Getting back up from love

July 3, 2008 at 1:17 am | Posted in Introduction | 4 Comments

People fall in love. When they stop loving someone or something, why do people say that they “fall out of love”? If you’ve fallen in love, then if you fall even further, wouldn’t that mean that you’re even more deeply in love? If you keep falling, I don’t see how you can fall “out” of love. So when someone stops loving something, I like to say that they’re getting back up from love. In 1994 I got back up from my love of baseball card collecting.

I’ve mentioned a few times now that I would write a post about the reasons why I left the baseball card hobby in 1994 and didn’t jump all the way back in until 2008. Before reading this, I’d recommend reading my introductory post for more information about my collecting history. Here’s what I wrote about the time when I left the hobby:

By 1994, I had a collection of thousands of cards. I worked as a paper boy and I cut grass for my neighbors, and almost all of the money that I earned was spent on cards. I took the most pride in my Yankees cards, especially the ones of my favorite player and childhood hero, Don Mattingly. By 1994, I had about 200 of his cards, which I kept in a special binder.

There were many factors that led to the decline of my interest in collecting, and I plan to write a lot more about those reasons in future posts. But the single most important factor was the terrible event that began on August 11, 1994, a date that will forever live in infamy for me. That was the start of the Major League Baseball players strike of 1994-1995 that wiped out the 1994 World Series. Just like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius effectively ended the civilization at Pompeii, the strike led to a huge decline in my interest in baseball, and I gave up card collecting.

The strike did have a huge impact in causing my interest in baseball and baseball cards to decline. But when I reflect on this, I realize that there is much more to the story. I think that even if the strike didn’t happen, I would have started to buy much fewer cards after the 1994 season. The baseball card industry changed too much and too fast in the early 1990s. Here is what I didn’t like:

  1. Too many sets. In my first few years of collecting, 1984-1986, I only had Topps cards. I didn’t even realize that Donruss and Fleer existed. I discovered them in 1987. I remember initially thinking that Donruss and Fleer cards were somehow “fake”. After all, Topps proclaimed on its packs that it was that it was “the Real one!”. I eventually warmed up to Donruss and Fleer, and I loved Score when it debuted in 1988. I liked Upper Deck when it came out in 1989, but didn’t buy much of it since its packs cost a seemingly astronomical $1.

    When the premium sets started to come out (Leaf in 1990, Stadium Club and Ultra in 1991) I still made sure that I bought at least a few packs of every set each year. I understood the purpose of the premium sets and even the super premium sets. It made sense when every company had one regular set, one premium set, and one super premium set. There was Topps – Stadium Club – Finest, Donruss – Leaf – Leaf Limited, Fleer – Ultra – Flair, Collector’s Choice – Upper Deck – SP, and there was Score and Pinnacle (though I’m not sure that they really had a super premium product). I understood the niches that Studio and Bowman were trying to fill. The first set that I really questioned was Score Select in 1993. What exactly was the purpose of that set? Then I wondered why Topps needed to have Bowman’s Best and why Sportflics was coming back.

    By 1994, it was tedious to buy at least a pack from every set that came out. I didn’t care about most of the sets. I couldn’t figure out which ones were worth collecting. I tried to figure out which sets would be the most valuable in 20 years. I concluded that it would be the super premiums, but they were too expensive for me to collect. So I decided to collect the premium sets and bought a box of 1994 Stadium Club, but wound up hating the cards because of their ugly design.

