I’m now hooked on Josh Wilker’s blog “Cardboard Gods”. Amazing writing. Dude just has a way of saying what the rest of us are feeling.
And so, it got me into thinking about baseball cards.
I’ve spent seven years working in baseball, but I’m out now. I always wanted a baseball card, and was the guy who put the set together most of the years, but I couldn’t – wouldn’t – do it. The guys who taped ankles got cards. The guy who did corporate sales and everything else, well, he didn’t get a card. It wouldn’t have been the same anyway. I wanted a card with CF or P next to my name.
And you look at card sets. It happens – you have major leaguers who end their careers playing for teams they shouldn’t have played for. Willie Mays was a Met, although for him that was a homecoming of sorts. Same situation for Henry Aaron, going to the Brewers, and Dan Quisenberry – a Cardinal at the end, playing for Whitey Herzog.
My first job in baseball was in the South Atlantic League. One good year, but somewhere we knew we would never stay; too far from home and nothing keeping us there.
Then close to family. I talked myself into a job interview, told the team I could do anything, and then went and did it. Literally, I fooled the receptionist into making an appointment for me with the GM, and he needed someone to do the job, it just so happened. I tripled my salary in an interview. And it was a great situation in so many ways. We had a beautiful ballpark, a major league city, a rotten major league team, corporate sales which seemed like the deal of the century compared to the big guys and… fun. People forgot how fun it was to go to a game until they came to our little ballpark. And boy, did they come. We increased attendance every year, filled the place, and all we heard were good things. Fun things. Happy things.
But with a young family, the life on the road wasn’t working for me. I took a job with an arena football team, made more money, but it wasn’t a fun product. No one ever came up to me and told me about how they grew up playing arena football with their fathers, and former arena players didn’t come back to sign autographs. I lasted three months. I wasn’t ready for another logo on the front of my card.
So I got back into baseball. I went to work in the front office of a team in California, what seemed like a dream job. It was fun – we had a great front office – but it wasn’t what I’d had. So I left to pursue the minor league fun feeling I’d once had with a team in the Eastern League. There were fun things about it – but we never had the freedom we had with the team in the midwest, when we could decide we wanted to build a catapult to shoot massive dice – and do it.
So I look at college players who have a hard time moving on, or Jackie Robinson, who retired a Dodger rather than become a Giant. And I get it. Because they know what I didn’t: that what they are experiencing just might be the best they will experience. I’ve moved on and the changes I’ve made have improved my life in ways I can’t conceive. But I wish the last three years of my baseball career hadn’t ever happened. I know I couldn’t have stayed with the team in the midwest forever; eventually I would have needed to provide for my family in a different way. Plus, they turned my beautiful old ballpark into a baseball/soccer stadium. The day I walked into that stadium I knew it was the place for me. But it changed. And I needed to.
For the players who can keep the column second from the left – the team name – the same on their baseball card, the whole way through their career, more power to you.