 255 on there or his career total.  I asked for the career total, and he obliged.  His signature always looks good and this was no exception!

Mr. Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat were equally friendly, and Mr. Oliva gave me a nice full signature on a 4 x 6 photo I’d taken of him.  I sorely wished I had a vintage card for Mr. Kaat to sign but only had a ball.  He signed it perfectly on the sweet spot.  All three only cost $25.  That’s one thing I noticed this year.  The prices actually seemed pretty reasonable to me. I left knowing I’d made the right call – especially after hearing they’d only gotten through 97 people.  Any later and I might have missed out.  So that’s some advice: Make a quick judgment on a line and get to the ones with the people you really want.  I’m glad I did.  In the photo below, Mr. Oliva is signing someone else’s ball.  I wasn’t quite able to get a shot of him signing my photograph.

I’d hoped to go get Fernando Rodney and Michael Pineda after Oliva, Kaat, and Nathan but ended up making the call to skip that station.  After meeting a friend briefly I decided to head straight down to the Torri Hunter and Byron Buxton autograph station.  I think it was about 7 PM or so, and the signing was scheduled at 8 PM.  I’m really glad I did this.  Torri Hunter and Buxton were the two players I’d really wanted to get.  I had two 8 x 10s of my own photographs that I wanted to get signed.

The fun of waiting in lines


So I waited about an hour.  It really wasn’t that bad.  One of my favorite parts of TwinsFest is actually waiting in line, talking with the people around you.  It just kind of happens, since we are all there waiting anyway.  It’s fun hearing where people are from and seeing what people bring to get signed.  There are so many different items people bring, from baseball cards to large canvas prints and vintage photographs.   The Gold Glove baseballs were popular in this line, as were the small gold gloves.  A fun part of the wait was when Torri Hunter arrived, he got a large cheer as he shot a short video on his phone, grinning the whole time.  He hasn’t changed as a person from what I could tell.  I hadn’t ever met him before and was looking forward to it.

A perfect Byron Buxton signature and Deep Thoughts from Torri Hunter

Byron Buxton was first in the line.  He paused and deliberately chose a good spot on the photograph.  He gave me one of the best signatures I’ve ever seen from him.  It definitely felt like Torri’s signing habits are rubbing off on him.  It looks gorgeous.  Next up was Mr. Torri Hunter.   His first comment about the photo was “I must be in deep thought there!” I asked, what are you thinking about? His reply:  “Probably analyzing the pitcher, what might be coming next, anticipating…” Or close to that.  It was very much a baseball answer and speaks to how thorough and knowledgeable about the game he was.  He’ll make a great mentor to the young Twins players coming up.  I really like what Twins management is doing – bringing in players like Torri Hunter, LaTroy Hawkins, and Jim Kaat.  I think it will be an underrated move.   I almost wish I’d thought to ask him to inscribe it with “Deep Thoughts” or something similar.  That’s the new name of the photograph, though:  “Deep Thoughts.”

Pineda, Rodney, Kyle Gibson, and Tom Kelly in the hallways

Hallway autographs

After the signing, I decided to head over and check out the card show.  I was getting tired but couldn’t pass up the chance to browse.  I never can resist the pull of a card show.  Especially the one at TwinsFest with its amazing selection.  To my surprise, though,  didn’t end up buying anything.  That’s because I realized quickly how many players were just walking through the hallway!

I’d gotten some blank autograph cards from my wife for Christmas (yes, she is amazing) and quickly got one out when I saw Pineda walking through.  I asked him, and he signed the back of the card quick and headed on.  I’d managed to get one of the players I’d missed earlier! I like Pineda because he was a former Mariner, and now a Twin, so I can root for him again.  This is an astute signing by the front office.  He can be really tough when on and came at a cheaper price tag.  We won’t see him this year but the year after he’ll be a big part of the rotation.

Then after that, I turn around and browse a bit more but less than two minutes later Fernando Rodney comes walking through.  I managed to get out another card and he signed it quick, and it turned out great even though he had to do it quickly.  I’d brought an 8 x 10 photo of him I’d taken at the 2014 All-Star Game for the official signing but wasn’t going to try and hand that to him in the hallway.  Hopefully, the Twins can keep him one more year so he’ll return to TwinsFest – then he’ll be a top priority for that 8 x 10.   Thank you to Michael Pineda and Fernando Rodney!  I also got Kyle Gibson on one of these cards.