  2. Topps Finest. When I was a kid, my goal was to collect every Don Mattingly card that was ever produced. I couldn’t afford to buy his 1984 rookie cards, so my collection was always incomplete. In late 1993, I went to a card show and saw Topps Finest cards for the first time. I was stunned to see packs containing only six cards selling for way too much money. I can’t remember if it was $5 per pack or $10, but it was much more than I was willing to pay for a pack of cards, especially one that contained so few cards. I saw a single Mattingly card from 1993 Finest selling for $15. I was disgusted. Why should people have to pay almost as much as they would pay for a Mattingly rookie to get a card made in 1993? Then I heard about the refractors and became totally intimidated by Topps Finest. I refused to buy any cards from it. I hated that a set was being produced that was so expensive that I was forced to ignore it.
  3. Inserts. In 1993 and 1994, collectors were going crazy for inserts. They sold for much more money than “base cards”, which was a term that wasn’t even necessary before this period. Like Topps Finest, many inserts were selling for more money than I could afford. They also caused people to devalue the base cards. I wondered why I should spend money trying to build sets of base cards when the inserts were what people really wanted. With each set that came out, there were more and more inserts. My frustration kept increasing.
  4. Rookie cards before players were rookies. In the early 1990s, the card companies seemed to battle each other to produce the first rookie cards of players. This probably came about because Topps and Score didn’t include cards of Ken Griffey, Jr. in their regular sets in 1989, which caused collectors to spend their money on Donruss, Fleer, and Upper Deck that year. No one wanted to miss out like that again. So every set contained cards of draft picks and low-level minor leaguers that I’d never heard of. Some of these cards, including many Derek Jeter draft pick cards that I collected in 1993, became valuable, but many sets were cluttered with no-name players who would never even reach the major leagues. I opened a pack of Bowman one year and barely recognized any of the players. That was no fun. And by the time a player would start having a good rookie year, their rookie card was already a few years old, so no one could ever “look forward” to getting the first cards from the best rookies.
  5. Falling prices of cards from the 1980s and understanding their over-production. This was one of the most discouraging things that I learned about in the early 1990s. When I started collecting in the 1980s, I dreamed that the cards that I was collecting would one day be as valuable as the cards that my dad collected in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I figured that by the time I was an adult, they would be worth a ton of money. Obviously, that will never be the case. In the 1990s I was older and learned about economics. I learned about how cards were massively overproduced, and the high supply ensured that they would never be valuable. In addition, kids were now saving and protecting the condition of their cards, so they would never become more rare. In hindsight, this should have been obvious, but I was very disappointed when I first realized that the cards that I collected and treasured from the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s would never be valuable.

So as you can see, I had a lot of mounting frustrations with the baseball card industry by 1994. The strike was probably just the straw that broke the camel’s back. It gave me a good reason to stop collecting cards. But if I wasn’t frustrated because of all of the things that I’ve mentioned here, I probably would have continued collecting after the strike.

After buying a few cards in early 1995, I didn’t buy another card until around the time that I graduated from college in 2001. I put all of my old cards in a box and hardly ever looked at them again. In 2001, I got a job that paid me more money than I ever had before, so I slowly started building my Mattingly collection again. It wasn’t until 2008 that I would become a collector of new cards once again.

Today in 2008, the baseball card hobby is vastly different than it was in the 1980s, and even very much different than it was in the mid-1990s. There are still some big problems, but they are problems that I’ve decided that I can live with. There is also a lot that has gotten better, and I can expound upon that later.

Update: A day later, I realized that I totally forgot to mention another huge factor that led to the decline of my interest in baseball card collecting. I turned 15 in 1994. Thoughts about girls, driving, working at my part-time job, and what college to go dominated my brain, and baseball cards fell by the wayside. Mostly I thought about girls though. And I didn’t think that many girls would be impressed by my large baseball card collection. It probably isn’t a coincidence that after I got married and didn’t have to worry about girls anymore, baseball card collecting re-entered my life…

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342 hits and counting

June 25, 2008 at 1:39 am | Posted in Introduction | 2 Comments

I’m proud to report that after 10 days of existence, the hit count for Fielder’s Choice Baseball Card Blog stands at 342. That number is dwarfed in comparison to more established blogs, but considering that I haven’t really done any promotion or outreach to other blogs (which I plan to do), I’m pleased.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Mario from Wax Heaven as the majority of my hits have come from his blog. Mario has plugged Fielder’s Choice a couple of times and I’ve also gotten a bunch of hits from the link to my blog that appears in the comments that I’ve left at Wax Heaven. Also, thanks to Treasure Never Buried, For The Love Of Baseball, and Cardboard Junkie for linking to Fielder’s Choice. If anyone else has linked to me, then I definitely appreciate it; I just haven’t noticed it yet.

