Hobby Musings: Ryan Fagan gives cards to Cards fans – Sportswriter Ryan Fagan has been offering fans at St. Louis Cardinals home games a chance to get a bonus on their trip to ballpark. He’s been giving out packs of old baseball cards. Seeing this on his Twitter account, I wondered how exactly he was able to make it work. As luck would have it, I recently had the chance to catch up with him to find out.
KS: What got you started in your practice of handing out packs at baseball games?
RF: It was not intentional to be honest. My wife and kiddo and I moved to St. Louis in October 2019 so I could be back in a baseball market to write about the sport for Sporting News. The plan was to be at the ballpark regularly in 2020, but 2020 didn’t go to plan as we had no coverage policy that first pandemic year. So I didn’t go to a game until 2021.
I bought a box and other packs for this season and handed them out in the press box. I ended up having a lot left over and decided to offer them up. I arranged the packs on the press box table and posted to Twitter, offering the packs to my followers. The response has been really good. Not necessarily in a ton of packs being given out, but a lot of people who see the tweet and wish they were there.
Some of the media members in St. Louis with big followings have been good about retweeting it and increasing the exposure. I’ve got some of the Upper Deck Comic Ball packs, which have been popular with kids. When I was a kid, I loved going to baseball games. The only thing that could have made it better was getting cards, so I’ve decided to do that and keep offering it.
KS: How does that work with security and such? Can game attendees just come up to the press box?
RF: I meet people who want packs outside the press box. Some have asked me about coming into the press box, but unfortunately they can’t. They’ll shoot me a message on Twitter when they’re outside the press box, and that’s when I’ll come out with the packs for them to pick from. I give the ushers on that side a heads-up about what I’m doing. They always appreciate it and many of them will take a pack for their grandkids.
KS: How did you get started with collecting baseball cards?
RF: I collected baseball cards when I was a kid. The 1987 Topps set was where I really started with it as I have all kinds of memories and nostalgia tied to that year. I collected from 1987 to about 92 or 93. I went to college shortly after, and my interests and priorities changed. I started collecting again a few years ago, and I was really back into the junk wax era of cards a few months before the pandemic hit. Once it did, I was cooped up inside like everyone else and started ramping up things on Twitter. It’s been a lot of fun, and I feel we could all use some joy during the pandemic.
KS: What do you like to collect?
RF: I’m still pretty squarely in the junk wax era from 1987-1993. At this point, it’s become about trying to find bargains. It can be frustrating, but you get lucky and find a box for $10-$15. I’ll grab any box at that price, because the joy of opening packs and nostalgia is worth it for me. I’ll still get packs of the newer stuff when I can find it, which hasn’t been easy over the past two years. It’s a different collecting experience with those though vs. the nostalgia of junk wax era cards.
KS: What is your favorite piece in your collection?
RF: I don’t really have a favorite one. If I had to pick one, it’s probably the Bo Jackson 1987 Topps card where he’s super focused in the outfield looking to make the catch. It also has the cool Future Stars banner graphic on it. The 1989 Donruss Ken Griffey Jr. Rated Rookie is another cool one. I love the Tom Gordon card from that set too. I had a page of those cards when I was younger.
One my favorite memories from when I was younger happened when my buddy and I rode our bikes up to a local gas station that had cards. We had saved some money from shoveling driveways, so we bought a box of 1987 Topps to open at his house. We were rounding the corner on our bikes, and this little Dachshund rounded the corner and startled me. I was trying to balance the box, and it fell over and went into the snow. In that box, I had gotten three Todd Worrell cards, and that was a big deal at the time. I was so mad at that dog that to this day, when I see Dachshunds, I still see that dog, Schnitzel, who made me lose those cards to the snow. But I love stories like that that help transform me to that 11-year-old boy.
KS: Is there a dream item you’d like to have in your collection?
RF: That’s a good question. I’ve never really thought about it. Maybe a centered Ozzie Smith rookie card, because 1979 Topps is not great with centering. Growing up in St. Louis, you knew he was one of the best, so he’s a guy where it would be cool to have one. I’ve almost bought a few in bad condition. If I’m shooting for the stars, I’d say a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, but overall the Ozzie rookie would be great to have.
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