Hobby Musings: Catching up with Mike Koplove – Former major league pitcher Mike Koplove pitched for the Diamondbacks and Indians during his career and was also a 2008 Olympian. It turns out he also has some pretty good stories and experiences in the trading card and memorabilia world. He was kind enough to take some time out of his schedule to speak about those experiences. The following interview was conducted via email.
KS: Among your accomplishments, you pitched in the majors and the Olympics. What memorabilia, if any, did you keep from your career?
MK: I usually tried to keep at least one jersey from every team I played for. From the Olympics I have a whole slew of clothing that they gave out before we got to Beijing. I’ll wear it occasionally but for fear of ruining something it usually just stays hanging in a closet. From the majors, I’ve got my first win baseball and my first save baseball as well as some framed scorecards from those games.
KS: Is there anything from your career that you don’t have that you wish you had held on to?
MK: I can’t really think of anything that I wish I’d kept. I gave up Barry Bonds‘ 699th HR and I always wanted to get a Giants jersey with the number 699 on the back and have him sign it but never got the chance to do that.
KS: There are many stories out there about athletes seeking out autographs and memorabilia from fellow player and celebrities. Is this something you ever did while playing?
MK: I did do that. I would periodically ask opposing players to sign a ball for me. I probably have 30-40 balls. I got most of the best players of that era. Maddux, Bonds, Jeter, Pujols, Sosa, Randy Johnson, Glavine…Rickey Henderson was probably my favorite player growing up so getting him to sign a ball was awesome for me. I also got Ichiro to sign a game used bat and that is something I find extremely cool. That’s the only bat though. I also ran into Bill Murray in a visiting clubhouse once so I have a Bill Murray signed baseball.
KS: From an insider’s perspective, how do you feel baseball players in general look on the whole experience of being asked for their autograph.
MK: I think most players are very welcoming and receptive to it, particularly for kids. Signing hundreds and hundreds of balls and cards can be a little tedious and I don’t think anyone enjoys that but it kind of comes with the territory. Honestly some of the more rabid autograph seekers can sometimes get a little aggressive and that’s not cool, but if people ask respectfully guys typically will sign, assuming they have time and they hear the request.
KS: When was the first time you remember being asked for your signature?
MK: I don’t really remember specifically. Probably some time in the minor leagues.
KS: Most fans ask for items like cards and baseballs to get signed, but some come up with more unconventional items. On that note, what is the strangest thing anyone has ever asked you to sign?
MK: It was usually cards and baseballs. Every now and then you’d get a body part like a hand or an arm. That was always odd to me because it would be gone in a day or two. I don’t really recall getting anything too out of the ordinary.
KS: You put on your Twitter that you think your baseball card is a common. I’ll be honest, it gave me a chuckle, especially as I have one of your cards in my collection. What made you decide to put that on there though?
MK: I was a rabid baseball card collector as a kid and I always had boxes filled with commons. And I remember whenever you’d check price guides it would give the price of the common at the top underneath the name of the set. And it just dawned on me one day that holy crap I’M A COMMON! And in a strange way it made me happy because probably sitting in boxes in peoples’ closets for all eternity with hundreds of other cards are Mike Koplove baseball cards. Plus it’s a humble bragging way of saying hey look at me I played in the major leagues!
KS: In that vein, you’ve been featured on several trading cards from your career. Do you collect your own cards and is there one that sticks out as your favorite?
MK: I think my first Topps card is probably my favorite. I mean it was Topps. There’s something cool about that. I never collected my own cards. My parents were too busy doing that for me. My dad and stepdad used to unknowingly bid against each other on eBay for them and drive up the prices when they were usually the only people bidding. I always found that to be pretty hilarious.
KS: If a fan was looking to get your autograph now, what would be the best way for them to go about doing it?
MK: It would probably be pretty challenging. I still work in baseball so maybe if they ran into me at a game and somehow recognized me.
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