But that wasn’t all.  I happened to be browsing right when Rod Carew came out of, I think, the HoF photo opportunity.  He did sign for a woman right in front of me who was literally saying she was shaking afterward.  I asked him as politely as possible but I think the crowd was too big at that point, and he politely said no.  I backed off right away and stepped aside.  People were polite and kind as he was trying to leave, and he chatted amiably but I think wanted to get home fast.  It was pretty amazing being that close to a legend like Mr. Carew!

A smiling Jack Morris

Smiling Jack Morris

Next was probably the most fun moment of the night.  I was walking down the hallway again, just me when all of a sudden I realize Jack Morris is heading my direction.  Just him and me in the hall.  I didn’t have a card out at the time (I had just visited the yard sale).  So I quickly asked if he would take a photograph with me.  He politely agreed and was quite patient as I tried to position my phone for a selfie (I’m not very good at taking them, I rarely do).  I finally take the shot and it turned out great.  He’s smiling in the shot, and I didn’t block any of the shot with my thumb!

This continues what is now apparently a tradition for me.  Last year I got lucky and got a similar photograph with Michael Cuddyer.  The previous year, Joe Mauer! All in the hallway near the card show.  This is what I love about TwinsFest, these unscripted moments.  One can plan as much as possible but I always am ready for them with my phone/camera at hand and some easy items for signatures.  That’s what I recommend for these.  My autograph notebook worked really well for these moments.  I found the notebook itself for $5 at Target and used painters tape to attach the card to the pages.  It worked quite well.

One more legend of the night: Tom Kelly

At this point, I was about ready to call it an evening and drive back home.  As I was headed out I noticed someone else walking through, an older gentleman.  It took a moment but I realized it was none other than Tom Kelly.  He was super nice and took a ball from a younger kid as we walked through, asking him where he wanted it signed.  He signed for a couple other kids and for me as well.  I made sure to point out two kids next to me with balls – he signed for them as well, and then called it a night and slipped through the door to go home.

Tom Kelly

What a night for this collector!  I will be back next year for sure and much more to come.


Time for an autograph: 2018 subzero through the mail report and the Minneapolis Miracle in the desert


The last weeks in Minnesota were just freezing.  The kind of air that makes your face hurt and speed your steps to get out of it as fast as possible.  Don’t ever forget a hat because the slightest wind will make your ears sting.  That happened to me the other day.

This is the weather where I actually debate going to check the mailbox for a return.  Once or twice I’ve stayed inside because it got that bad.

An epic Monday

More often than not, though, I’ve had good success to start the year.  On one epic Monday,  I got Raghib Ismail, Eric Staal, and Mike Neu, head coach of Ball State. Staal signed 2/2 and the Rockets signature turned out great. Staal took about a month and the Rocket closer to 3.  The address is in Sports Card Forum. I sent coach Neu (or his office) an email and got the photo and note back.  I love it when a return doesn’t cost any postage! Thank you, coach and Ball State for taking the time.  I have no personal connection but might just start following them more next year.  That’s the way to earn fans!

Near the middle of the same week, I got Robert Parrish back, 2/2.  Interestingly enough he signed it two different ways.  One “stacked” and one not.  Told him he’d replied to a TTM of mine as a kid and thanked him for that.  Again, thank you, Mr. Parrish, for being such a great long time signer!


This came right before a trip to AZ for my Grandmas funeral.  She passed last year this was when we could all get together for the first time, The grandkids and cousins who she impacted so much.  Luckily I’d made an interview and recording of her so we were able to play that and hear her laughing again.  It was a tough goodbye with lots of tears but I’m glad I got to go.  We had a wonderful hike through the desert in honor of my Grandma afterward.  I got a good chance to think about her and her life, and how much she meant to me.  I will forever love her and do what I can to honor her throughout my life.

This is a favorite shot of mine from that hike.


Minneapolis Miracle in the Desert 

The day ended well with the amazing Minneapolis Miracle! After the hike, I got to watch the game in my hotel room for a bit, then join my dad for a drink at the bar nearby.  We were going to dinner at six – which ended up being right as the game was ending.  I was literally refreshing Twitter as my dad drove us over to try and find out what was happening.  I got lucky and was able to catch the last minute at The Parish in Tuscon, where we had dinner that night.  I made a few friends at the bar.  The friendliest ended up being the musician for the night.  Very nice man, easy to talk to.   I have to include a photo of him, taken as we left.


