By Michael Diaz aka Met4life

My love for collecting as well as my passion for baseball started one summer at one of the greatest places a baseball fan can visit, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

As a young boy I was very accident prone, breaking at least one bone a year from the age of 5 to 15. Needless to say my parents never thought twice about putting me into sports because they felt I would just get even more hurt. Due to this fact I spent most of my youth playing video games and hanging out with friends. I never had any desire to watch sports and I could remember looking at my father watch the Mets on TV as a kid and just wonder why he was getting so worked up. I just couldn’t understand it back then. My dad even had season tickets to the Jets and he would take me to every game as a kid. All I could remember wanting to do was make paper airplanes and see how far I could throw them. I just never felt any connection to sports until that one summer weekend in 1998.

In my opinion it was one of the greatest times to be a baseball fan. It was the year of the great race between McGwire and Sosa to 61. Yes, I do know that now there is controversy surrounding that time period because of all the information that came out about Sosa and McGwire but still that really was one amazing time. At first when we arrived to Cooperstown I had no idea what I was in store for. We stayed at this little hotel about five minutes out of town and as far as I could tell we were just visiting this beautiful town just off a lake and nothing else. The next day we made our first trip to Main Street, which to a baseball collector, is the most amazing three blocks you could ever step foot on. You turn left, you turn right and even if you turn around you are surround by baseball memorabilia shops everywhere. The first place we head to was Seventh Inning Stretch, a nice sized looking shop from the outside with a little ice cream shop in front. I will never forget that day because it was my first day ever opening a pack of baseball cards.

Once inside we walked around the store and there were tons of things everywhere to look at from the wall of autographed balls to the cases of incredible looking vintage cards. There was already so much to take in but then we came to the wall of baseball card boxes. There were so many packs and boxes to choose from and I had no idea what any of this stuff was. After a minute or so of my dad explaining what this stuff was he turned to me and told me to pick three packs of what ever I wanted. I start walking back and forth just in awe of this amazing wall of packs. Having no idea what anything was worth I just went by the packs that looked the nicest to me. I picked a pack of Upper Deck MVP, Victory and one pack of Topps. My dad took my packs to the shop owner and as he was paying the owner told me good luck. At first I had no idea what he meant because I wasn’t aware you could get anything special from packs but I was in store for a surprise. I decided to open the packs right there in the shop because my dad and the owner started up a conversation about the Mets. I started with the pack of MVP. As I was opening the pack I noticed that one of the cards stood out because it was very fat, I begin to look through the cards and got to the fat card. It was a Ken Griffey Jr. MVP game used bat card. Back then these were very rare and the shop owner even said that it was the first one he had seen pulled at his shop. He pulled out a Beckett price guide and proceeded to tell me that my card was worth $300. I just couldn’t believe that a card could be worth that much money and I thought it was amazing. I was hooked from that point on. After leaving the shop with the biggest smile on my face, all thanks to the new amazing card I had, we head over to the Baseball Hall of Fame. There was so much history behind this game and so many fans who loved it.

The building was filled with people looking, talking, and laughing over all these images and items, which were all foreign to me at first. I will never forget that amazing weekend in Cooperstown. Ever since then I have forged an undying love for the game of baseball as well as a true passion for collecting, which I know I will carry with me until I am long gone. My next hope, as I am sure it is the same for most fathers, is that I can pass my love and devotion down to my children so they too can find what it feels like to fall in love with collecting.