A bigger thrill than the hit count was doing a Google search this morning for “Fielder’s Choice” and finding this blog as the 10th result. Then this evening I did the same search and it was up to the 7th result! Things certainly move quickly with Google!

Stay tuned for more great things from Fielder’s Choice and let me know if you have any feedback, positive or negative. Up next will be the conclusion of my baseball stadium countdown, a post on the reasons why I left The Hobby in 1994, and my special commentary on the good side and the dark side of Josh Hamilton. I’ll also be actively seeking trades to complete my 2008 Topps Heritage set soon, and I’ll be asking for some help to locate some very hard-to-find Don Mattingly cards that I need.

Finally, I want to thank all of the people who have left comments to my posts. Seeing your comments makes taking the time to write the posts worth it, and I hope that the number of comments only increases as time goes on. Also, if anyone out there is thinking about starting their own baseball or baseball card blog, I would encourage you to go for it. It’s been a lot of fun blogging so far!

What’s to come

June 17, 2008 at 12:40 am | Posted in Introduction | 2 Comments

If you’re reading this blog, I’m sure that you’ve noticed that my first few posts are somewhat lengthy. That’s by design, as I wanted to write a few introductory posts for the blog so that my future readers will have something to read about who I am and what motivated me to start this blog. I’ll probably even have a few more posts like that this week.

But I also want you to know what to expect in the future …

1. Pictures! I know that I love seeing pictures of cards and other baseball-related things in other blogs. I have an old scanner and I need to try to get it to work with my current computer. I bought it in 2001 when I ran Windows Me on my computer; anyone remember Windows Me? Anyway, I remember that I was barely able to get the scanner to work with Windows XP, and now that my laptop runs Windows Vista, I’d be shocked if my scanner will work. I may need to buy a new one so that I can start scanning some cards for future posts.

2. Posts about my ideas for improving the baseball card hobby / industry. I love baseball cards, but I find myself constantly thinking of things that Topps and Upper Deck could do to make them even better. Until now, I have kept these thoughts to myself, but I plan to start a series of posts about my ideas for improving baseball cards.

3. Posts about the Rays, my collection of Rays cards, and my Don Mattingly collection. I will probably also be asking for help in finding some of the obscure Mattingly cards that I still need.

4. Posts about my thoughts on some of the great sets of 2008 and some of the not-so-great sets, complete with pictures of some of my pulls.

5. A page on the blog with my want list and cards that I have that I’d be willing to trade to obtain those cards. My goal is to start making more trades for cards and reduce the amount of money that I spend to get cards.

Thanks for reading … the best is yet to come!

Seriously? You must be kidding me!

June 17, 2008 at 12:00 am | Posted in Introduction, Rays | 4 Comments

The line that I am using as the title of this post is one that I hear often. I hear it every time I tell someone that I am a Tampa Bay Rays fan, or as they were known until November of 2007, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

I am hoping that I won’t hear as much astonishment in peoples’ voices now that the Rays are having a winning season. But in the past, people had a very difficult time understanding how someone could avidly cheer for a team that had losing records the first 10 years of their existence, never won more than 70 games, and only finished out of last place one time, when they finished barely ahead of the Blue Jays in 2004.

I do love explaining the reasons why I am such a huge fan of the team, even if I can be a little long-winded about it. So I figure that I will explain it here in my blog for all of the folks in cyberspace who are wondering how an average guy in North Carolina became a fan of the lovable losers from Florida.

To properly tell my tale, I have to start at the beginning, before the birth of the Devil Rays in 1998. As I mentioned in my first post here, I grew up as a Yankees fan. Looking back, there were three major reasons why I became a Yankees fan as a youngster in the mid-1980s:

1. They were on TV all the time, first on WPIX, and later on MSG Network. It was easy to become a fan of a team that I could watch regularly.
2. I have always been very interested in baseball history and the Yankees are the central characters in any baseball history books. They were the most storied franchise in the history of sports, having won 22 World Series championships (now 26) and having more stars and Hall of Famers than any other team. I was enthralled by hearing and reading about Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, and many others.
3. I became a huge fan of both Dave Winfield and Don Mattingly. Winfield had the same first name as me and was a consistently great player. Mattingly was the hardest worker in baseball and was smashing the record books. Most importantly, they both were and are genuinely good guys and tremendous role models for a kid to have.

