Who doesn't love baseball cards? I remember them well as a kid. Nothing could compete to dragging old shoe boxes down from an attic full of cards. I'd knock off the dust from the lid and peek at whatever treasure was inside. Sometimes it was Fleer or Upper Deck cards from the early or mid 1990s and other times it was cards from the 60s or 70s that my dad gave to me. No matter what era they were from, I appreciated them all the same. I spent hundreds of hours as a kid cataloging the thousands of cards I'd collected growing up. I alphabetized them, separated them by team, and some of them were even put into protector sheets and into binders. I learned a lot about the game and grew to love the fashionable uniforms and various facial hairstyles from the 1970s.
During summer break I'd go willingly with my mom out on errands with the hope that we would be making a stop by a store that sold baseball cards. We'd go to the bank, the pharmacy, and other boring places that every 10-year-old kid hates to go but sure enough we would wind up at Big Lots or K-mart and I would be in heaven. She would immediately go to whatever area of the store that brought her there but I had more important things to peruse. Typically I'd find the baseball card displays near the front of the store (sometimes behind glass) and I would spend as much time as my mom would let me studying the cards available. The brand names like Pinnacle, Fleer, Topps, and Upper Deck graced the boxes and packaging in metallic fonts. It was hard to decide what cards I would get but what little money I had in my pocket at that time usually made the decision simple enough: whatever I could afford was what I got. Typically I got the small packs of 10 since I rarely had enough for a whole box. Sometimes I would buy some Big League Chew if I had enough left over.
My mom always told me not to open up things I purchased in the store. Furthermore she preferred I did not open anything until I got home (I'm assuming this was to prevent any mess in the car) so I sat patiently in the back seat with my little brother onward into town until mom's errands for the day were finished. I would wonder what 10 cards were in my bag between my ankles in the floor. Would it be another friggin' Kelly Mann card? Sure he was pretty good. And yes, the Atlanta Braves were (and still) my favorite MLB team. But I had at least a dozen Kelly Mann cards. But he was no Chipper Jones or David Justice - I had no need for so many cards of just one guy I did not idolize as a player. Perhaps it would be cards I did not have yet with players I did not know who would be up-and-comers that would make the card a cherished item later in life.
Finally, we would get home and I would naturally want to race to my room to discover what cards I had but not before helping mom in with groceries and other sundry items we had accumulated throughout our trip. At last I'd get to my room and shut the door behind me so my brother would not see my cards and want to steal or trade them. I'd open the packaging and smell the distinct smell of trading cards and catch a glimpse of myself in the silver shimmery material that comprised the inside of the wrapper and then I'd see 10 crisp baseball cards begging to be looked at. I did not know much about drugs then but cards were my addiction and the time had finally come. The fix was in. I shuffled through the cards. "Cripes," I said. "Another Kelly Mann card."
I'm unsure as if collecting baseball cards is still a normal hobby for young boys these days - I rather doubt it. But spending all those hours toiling over which cards to buy and deciding what I would do with them once I did get them really determined how I would shop in adulthood. I don't think that it was as useless of a hobby as some said when I was growing up. Maybe it is useless, I don't know. But I liked it a lot and I always wanted to be on a baseball card when I was young. Since I was in no way good enough to make it to the majors (let alone junior varsity) I can settle for being on a wiffleball card instead. It may not come in shiny packaging for a ridiculous sum and my automated autograph on the front but it's enough for me. I decided to do the same for everyone who played this season and I hope everyone enjoys their cards. Perhaps you can print yours off on some card-stock paper and put it in a shoe box with some baseball cards. You'll forget about it and put it in the attic and a young family member might see it years later and be blown away or maybe they'll equate it to a Kelly Mann card - you never know, kids these days.