Crazy Vikings fan

I was jumping up and down like crazy at that final play.  Never saw anything like it.  Paul Allen said it best.  A Minneapolis Miracle.  That doesn’t happen to the Vikings.  To my teams.  Ever.  I could barely breathe and for the longest time didn’t think it had happened.  My cousin’s fiancé – great guy – made sure I was alive as the Vikings started their last drive and gave a big hug at the end.  Then it was time for an excellent meal of Drunken Angel pasta.  It had crayfish. Shrimp. Angel hair pasta cooked in red wine.  Enough said.  It was a really good way to end an emotional, tough day.  The Vikings won and gave me that.  Another reason I’ll always be a fan.  Even more than before.  They gave me something poignantly special that night after my Grandma’s funeral.  A firm belief that good things will happen after tough times.  Even to teams like the Vikings.


The kindness of strangers 

I flew back the next day from 75 degrees to below zero and snow and wind.  I wore my Vikings jersey back and had several people congratulate me on the win.  The game definitely impacted the national consciousness of sports fans.  Everyone I met was kind and encouraging about it.  Sometimes humanity really can be kind and affirming to strangers.  When I got back I another return waiting for me, Mike Timlin.  That dude has been on more championship teams then I realized.  This one got a bit smudged coming out of the top loader.  I’m not sure I’ll be sending top loaders again.


Vintage hockey autographs

Even better than that, this week I got some amazing vintage hockey autographs from my good friend Curtis at Autograph Blog.  These are some great photographs and great signatures of guys that played the game well.  I’m really grateful for the package.  It came at an appropriate time to, as hockey season starts to gear up again.  He also sent me a Jason Grilli signed photo as a Jay.

Fan favorite Steve Mix

Same day as the package from Curtis, I got back a signed Steve Mix.  I sent because I’ve had the card a while and I think it’s one of my oldest basketball cards.  I’ve got a Bob Quick that’s older.  I also like the design and when I looked him up I admired how he’s handled retirement, becoming an usher, and I knew I’d have liked to see him play.  So I sent and told him so, and got this back.


So that’s an update on my TTM returns so far.  From the Rocket to Steve Mix it’s been an astounding start to the year.  The cards and generosity of the hobby community and CardBoardMafia always seem to come through at the right time.  And so did the Vikings.  I’ll always remember that and the time I saw the Vikes Miracle win in the desert.

Next step will be to do some TTMs with my son in the coming weeks and get going on that project with him.

My next post will either be about a TTM I got through Royal Mail from England or TwinsFest! I will be there this Friday night by myself for autographs, and on Saturday with my boys.   This is the weekend of baseball that gets me over the hump of freezing Minnesota winters.

Unwrapping a childhood in boxes: A State of the Hobby Review


This past year I received my baseball card collection in stacks of boxes from my home in Seattle. I still remember racing home that day to haul those boxes inside.  It was a warm summer day (heat seems so far away in the middle of January!) as I walked up to our path and saw my boxes.  It felt like my childhood had arrived and I couldn’t help but smile as I got them in the house.  Going through these was going to be a lot of fun. I had started seeing others posting about the hobby and TTM – through the mail requests – and decided I wanted to jump in and share my experience unboxing my childhood years in cardboard.  I’d done some autograph requests as a kid.  I still remember holding my 1991 Upper Deck Tom Glavine autograph in its top loader, sitting on the window sill at my house, reading a think fantasy novel.  I’d used it as a bookmark and it just brought me joy to have nearby.  I still have that card and it remains one of my favorite all-time successes.  I remember it well because it was also one of my first ones.  I didn’t get too many out per month as a kid but it was steady.  I also got guys like Andy Ashby, Benji Gil,  Luis Gonzalez, Charles Johnson, Ramon Martinez, Brad Ausmus, and Bill Pusiphier back then.

So as I started going through these boxes I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to get back into doing mail requests.  Seeing requests online encouraged me that it was still worth it.

My main inspiration for doing so was Dub Mentality, Autograph Blog, and TTM Requests on Twitter.  I had no idea if anybody would read this or care.  It’s remarkable but I think there are a few people out there who actually read my posts.  I’m not sure why.  But thank you very much for doing so!