You must understand that being a Yankees fan in the late 1980s and early 1990s was a much different experience than being a Yankees fan today. They were a decent team in the 80s, but far from a powerhouse, having not made the playoffs after 1981. By 1989, they had a losing record, a feat that they repeated four years in a row. 1990 was the low point when the Yankees had the worst record in the American League. I didn’t like the losing, but I did like dreaming that one day the team would regain its past glory and possibly return to the World Series.

When Dave Winfield was traded in 1990 (a move that I vehemently opposed), Don Mattingly became my sole favorite player. Later, I became a huge fan of players like Wade Boggs, Paul O’Neill, Mike Stanley, and others. In 1993, my patience paid off as the Yankees had a winning season and contended for the division title until September. They were even better in 1994, and had the best record in the league in August. And then the strike happened. The World Series was canceled for the first time since 1904 and my dreams of seeing the Yankees play in the postseason were dashed.

Baseball was never the same for me after that. When the strike finally ended in early 1995, I was disappointed to see that the Yankees front office try to improve the team by spending a lot of money on Jack McDowell and John Wetteland rather than going with players who developed in their farm system. The problem got worse with the lopsided David Cone trade at mid-season. I liked the new players, but I didn’t like that the team was being built by George Steinbrenner spending a huge amount of money and pillaging the small market teams. I didn’t watch nearly as many games in 1995 as I had in previous seasons. However, when the Yankees made the playoffs, I was glued to the TV to watch the incredibly exciting series against the Mariners. In the end, Seattle prevailed, but the true heartbreak was yet to come.

George Steinbrenner ruined the Yankees for me after the 1995 season ended. He basically forced my hero, Don Mattingly, into retirement by refusing to re-sign him, and spending big money to bring in Tino Martinez to replace him. I loathed Steinbrenner for the disrespectful way that he treated Mattingly. I also greatly admired the manager, Buck Showalter, and loved the way that he ran the team. Showalter was also forced out and he was replaced by a retread from St. Louis named Joe Torre. I was disgusted and I was sure that the Yankees would never go back to the playoffs with Torre as manager.

Well, I was obviously wrong about Joe Torre. The Yankees won the World Series in 1996. And 1998. And 1999. And 2000. I watched almost no Yankees games in 1996. I was too upset over the way that Mattingly and Showalter were forced out, and I didn’t like how Steinbrenner was building a team by signing stars from other teams to big contracts. I watched all of the 1996 World Series, but it was very bittersweet for me. My childhood dream of a Yankees world championship had come true, but it just didn’t seem right without Don Mattingly there.

With each passing year, I liked the Yankees less and less. When I started college in 1997, I met many “band wagon” Yankees fans who wouldn’t have been able to name three players from the last place 1990 team. Without a favorite team to cheer for, my interest in baseball waned. For the first time, I followed football and hockey more closely than baseball.

In the back of my head, I was looking for a new team to cheer for. I thought about becoming a Diamondbacks fan when they hired Buck Showalter as manager for their first season in 1998, but I just couldn’t get interested in them. I knew that I couldn’t become a fan of a team that was having a really good season, or people would accuse me of jumping on the band wagon. I would rather be insulted in just about any other possible way than to be accused of being a band wagon jumper! It also would be tough to become a fan of an established team and have to learn as much about their history as I knew about the Yankees.

In 2001, I moved to North Carolina and went to my first Durham Bulls games. They were and still are the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays. I immediately loved the stadium and atmosphere at Bulls games and began closely following the players. As players like Toby Hall, Aubrey Huff, and Brent Abernathy were called up to Tampa Bay in 2001, I started to follow their careers and root for their success.

By 2002, I was starting to consider the possibility of becoming a Devil Rays fan. I was attracted to the fact that they had a short history and had never had a winning season. This way, I could never be accused of jumping on the band wagon! I began do research the team and players on the internet. I continued going to Bulls games and saw players like Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli develop in Durham. Then, after the 2002 season, Hal McRae was replaced as manager by Lou Piniella. Lou had been the manager of the Yankees in the late 1980s and I had a huge amount of respect for him.

