- In 1994: Future MLB pitcher Billy Wagner gave me a pack of Minor League baseball cards from the Midwest League All-Star Game.
- In 1997: I finally noticed the hidden gem inside that pack.
- That gem? A card of Appleton Foxes All-Star shortstop… Alex Rodriguez! His first baseball card ever!
- At this time, A-Rod was already a household name, and had a career batting average of .318! The Mariners young shortstop was a 2-time MLB All-Star. He’d hit 64 home-runs, had 435 hits, and 228 runs-batted-in, in just 352 MLB games!
- Rodriguez could run, throw, field, hit, and hit for power. He was the complete player, and I had his rarest baseball card in existence! What a find!
- And for three years this card went unnoticed in my giant blue Rubbermaid box of baseball cards! Not a good place for a card of this caliber.
After my ultra-awesome discovery, I needed cash to purchase a protective case worthy of my bestest card. (I’d like to thank my unsuspecting brothers for their “donations”) With intense begging, my folks finally chauffeured me to the local comic book store. “I’d like a, 1 inch, 4-screw acrylic slab baseball card holder please!” I said to the grown man in the Fantastic Four shirt.
This top-of-the-market card case would ensure the protection of my mint-condition A-Rod. Water-proof, shatter-proof, and scratch-resistant. Using a screw driver, I placed the shortstop in-between two clear “bricks”. Now, I could display it, and sleep better knowing Alex was safe on my shelf.
By 1999, Rodriguez’ legend was growing! With a.325 career average, he was now a 3 time All-Star. He was averaging a home-run every 17 at-bats, and an r.b.i. every 5 at-bats. His stardom was skyrocketing! (and so was the value of my little Elf on the Shelf) On pace to become the greatest player of our generation!
Disaster strikes. In 1999, after A-Rod had only been on my shelf for 2 years, my family’s house caught fire. Thankfully nobody was hurt. However, the house was destroyed and most everything in it. Including my oldest brother’s Upper Deck Griffey rookie card, and my other brother’s Sosa jersey. And me…
Days after the accident, I frantically sifted through the rubble of where my room used to be. Nothing but ashes, until something strange surfaced. It was a large melted ball. Puzzled, I scooped it up and examined it closely. “My expensive card protector?” Charcoaled on one side and translucent on the other, I peered into the twisted orb. My precious! My precious card! I could see A-Rod! BUT, he looked different.
He was mangled and twisted. Melted and warped. The card was ruined. I remember how disappointed I was. I’d put that card on a pedestal. Encased it in honor. And placed it on a trophy shelf. All celebrating an amazing baseball player. Now… Worthless.
Today, that melted ball ironically symbolizes Alex Rodriguez’s baseball career; a big expensive ball of twisted mess!
I realize now that the card wasn’t a prized possession. It was kindness. The kindness a Minor League pitcher showed towards a trouble-making shoeshine boy.
And to me, that’s a prized possession.