Pausing one dream to start another

My hobby year started in midsummer with those boxes.  With their arrival, I decided it was time to rejoin the hobby that had brought me so much joy as a kid.  I needed it as I was doing my best to put aside another dream, that of writing a novel.  The distraction of cards would help.  And blog writing could be another form of creative expression.  I wasn’t sure if it would work.  I’ve tried giving up novel writing before and haven’t succeeded.  It’s a form of writing that takes a lot of time, effort, and involvement, and is hard to stop and start.  Right now I just can’t take on that kind of project as a dad with a full-time job taking classes for an MBA.  I’ll get back to the writing.  I still have a story to get out, one I haven’t quite figured out how to tell yet.  I’ve written four bad books (fantasy and mystery).  I’ve put that aside for now and I’m at peace with it.  Because I have the blog writing as an outlet along with my photography, and the amazing online hobby community starting to become known as CardBoardMafia.   Since starting the blog I’ve made many friends online and have formed a new dream.  I’m going to be starting a photography company down the road.  For sports and landscapes.  So that’s a new dream.  To build my photography company, and share the journey with everyone in the hobby community.   It continues this Spring with a Financial Accounting class.  That will be a switch – from writing novels to learning to account!

From the flagship to the shiny

On to the hobby.  This past year I didn’t have a plan for my hobby purchasing.  It was the first year I’d really consistently bought anything new.  It started with my first full hobby box around my birthday.  I chose to get the flagship product, Topps 2017.   I had the thought that I might use this set for mail requests at the time.  This was before I was really ready to jump in.  I didn’t end up using many of these cards for the mail because of the surfaces.  They do take a fair amount of prep to get ready to sign.  There are other card sets out there that don’t, like Topps Heritage.   This is really the only drawback to the main flagship Topps 2017 set from my perspective.  The surface isn’t autograph friendly.  However, the price point for the box was not prohibitive and I had a blast going through it.  This was a good starting point for getting back into the hobby.  The set is large with a good checklist which is something I remembered from my old junk wax 1990s sets.

After this purchase, I didn’t buy any big boxes for a while.  I had the budget of a Dad, after all.  Still, I’m lucky enough that this translates to about two blaster boxes of cards each month.

Aaron Judge.jpg

Topps Chrome and the Judge chasing

After the flagship purchase was Chrome.  The summer was in full force and so was the Aaron Judge chase.  I’ll admit I wasn’t sure I’d like this product at first.  I bought it with some hope of pulling a Judge.  I think we all did.  I try not to chase the hot rookie like that but it’s part of the hobby, and is fun, to an extent.  Chrome grew on me quickly.  It uses the exact same photographs as the main set but the shiny factor overtakes that potentially boring aspect.  I decided I liked it a lot.  This harkens back to when I was a kid.  Some of my favorite cards are old holographic inserts from Upper Deck.  Sets like the 1993 Upper Deck Then and Now set.  These feature a headshot of a star player like Tony Gwynn or Ryan Sandberg against a shiny holo of a city landscape.  I love these cards and the shine.  Chrome recalled this for me and I bought a few more blasters of this product than I thought I would.  I didn’t pull the Aaron Judge from this set but did get a Bellinger, and a Yoan Moncada.  This was about the time Judge had been really hot but was starting to perhaps fade just a tad.  At this time I was still on the fence about Judge.  I thought he’d end up more like Kevin Mass.   He may still do so.  Even if he does I’ll always remember the summer of Judge.  My Judge pulls ended up coming from individual packs of Topps Archives.  I never got a full blaster of this product and wish I’d done so.  But I still did pretty well.  In one pack I pulled a gorgeous Steve Avery autograph.  It pairs perfectly with that Tom Glavine and another Steve Avery autograph I got as a kid.  In fact, I got John Smoltz as well as a kid and traded for an upgrade online this summer.  So from that killer Braves rotation, I just need a Greg Maddux.  That’s going to be a goal this year for me, to acquire one.  But this a tangent.

Judge Karma with Archives

My luck with Judge was in Archives, as I pulled the 68 version and the mini version of the Judge rookies.  Both solid cards.  I also later acquired from the kindness of Howling Fury some early Judge Bowman cards, so I am well covered.   These aren’t investment pieces but collection pieces.  I feel like I need to have a decent representation of his base rookies, just because of who he was over the summer.   He was the Kevin Mass of this year (hopefully with staying power).  What I’m trying to say is he was the hot fun rookie of the year.  His surge took me back to when I was a kid, chasing down rookies and prospects and having a blast.  So thank you to Mr. Judge for adding fun to the hobby summer.

I remember that after the Judge mania Bellinger became hot again.  I didn’t pull as many of his cards this past year.  In fact, I think I got just the Topps Chrome version.   Still a good card to have.