Finally on Opening Day 2003, I announced to my family and friends that I was officially a Tampa Bay Devil Rays fan! Few people could understand how a former fan of a legendary team like the Yankees could switch allegiances to the Devil Rays. I began to recite the same story to them that you are reading in this post.

I followed the Devil Rays closely in 2003 and bought my first Rays hat and t-shirt. In 2004, I bought the MLB Extra Innings package on cable for the first time and began to watch a ton of their games on TV. In 2005, my wife and I took our first trip to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. With each passing year, my devotion to the team grew, to the point where I became just as big of a Rays fan as an adult as I was a fan of the Yankees when I was a kid. The constant losing was not easy to endure, but I put my hope in the future and the young players that were being developed in the minor leagues.

The team’s direction began to change after 2005 when Stuart Sternberg’s ownership group began running the team. The new group immediately began to make better business decisions and better baseball decisions, putting together an extremely exciting group of young players. Now, in 2008, I am seeing the fruit from my years of being a fan as the Tampa Bay Rays are a winning team contending for the American League East division title! I am loving every minute of it, and I am confident that I will be a Rays fan for life, unless someday the Steinbrenner family buys the team and ruins it in the same way that they ruined the Yankees for me.

So, if you’ve made it to the end of this post, now you know why I am a proud fan of the Tampa Bay Rays!

Happy Father’s Day!

June 16, 2008 at 1:01 am | Posted in Holidays, Introduction | Leave a comment

It’s after midnight now, so technically Father’s Day is over, but it’s been on my mind all day, so the subject of this post will be Father’s Day. The sport of baseball has been going strong in the United States for over 150 years. A huge reason for its continued popularity has been the impact of fathers teaching their sons about the game and sharing their enthusiasm for it.

Though I don’t give my dad nearly enough credit, I must admit that he played a big role in getting me interested in baseball, and baseball cards, when I was a kid. It’s funny to think of now, but when I was a toddler, my dad didn’t think that I’d ever be interested in baseball. That is why he sold his entire baseball card collection (or what he thought was his entire collection at the time) to raise money for a new car when I was three. That is why he went to Rochester Red Wings games and saw Cal Ripken and Don Mattingly play, but didn’t bring me. I was too young to be able to enjoy those games, but years later it would have been very cool to say that I was there to see two of my favorite players before they were stars.

I think I showed my first real interest in baseball when I signed up to play tee ball when I was in first grade in 1986. After that, my dad took me to my first Red Wings game, against the Toledo Mud Hens. I still remember that game and the fact that the San Diego Chicken made an appearance at the ballpark that day. He also helped me to buy many packs of 1986 Topps, showed me how to put the cards in order by number, and how to pick out the star players.

Through the years after that, my dad took me to countless Red Wings games and to many other minor league games around New York State. He took me to my first major league games in Toronto in 1987, against the White Sox and the Yankees. He took me to Toronto a few other times, and later to Yankee Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. He taught me a lot about the game and its history. I first heard names like Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Willie Mays from stories that he told me about baseball from his childhood. He helped me to develop a passion for collecting baseball cards, just as he had done when he was a kid. And, maybe most importantly, he was always willing to go to the backyard for a game of catch.

I don’t think that I realized how great it was that my dad did all of these things for me. I took it for granted. Years later I found out that not every kid got to have these kinds of experiences with their dads. Some kids didn’t even have dads that were around for their childhoods. My relationship with my dad was never perfect. My parents separated in 1991 when I was 12 years old. I blamed my dad for a lot of the bad things that happened to my family, and I wasn’t very fair to him. But now when I look back, I am very grateful for my dad and his major contribution to getting me interested in baseball and baseball cards.

