Baseball Cards and Barefoot Sluggers
I'M getting back into baseball cards during our summer vacation, which is the time of year when we focus on collecting things. The cards have held an attraction since I was six and my neighbor had three shoeboxes of baseball cards and I had none. I also had no understanding of the concept behind baseball trading cards, much less baseball, but I felt that there was value in owning a collection of anything several shoeboxes in size. Eventually Tommy gave me a box of the cards he didn't want any more. If I had kept them, I like to think, they would now be worth a small fortune. To get our collection started I bought notebooks with those plastic pages slotted for baseball cards. Every morning before breakfast the kids and I open one package of baseball cards each. Inside are 16 cards and a piece of bubble gum. First we chew the gum. Then we sort, trade, and insert the cards in the proper order in our notebooks. Hilary has chosen to collect all of the bird teams and important-sounding names like the Royals. Spencer concentrates on the animal teams, both Sox, the Pirates, and the Indians. I have the teams on which I played in Little League, plus the teams that no one else wants because they don't sound exciting.Skip to next paragraph
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Hilary, who will be in kindergarten in September, is fascinated by the colorful graphics and varied poses of the players and loves curating the gallery of photos in her notebook. She is usually the one to ring the bell for ``baseball-card time.''
Perhaps being allowed to chew bubble gum right after breakfast has something to do with it. Spencer loves the ``authenticity'' of the gum in each pack: ``It's the same kind the baseball players have in their cheeks.'' I can't bear to correct him. For Hilary, our routine is also a phonics lesson - she can't yet read all of the team names and sometimes gets the Phillies and the Padres and the Pirates confused. Spencer loves hoarding and artful dealmaking.
I love the cards out of nostalgia and the belief that I am reclaiming a lost opportunity. I wish I had been better schooled in ``sports talk'' and could toss around pertinent statistics when I show up at Carl's for a haircut. I'm never sure how to answer the question, ``How about those Red Sox?''
None of us can identify the city or league to which our teams belong, the rules of the game, the merits or status of any of the individual players, but we love the lore of this collection. Just this evening, as I was out pitching the whiffle ball to the kids, Spencer asked if anybody could be an All Star. He had decided to be a ``Record Breaker,'' not because he understands the achievement but because the ``Record Breaker'' cards are graphically more sophisticated.
It's interesting to watch how the kids attach value to their collections. For instance, Spencer has decided to collect the ``company cards'' which are nothing but advertisements for baseball card hats and albums. There's one in each pack and I have obtained a few choice cards from him by using them in trades.