Aaron Judge has gotten numerous awards but I think I’ll name him the “best Kevin Mass impersonator” and thank him for the fun of chasing his cards.  I do think he’ll have staying power if he can perhaps cut down on some strikeouts.

National Baseball Card Day

I thought this was a really fun promotion this year.  The cards were well designed.   I made a 90-minute trek up to a favorite shop in the Twin Cities with my boys to make sure I got my pack.  Pulled Kris Bryant, Corey Seager, and Francisco Lindor.  I hope this expands in 2018.  Free promotions like this can only help bring people in.  I just wish the odds on an autograph were a bit better.  Increasing those odds and giving more chances for kids to pull something big can only help!

Bowman Prospect hunting and Bargain Blasters

From there I shifted to buying some Bowman blasters.  I was lucky enough to find some of the Bowman Chrome mega boxes.  No autographs but I did pull some lower numbered parallels like a Franklin Barreto Green 62/99, and some of the Purples out of 250 (Jack Flarety, Tyler O’Neil, Bradley Zimmer Talent Pipeline).  I got a Rhys Hoskins base RC and some of the other main rookies like Glyeber Torres.  One never really knows about Bowman right away.  I liked the product but not sure I’ll invest much in it in 2018.  There’s just a bit too much risk with Bowman blasters.  It may be worth getting a full box of it, though, to guarantee some autographs at least.

At about this time I also started paying attention to the bargain blasters at Target, priced at $15.   These ended up being a lot of fun. I found some 2015 Panini Colliegiete Contenders boxes.  The best autograph I pulled was a Phillip Pheifer out of 99 and an Adam Brett Walker III, former Twins prospect.  He has prodigious power but hasn’t made it to the bigs yet.  These were fun because there are cards of star players in college uniforms (Randy Johnson, Will Clark, Dave Winfield, John Elway to name a few).  I highly recommend glancing through the bargain blasters whenever you make a Target run.  The 2015 Panini Collegiate Contenders get my award for the best bargain buy.  Three baseball autographs at $15 are something I can’t pass up, and the design is superb and doesn’t feel cheap.  See this post for more about my pulls.

GOGTS Live Hobby Show

I discovered this show near the second half of the summer, I think.  I’ve watched it religiously ever since.  They’ve been pulling in bigger and bigger audiences and it’s been fun to see.  Rob and Ivan spend about two hours or more each Thursday night talking the hobby and breaking boxes, giving away some great cards.  I won once early on but no luck since.  It’s been months, hah.  Oh well.  The fun aspect is their attitude.  They clearly love the hobby and want to keep collectors informed.  So I watch as often as I can.  Their Christmas special was nuts with the giveaways.  I, unfortunately, missed their end of year awards show due to being sick in bed.   It makes each Thursday night fun and helps me get through to Friday!

CardBoardMafia and HobbyLove

The online community shines.   This has made getting back into the hobby so much fun.  I remember one week this year where I got a package in the mail each day from members of the community.   Trades, or just kindness.  This is one thing I have seen over and over.  The kind, helpful nature of the community.  Everyone really wants to help each other out.  It’s fun sending cards to each other.  I’ll have a stack of random Tigers cards lying in my collection gathering dust.  They’ll mean much more to someone else if I send them out.  I’ve gotten Twins cards in the mail and Mariners cards.  I collect both teams and it’s really fun coming back after a long work day to a stack of new team cards. Everyone has those tough days where cards are the best therapy. There’s something just calming and relaxing about going through a stack and looking for autograph guys or just sorting.  It’s meditative and helps with mindfulness and the staying in the present.   One of the biggest acts of HobbyLove I saw was Robert Ballis sending DubMentality a Frank Thomas signed jersey after one of his posts.  Dub mentioned he’d love to own a Frank Thomas autograph, and Robert sent it on to Dub just like that.  This still sticks with me and is something I try to emulate.  It’s my personal top random act of kindness for the year.  Bravo.  I can’t give away jerseys but I can give out autographs and cards.

The CardBoardMafia is a core group of collectors that hang out on Twitter chatting the hobby.   This is where we are now.  Howling Fury on Twitter came up with the name and it’s a great descriptor for the group.  I wrote about it in a previous post.  We’re brothers helping each other out and encouraging kindness in this hobby we all love so much.  It’s about the joy in the cardboard, and being there as a safe group to talk about the stresses of daily life.   That’s what this hobby is.  It’s a place of joy that can heal the pains of the day-to-day.