I would be remiss in this post if I did not mention the strong influence that both of my grandfathers had on me too. My mom’s father was a sports writer for the Buffalo Courier Express newspaper, covering the Buffalo Bisons. I don’t think I ever spent a summer day at his house without the TV being tuned to a New York Mets game. He told me a lot of stories about baseball and even gave me some old bats from Buffalo players. He also had season tickets to the Bisons, which I’m pretty sure they sent him for free because of his contributions to the success of baseball in Buffalo. I remember fondly going to games there with him while he snuck in peanuts from the grocery store since he thought that they were too expensive at the stadium. My mom used to always say that I got my love of baseball from my grandfather. He passed away in 1996, but his influence lives on with me. I am proud to say that he was inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996, and his plaque currently hangs at Dunn Tire Park in Buffalo.

My dad’s father has also has had a very positive influence on me. While he never had a baseball-related career, he did fascinate me with stories about Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig when I was a kid. He also managed to save a bunch of baseball cards of star players from the 1950s and 1960s that my dad owned when he was a kid, and he kept them in a box in his basement. One day in the early 1990s, he gave the cards back to my dad, and my dad and I spent some great time together sorting through the cards and looking up their value in Beckett. My dad still has those cards. The experience of looking at those cards is something that I’ll write more about in a future post.

I owe a lot of gratitude to my dad and to both of my grandfathers. They helped me to become a huge fan of baseball and a baseball card collector, but more importantly, they taught me great life lessons over the years, and I am the man that I am today because of them. I look forward to one day having a son (or sons) of my own and sharing my passion for baseball with them.

To all of the fathers out there, happy Father’s Day to you! And thank you for helping to spread the joy of baseball and baseball cards to your children.

In the spirit of this post, here’s a picture of me from my Little League days, circa 1992:

Here we go …

June 14, 2008 at 6:36 pm | Posted in Introduction | 6 Comments

Collecting baseball cards is a great hobby. It’s one that I have enjoyed for a good chunk of my life. I still remember the day in the summer of 1984 when my mom bought me my first ever cards, a rack pack of 1984 Topps in the grocery store. I was not even five years old. Through my childhood, I learned to love the game of baseball. Maybe it was because of my grandfather’s career as a sports writer covering the Buffalo Bisons, a Triple-A team. Maybe it was hearing stories from my dad about the great players from his childhood and the baseball cards that he collected back then. Maybe it was because all of my friends were baseball fans too.

Whatever the cause, baseball was at the forefront of my mind from about 1986 until 1994. I played baseball in my backyard almost every day during the summer. I played tee ball and Little League baseball. I attended more Rochester Red Wings Triple-A games than I can remember. And I became a die hard fan of the New York Yankees. OK, don’t hate me yet – I’m not a Yankees fan anymore! Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s and loving baseball, it was impossible not to be caught up in the whirlwind of excitement around baseball cards.

It was in the 1980s that many people began to realize that baseball cards could be valuable. It was the first time in decades that more than one company produced cards, and for the first time, the cards (and not the gum) became the main reason why people bought packs. The hobby became “The Hobby” and the it was exploding in popularity before my young eyes! In fact, a whole generation of kids were swept up in the excitement and became collectors.

By 1994, I had a collection of thousands of cards. I worked as a paper boy and I cut grass for my neighbors, and almost all of the money that I earned was spent on cards. I took the most pride in my Yankees cards, especially the ones of my favorite player and childhood hero, Don Mattingly. By 1994, I had about 200 of his cards, which I kept in a special binder.

There were many factors that led to the decline of my interest in collecting, and I plan to write a lot more about those reasons in future posts. But the single most important factor was the terrible event that began on August 11, 1994, a date that will forever live in infamy for me. That was the start of the Major League Baseball players strike of 1994-1995 that wiped out the 1994 World Series. Just like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius effectively ended the civilization at Pompeii, the strike led to a huge decline in my interest in baseball, and I gave up card collecting.

I did buy a few cards in early 1995 soon after the strike ended, but my heart just wasn’t in it like it was before. After that, I didn’t set foot in a baseball card shop until 2001 when I found a 1984 Fleer Don Mattingly rookie card that I had always wanted years earlier. This was around the time that I graduated from college, and I decided to spend $20 on the card for nostalgic reasons and because I remembered the card being listed in Beckett for $40 years earlier.

