Daylight Savings, Baseball Cards and the Kindness of Strangers

This past weekend, Sunday was a dreary gray day. Of course we all slept in an extra hour after turning the clocks back. Oh wait. No we didn’t. We have kids. But we did have an extra hour to play before Church.

After Church, my wife and I took the kids for some fun. We hit up one of their favorite playgrounds and then over to a great little hidden gem in our area called the Velvet Mill.

Like all parents, this weekend, we were trying to get our kids (3 and 1) through the time change of “falling back” on Daylight Savings Time. So, while we were at the playground at 10am on my watch, the kids’ stomachs were letting them know it was later than that and they had missed snack time.

We left the playground and headed to the Velvet Mill. It’s not a misnomer; it’s an old Velvet Mill. In the past few years they have turned it into an artists’ haven. Lots of artists and photographers have spaces there. Little shops. An amazing craft brewery. A local cheese maker. And one of the best little bakeries around.

On the weekends, they turn the main areas of the mill into a kind of bazaar. Saturdays are an indoor farmer’s market – we’ve visited it many times, the kids love it. This day it was a kind of craft fair.

We made a bee-line for the bakery upon our arrival. Like my wife, the owner of the bakery is an amazingly talented and hard-working young woman. They sat and talked for a good amount of time while the kids and I devoured our sweet treats. H ate an entire peanut butter chocolate mini cake, C destroyed a huge chocolate chip cookie and I enjoyed the sweet and savory goodness of a cheddar cornbread.

Zest cookies are the best!

After we left the bakery we took a walk through the peddler’s market. My wife took H to the restroom and C and I walked on. Ladies with colored hair, young people dressed in their best hoodies, all behind tables of jewelry, hand-made scarves, and carved wood puzzles. One table caught my eye. An older gentleman was sitting behind a very bare folding table without any threat of anyone being near his table, so he played on his phone.

Something on his table caught my eye, so I steered my daughter closer and yes, I was right. His table was filled with plastic sleeves – all containing baseball cards!

I’ve been into baseball cards since I can remember. The thrill of biking to the ice cream shop and buying and opening a pack, popping in the gum, and then getting down to how many Yankees I got and who else was in the pack. Topps, Fleer, Donruss, Score. As I got older, my friends and I would drive to card shows at the VFW or Knights of Columbus Hall. Tables and Tables set up of cards in sleeves, boxes, cases, singles, commons, superstars, autographs, memorabilia… it was still simple. You could buy some cards without taking out a loan. A high school kid with Pretzel Time money in his pocket could still buy some awesome 1960s cards from a table for a few bucks. Now, everyone buys and sells on ebay. Like I’ve mentioned before – where’s the hunt!?

My collection grew and grew. But a lot of my favorite cards – rookies of superstars – were ones I had saved from those packs I bought as a young kid. McGwire, Bonds, Clemens. They were in the big Lucite safety blocks with screws – had to protect these surefire Hall of Famers.

These guys are the best – right?

Back to Sunday at the Velvet Mill. I spoke with the really nice man about what he was doing there. He mentioned that he was a big card dealer in the 90s – during the collector’s boom. Then it waned and he sold off most of his collection. He kept some stuff, added in newer cards and decided that he’d like to sell in a spot like this, during his retirement. He didn’t have a huge selection on the table, but part of me really wanted to buy an Aaron Judge rookie card. He laughed about how no one at this fair was a potential customer of his and returned to his phone as C and I walked away to see the lady with the board games.

My wife and H met up with us and we walked around a bit. On the way back to our car, we passed the nice gentleman again – still without a customer near him. He called after me as I walked by and asked if it would be ok for him to give H some cards. H looked at me and I nodded my head. He walked over, introduced himself and waved at the nice man (I wish I had gotten his name). The dealer pulled out a shoebox of ‘common’ cards (cards that are in every pack and don’t carry any value) and started sorting through. He pulled out some 2016 cards of guys with a bit of name recognition like David Ortiz, Chris Sale and Bartolo Colon. H thanked him (as did I), shook the man’s hand and we went our way.

The car ride home had H enthralled with his new pile of cards. He was excited to add them to his few in his underwear drawer (I bought him 2 packs a few months ago). I told him about my collection which was in the attic and his eyes grew 10 times bigger.

When we got home, H did what he always does with the goods we bring home from the Velvet Mill market – he climbed up the stool and WASHED them in the sink. The only problem was that these are cardboard cards and not vegetables from the farmers’ market.

We quickly dried off the cards and the lesson was learned. Feeling safe that mine wouldn’t meet the same fate, I got too excited and went up and brought down a few albums and my box of ‘special’ cards. H and C both loved looking through them.

After the kids went to sleep I spent the night sorting through my ‘valuable’ cards and looking up pricing online. My expensive cards were no longer – the steroid era killed the value of those guys. But in the pile of flimsy cards sleeves were those 1960s cards I got for a few bucks at the Knights of Columbus Hall when I was a teenager. Duke Snider, Whitey Ford, Jim Kaat – these cards were worth close to, and some over, $100 apiece.

I made the changes and put those guys into the thick protective blocks and the other guys went into the flimsy stack.

The jewels of my collection.

I was having fun looking through these cards again. I hope H stays excited about his new hobby. And if he does, I hope that guy at the Velvet Mill is there next time. I’m going to ask his name and then buy H an Aaron Judge rookie card. This guy deserves a customer.

-KP

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