Thursday, March 28, 2013

(The Other) Opening Day

Opening Day used to be my favorite card set.  And when I say used to, I don't mean it has been somehow usurped; it's just not something I come across anymore since I stopped breaking wax years ago.  Opening Day just doesn't seem to find its way into card show dime boxes or even the occasional trade package (maybe the blogosphere will be different?), and I just can't justify spending $20 on a blaster to get one or two cards for my collection when I could spend that money to come up with a small bounty of far more rare Pirate cards.

But for a few years, my collecting brain thought Opening Day was the coolest thing in the world.  And in a lot of ways, it's the product that I have to thank for the beautiful monstrosity of a collection I have today.  As a kid, my collection consisted of the occasional trip to the local card shop's dime box (I still adore my 1998 Glenn Rice SP Authentic) and whatever rack packs my dad would grab for me on my way home from work.  But by the late 90's, my interest in cards had been replaced by other things.  Backyard football, pro wrestling, Legos, and the pressures of a 4th grade workload meant my cards were retired to their place under the bed and largely forgotten.

I just figured that like most kids, card collecting was a phase I had grown out of.  In all honesty, I think there is a very likely alternate universe where I become just another person who outgrew their interest in cards and gave them away to a friend or sold them at a garage sale for a couple dollars. 

But that isn't how things worked out.  And the thousands of cards piled, boxed, and bindered up around me wholeheartedly echo that.

On Easter morning 2000, I woke up to what was - and still is - a typical Easter morning for my family.  Ham and eggs, an Easter egg hunt, and my Easter basket.  Being an only child has its perks.  Inside my basket, amongst the jelly beans and Peeps, were a few packs of baseball cards.  I hadn't opened a pack of cards in two years (1998 UD Choice football), and my card-loving days were well behind me  I was a mature adult of 12 years of age, and well beyond my card collecting days.  At that age, two years felt like it had been a world away, some faint reminder of a bygone past.

And then I opened them - 2000 Topps Opening Day.  The design just seemed so crisp, the silver borders accentuated by the big silver, foil Opening Day stamp on the card.  From those 3 or 4 packs, I vividly remember pulling a Francisco Cordova card, his gray pinstriped road uniform fitting in perfectly with the card's design.  Thanks mom and dad, but I'm over cards.  Nothing to see here.  Move along.

As I spent the rest of the day pouring over every square inch of the cards, reading every mundane fun fact and stat line, analyzing the photos to microscopic detail, displaying a level of neurosis that seep into every sentence of this blog.

It would be too easy be too easy, too simple, to say the set brought me back to the hobby.  Before I was just a kid who had some baseball cards.  Who enjoyed cracking a pack of Collector's Choice during a trip to the grocery store.  In the two years away, the hobby changed and I changed.  I was hooked.  I was a collector. 

I asked my mom a few years ago why she picked up the packs.  She has an uncanny ability to always find great, and completely unexpected gifts, for every holiday.  But she undoubtedly knew I had little interest in cards at the time, and it just seemed like an odd thing to give me.  Her response was simple, straightforward:  "I needed something to fill up your basket, and I thought you might like them."  And as my parents spent my early teens driving me to card shows, stopping at little hole in the wall card shops on vacations, funding my collection, my collection grew, but so did the memories behind each of those cards.  So yes mom, clearly I liked them.

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