In the summer of 2003, I pulled out my old binder of Don Mattingly cards and decided to try to complete my collection of all of his cards. I discovered the power of using eBay to buy cards that I wanted and I went to the Beckett web site to get a list of all of the Mattingly cards that had ever been made. What I found on the Beckett site was shocking. It turned out that there were over 2000 different cards of Mattingly out there, and the majority of them had come out since 2000! Mattingly had retired after the 1995 season. I did buy some of his post-2000 cards, but ultimately decided to focus only on the cards from his playing days, up to and including cards from 1996.

Since 2003, I have managed to grow my Don Mattingly collection to 923 different cards. I also discovered PSA graded cards and began to buy some graded cards from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. These were mostly cards of Hall of Famers, which I knew would retain their value, or become more valuable, as the years went by, so that I could one day pass a collection of valuable cards to my children. Through it all, I avoided buying any new cards. Even though I was buying some cards after 2003, I didn’t consider myself to be a part of the current “Hobby”.

That changed in early 2008. It began innocently enough when I did some eBay searches for players from my current favorite team, the Tampa Bay Rays. I was surprised to see that I could buy certified autograph cards of some of my favorite players, like Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, and Scott Kazmir for under $10. I decided to go ahead and buy some of these cards. When the cards arrived in the mail, I was especially impressed with one of the cards. It was a 2007 Goudey Graphs card of Carl Crawford. From my earlier days of collecting, I remembered the Goudey sets of the 1930s. Now, Upper Deck had the rights to the Goudey brand. Anyway, I loved the design of the card, and I began to think about possibly buying more Goudey cards.

I wanted to do some internet research before actually buying a box. I found Upper Deck’s web site, and I was very impressed with how it showed what every card in the set looked like. I looked for reviews of the set and came across “The Baseball Card Blog” written by Ben Henry. Ben sounded like me, someone who loved the baseball card hobby as a kid, then became disinterested in it, and later got back into it. He had some very good things to say about the Goudey set, so I was convinced to buy a box.

I wound up buying two boxes to save on shipping and to try to build a base set. I opened them on the night of February 29, 2008. To my amazement, the magic of opening new cards was back! I loved the Goudey cards, and almost immediately, I got back into “The Hobby”.

I returned many times to The Baseball Card Blog and thoroughly enjoyed Ben’s writing. I also began to discover some other great baseball card blogs. I was amazed at how many high quality blogs there were. The blogs helped me to understand the current state of The Hobby and helped me to get enthusiastic about it. Eventually, my favorite blog became Wax Heaven, written by Mario Alejandro. I became a daily visitor (actually multiple times daily) and a frequent comment leaver.

It occurred to me that blogging is a big part of the current and future Hobby. When I was a kid, literally every friend of mine had at least some sort of baseball card collection. When we would get together, we’d always bring our cards, make trades, and talk about cards. Today is very different. Unfortunately many people left the Hobby like I did in the 1990s, but not nearly as many got back into it. Living in a world where your friends are not fellow card collectors can be difficult, but the blogs give us a real sense of community. It is because of this that I am starting my own blog.

My goal is not to start the biggest or the best baseball card blog out there. Wax Heaven and The Baseball Card Blog have already exceeded anything that I could imagine doing. I just want to have a place to share my thoughts about baseball and baseball cards and fully participate in the growing baseball card blog community. I hope to attract some loyal readers and get their thoughts on the Hobby, and hopefully I can help to attract some people to the Hobby, or back into the Hobby, along the way.

I am envisioning that my first posts will mostly be about my own personal history with being a baseball fan and collecting cards, just to give my readers some background. After that, I will begin to write more about my thoughts on current developments in the Hobby. I am looking forward to an exciting ride!

And with that, my first post is done, and the Fielder’s Choice Baseball Card Blog has been born! Why “Fielder’s Choice” you ask? Well, when I was a kid I used to imagine one day opening a sports-themed restaurant called “Fielder’s Choice”. I even pictured having Cecil Fielder in my commercials saying “When I’m in town, I always chow down at Fielder’s Choice!” I’ll probably never open a restaurant, but I like the name, and it’s the best I can come up with for the name of the blog. It’s 2008 now, so I’m going to make a graphic with Prince Fielder to make this place look good.

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