2018 Goals

My first big goal for 2018 will be to involve my oldest son more directly with TTM.  I’ll deliberately take time on weekends with him to start opening his box of 1990 Upper Deck, search for players, and write letters to him.  It’ll be a great way to help him with handwriting and composition of sentences.  The other fun part of this will be to tie in geography. We’ll track successes on a map of the US.  That’s the idea, at least.

I also want to focus more on Mariners and Twins autographs, in particular, TTM for the mid 90s Mariners teams and the 1995 team. I’ll also trade for any autographs from that team as they seem a bit difficult to get.

I love 1993 Upper Deck as a set and will continue to get those signed.  But I also love just getting pretty, well-designed cards signed as well that Aren’t part of any set.  This helps keep things fun.

Another goal of mine will be to obtain a certified auto of Ken Griffey Jr, my all-time favorite player.  The only auto I have is faded and I’m unsure its real.  If anyone has any available please let me know.

Hobby in 2018

I really like what I’ve seen in the hobby this year after being away for so long.  Topps has done a solid job stewarding the hobby, but I really hope some other manufacturers can get a license.  I like some things Panini does but not others and we all heard about the issues they’ve had.  We need another official company back.  And I’d love to see Topps doing football cards again.

I really hope to see more involvement with National Baseball Card Day and other promotions.  It’s a great way to offer young collectors something fun and to give them a shot at a great autograph, even if it’s a small chance.  Good job Topps with this!

One other reason I do TTM is I’ve noticed the few times I’ve tried to do autographs in person at a park, it’s been really difficult.  This is Target Field.  I haven’t had a chance to try others and I followed a guy on Twitter who got to try multiple parks and did seem to have some success.  But in person graphing seems to be a lot more difficult than I remember.  It will likely remain this way with the negative impressions Autograph collecting can garner.  It’s so important for all of us to act in a courteous, polite manner for this reason.  It just takes one bad experience for a player to quit.

Another thing I want to see improved.  Initials syndrome. GoGTS Live talked about this on their show, how athletes these days seem to have poor autos.  I think instead of calling out and shaming athletes for bad signatures, let’s try to highlight the good ones.  Maybe this way some current athletes might want to try and change their autographs. I write more about this in this post.

Favorite TTMs

I’m going to close this post with my favorite TTMs from 2017.

Carl Erskine.  This is my favorite one for sure.   I got an awesome note from him with a fun inscription.  I highlight the letter in this post.  I’ll be framing this somehow with the card, which turned out great as well but is almost secondary to the letter!

Walter Ioos Jr.jpg

Walter Ioos Jr.  This means a lot to me.  I love his photography and his 93 UD set.  He was a big part of my inspiration to start photography.   I write about that here.

Will Clark.  This was one of my first TTM successes this year.  I loved him as a kid and really wanted him on the Mariners, of course. His signature turned out great.

Turk Wendell.jpg

Turk Wendell.  I love his quirks as a player and a great auto on a really fun card.  One of my favorites for sure!

Shaq! Not sure these are real, but they look cool.  I’ve heard mixed reports about these autographs. I sent to Mine O Mine Company.  If not real, oh well! Still worth a try.

Al MacInnis.  This is on the list because of the card and the autograph turned out great.  I’ve had the card since I pulled it from one of the few hockey packs I bought way back.  So it’s sentimental with good design and a great photo.  And he signed it in just the right spot so you can see it easily!

Chad Brown.  I love the inscription on this one. Thank you for taking the time!

That’s a wrap on my 2017.  It’s been so much fun to get back into this hobby.  I’m going to make up for lost time this year!

Happy collecting everyone!

Then and Now: Gene Larkin and Royce Lewis

Today was one of those fun Friday mail days, appropriate as we get closer to TwinsFest.  It’s been freezing in Minnesota since December 22nd and I’m so ready for it to be over.  This is the time of year when I always start thinking about Spring Training baseball and warm days.  I know it’s actually a long way off…but inching closer!

It was a Twins mailday.  Two from Gene Larkin World Series hero, and two from possibly (hopefully) a future World Series star, Royce Lewis! In the letter I told him I’d be taking my boys to TwinsFest and hoped to meet him and get them a signature for their collection.  It’d be fun for them to have that and watch Royce’s career.

Thank you Royce for taking the time to sign the photo and card, and inscribing both to the Kent family.  It’s very refreshing to see a young player take the time to sign and answer mail.  This was a very quick and fun return to get 2018 going! And also thank you to Mr. Larkin.