by Tony Joyce aka Enigma

There are a handful of names that are synonymous with the sports card industry. One of those names belongs to Panini’s Tracy Hackler. Tracy is the Marketing Manager for Panini America. With an extensive background in writing and sports cards, he is a wealth of knowledge. While at the 2011 NHL Fan Fair in Raleigh, NC, I had the opportunity to meet the man behind the myth.

Q: Where are you from?
A: Arlington, Texas. Actually, I have lived in the area all my life.

Q: Growing up, what were your favorite sport and player?
A: Football. As a Broncos fan, I would say John Elway was and still is my favorite player. In fact, my oldest son’s middle name is Elway.

Q: To be in this industry this long, I assume you collected cards as a kid?
A: Yes. I began at the age of seven and have been immersed by sports cards ever since.

Q: How long have you been in the industry?
A: Ever since the summer of 1995. Started out as an intern at Beckett and became full-time soon thereafter.

Q: What is your current job title and role?
A: I am a Marketing Manager with Panini America. I handle hobby marketing and work with various web sites, card shops and distributors.

Q: So The Knight’s Lance (Official Panini Blog) is your pride and joy?
A: Yes. I love to be able to work on that daily and provide the videos and information you see.

Q: Who is your favorite person to open a box with?
A: Wow! Good question. There are a lot of them as each adds something different. But to name someone, I would say Scott Prusha for sure, Tim Trout is great and even Chris Olds. What I really like to do is bring the Product Development team into the mix as most people have no idea who this group is or the tasks they handle. They are the unsung heroes of the company.

Q: There will always be complaints among hobby enthusiasts. What aspects do you like the most and in turn dislike the most about today’s hobby?
A: Creativity and content. When I collected as a kid, you were limited on what you could get out of a pack of cards. If you would have told me then that I would have a chance to own a piece of a player’s jersey, I would have called you crazy. It is definitely more expensive to obtain the cards, packs and boxes now as compared to back then. However, you can collect what you want much easier. Whether it’s a set or player, there’s something for everyone.

Q: What do you like to do away from the industry?
A: Spend time with my kids. I enjoy coaching youth sports, watching videos and the UFC.

Q: UFC? Who is your favorite MMA star?
A: Well, if I had to choose one, it would have to be Matt Hughes when he was really active. But I do think that Jon Jones is the future. Kid’s a beast.

Q: You’ve been in the industry for over fifteen years. What would be doing if you were not in this line of work?
A: I started out writing for newspapers. I know that seems to be drying up, but I would say something in the journalism field.

Q: OK, enough serious talk. Let’s have some fun. What is your favorite type of music?
A: I have an eclectic taste. I enjoy anything from hip hop to country music.

Q: Favorite artist?
A: You mean musically? (I nod yes) Hmmm. Let’s go with Eminem.

Q: What was the last book you read?
A: The Life of Reilly. You know the book about some of his best stories and articles.

Q: If you could choose three people, past or present, to join you for a round of golf, who would they be?
A: A golf foursome? Good question. Would have to go with Elway as he seems to be decent at golf, much better than me. And I would go with Tim Tebow. That way I would have the past and present quarterbacks of the Broncos together. Finally, I don’t know. Eminem maybe? No, change that. Make it Rick Reilly.

Q: Harry Potter or Twilight?
A: Never seen either one. My wife has seen them all, but I haven’t.