Rookie cards fulfill lifelong dream of young players
After collecting as kids, many big leaguers ecstatic to be immortalized on cardboard
"It's been crazy for me. This whole year has been crazy for me," Trout said in a conversation about rookie cards before the Angels' game Wednesday against Texas. "Having a card that people want and put up big money for it, it's pretty cool.
"It's a great feeling to have your own card. As a kid growing up collecting them, just going into a store and picking up a Topps or a Bowman or a lot of different card companies, Upper Deck -- having your own is special."
Trout said he still has his prized Derek Jeter rookie card, and that is available as well.
"It was just trying to get my favorite player," Trout said. "Then you go back and get all the old-timers -- [Rickey] Henderson, [Mark] McGwire, people like the [legends] you want to get."
Collecting trading cards is a hobby passed down for generations, and it retains popularity today, among players and fans, especially when it comes to rookie cards. Look over the listings now and you can find legends like Ryne Sandberg, Don Mattingly, Craig Biggio, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Thurman Munson; current stars like Justin Verlander, David Wright, Roy Halladay, Justin Upton, Joey Votto, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Stephen Strasburg; and the next wave, including Wil Myers, Jurickson Profar, Billy Hamilton and Bubba Starling.
Buster Posey of the Giants is on the list with his distinctive 2010 Topps Allen & Ginter's Short Print rookie card. While Posey said he was "never a big collector," the popular star said "some people must love it because it's still around."
That includes Posey's grandfather.
"Yeah, it's real cool," Posey said of seeing others collect his rookie card. "I guess the funny part for me is my grandfather probably has every card that's ever been out there of mine. So it's fun to watch him collect them and then get 'em piled up and ask me to sign all of them. So he's had a good time with it."
Will Middlebrooks was born in Texas on Sept. 9, 1988, and that day Cal Ripken Jr. played in his 1,063rd consecutive game for Baltimore -- almost halfway to Lou Gehrig's record.
Ripken would smash the record seven years later and eventually run the streak to 2,632 games. Middlebrooks grew up wanting to be like Ripken -- both 6-foot-4 infielders -- and said Ripken's baseball cards were among his "prized possessions," symbolically speaking.
"When you're growing up, you're getting other guys' cards, and you're collecting them when you're young, and you always said one day you would have your own," said Middlebrooks, who had a big rookie season for the Red Sox despite a likely year-ending wrist fracture. "Once you finally do, it's kind of a shock. It's pretty cool for your family to get them, too."
When asked if he collected rookie cards as a kid, Middlebrooks said, "A little bit. I think we all did. You have your Cal Ripken Jr. cards -- that was my favorite player growing up -- the A-Rod cards, all the superstars when they were young in the league. It was fun to collect."
Rays pitcher Matt Moore burst onto the scene late last season, and now his 2010 Panini Donruss Elite Extra Edition card is drawing some interest among collectors.
"When I was in rookie ball in Princeton, Va., I got my first baseball card and it didn't have any stats on the back, but it was pretty cool," Moore said. "It was something you obviously think about, because I collected thousands of baseball cards with my brother over the years. To finally have a baseball card, and especially a rookie card, now, it's awesome. Hopefully I'm chilling in somebody else's shoebox.
"I had Greg Maddux's rookie card. We weren't going to the card shows and stuff like that, but ... I was probably 8 years old, and I came across his rookie card. It's still at my house in New Mexico."
Mets first baseman Ike Davis said he was "pretty pumped" to have a Shaquille O'Neal rookie card as a youngster, but nothing can compare to having his own 2010 Bowman Platinum.
"It was great," Davis said. "[You] finally had accomplished one of your dreams of making it to the big leagues -- solidified by a card. It's really cool the first time you get people asking you to sign it, and realizing you are really living the dream you dreamt about your whole life, especially as a kid. It's really cool. When you look at it, back when you're done playing, it's probably going to matter a lot."
Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus idolized Ken Griffey Jr. as a youngster, and the masses will remember that classic Griffey rookie card from the 1989 Upper Deck set, with the infectious smile. Rasmus said seeing his own rookie card was special, but it's not quite the same smile as Junior's.
"In Little League, I collected a lot of cards," Rasmus said. "I remember that day when I took the picture, the sun was shining in my face, so I kind of had an ugly face on. I got made fun of a little bit for that. But still I'm proud to be on one."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. MLB.com reporters Anthony DiComo, Evan Drellich and Alden Gonzalez and associate reporter Jay Lee contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.