Blink of an eye

This year I enrolled my sons in the Trenton Thunder’s Boomer’s Kids Club. It’s a great deal. Tickets to eleven games for the three of us plus fun activities and a tshirt* for $45. I knew we wouldn’t be able to make the games in July and August because of summer plans but even just going to the games through June it would be worth it.

*Shirt and activities for kids only.

We’ve now been to seven games this season (six with the kids club plus a Little League fundraiser night) and it’s been awesome. The boys have gotten two shirts, a jersey, a frisbee, and a pennant. They’ve had a chance to throw out the first pitch, walk around the field, be part of a high-five tunnel for the players, and watch The Sandlot on the outfield after a game. We’ve even been tossed five baseballs. Oh yeah and the games have been good. The Thunder are a decent team and it’s been a lot of fun to watch the boys learn the players and really get into following the season.

They’re also completely hooked on the hobby—especially autograph collecting. This is all me and my interests rubbing off on them. They’ve seen me write TTM requests and get cards signed at Trenton Thunder games and they want to join me. So I indulge them.

Not too much. I supply cards and pens (for now) but they have to do the requesting. I’m not going to flag a player down for them or ask on their behalf. I’ll help spot guys but the boys need to learn how to approach players, make the request, and say thank you. We’ve started off pretty simple by just focusing on the Trenton players and visiting coaches. As a result their autograph binders are pretty eclectic.

My youngest’s binder is organized alphabetically by first name. His idea. It’s a wonderfully random bunch of cards.* Seven Thunder players. Five coaches. And one card that Marc Brubaker mailed to him. I find myself wondering how much a first grader even cares about people like Joe Oliver, Brian Harper, or Matt LeCroy. These aren’t guys he knows. Some, like LeCroy, aren’t even guys I’d really talk to them about.** But they’re in the binder and he’s super-excited to show them off.

*Unless you make the Eastern League connection.

**Even though the Frank Robinson story is pretty touching

Can he tell you about the players? Only what he knows by turning the cards over. But he’s into this as a hobby even though he’s, so far, just tagging along with me.

His brother’s binder is pretty similar except that his one TTM return is in there and there are a couple 1991 Topps cards that he pulled from his own binder because he got the set for Christmas last year. As a result he has a bit more of a connection to guys like Harper and Oliver but LeCroy, Mark Johnson, and Mike Rabelo are all ciphers to him.

As the season’s progressed I’ve been questioning what it means to collect autographs of guys you’ve never heard of and second-guessing the importance of what I’ve gotten my kids into. Are they excited only because I’m excited? Am I pushing them to do something that only means something to me?

I jumped into the hobby in 1987. I bailed in 1994. Not a long period of time but it felt like forever. And in a way it was. Not only did those years represent half my lifetime by the time I stopped, they covered most of my years in school—pretty much my entire youth.

Now, 25 years later as a father, I’m seeing things from the other side. What was a lifetime when I was a kid is already flashing by in the blink of an eye. I know I only have a handful of years where my sons will legitimately share my interests. Yes legitimately. At the end of the day I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter why they’re interested in the hobby, the fact that they are and that we’re able to share it is what matters.

My two boys love collecting and everything it entails. Getting cards. Sorting cards.* Re-sorting cards.** Showing me their cards. Asking for new cards. Etc. Etc. It’s great. It reminds me of being a kid and it inspires me to document their adventures so that in a decade or two when they look back at their collection they’ll have my thoughts and memories to go with their memories of those years when the three of us were enjoying baseball together.

*On the floor as God intended.

**One day will be by number, the next by team, the next by last name, the next by first name.

I get to experience what I put my mom through, how patient she was, and how much she enjoyed seeing me get excited by the hobby. She kept a journal which I eventually turned into a book so that we could all have copies. I still enjoy rereading her essays and I’m looking forward to my boys reading them too.

Instead of journalling I’m blogging about our adventures and putting together summaries of events we’ve gone too. Like when we went to the Thunder Open House I took photos of their baseballs and printed out a letter-sized sheet for their binders. I’ll do the same thing with their haul of autographed cards for the season since I know they’ll re-sort them multiple times in the future.

It’ll always be important to have the biographical breakdown of their collection. As my sons get older, their cards and autographs will increasingly become markers for their memories rather than just objects to collect and hoard. The memories they’re attached to is what makes them special. It’s why I collect and why I hope they keep collecting.

In fact, I’ve been inspired to start doing the same thing for my cards and autographs. I know I’m going to be passing  everything on to my sons. I also know that “all dad’s stuff’ will be nowhere near as memorable as having an introduction to a given collection or set which explains who I was when I got these and why the set was important to me. This is a big project but I’m looking forward to it.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at, and the web at

13 thoughts on “Blink of an eye”

  1. What a beautiful piece! Brings this quote to mind.

    “Baseball is continuous, like nothing else among American things, an endless game of repeated summers, joining the long generations of all the fathers and all the sons.” — Donald Hall, “Fathers Playing Catch with Sons”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Don Hall did a poetry reading when I was in college. I got to tell him how much I loved his quote about airplanes and baseball diamonds. One of my personal highlights, even 20 years later.

      “You know how, when you fly from coast to coast on a really clear day, looking down from many miles up, you can see the little baseball diamonds everywhere? And every time I see a baseball diamond my heart goes out to it. And I think somewhere down there- I don’t see any houses, I can hardly see any roads- but I know that people down there are playing the game we all love.”

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Every word of this is wonderful. You are doing a fine job of navigating the difficult world of parenting. I have mentioned-too many times-that my soon to be 27 year old son is a huge collector. You never both one or both of your boys may not “grow” out of the hobby.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a really wonderful post! I’m in a similar situation, my own collecting days as a kid/teenager spanned the late 80s/early 90s (quit cold turkey for a few years starting in 1993). Now I’m a dad with a little boy and girl and can see how my own collecting days must have flashed by my parents’ eyes in an instant even though it seemed like such a long time for me.

    My kids are a bit younger (kindergarten/pre school age) but I hope I’ll be able to share my hobby with them like you are with yours in the near future. Or not, I’ll just be happy with whatever hobby they like (but really I hope they like baseball). My own dad was more of a stamp collector when he was a kid and tried to get me into that hobby when I was little. And it kind of worked, I liked collecting stamps too, but I always gravitated way more to baseball cards and he was happy to join me in that hobby for a few years, which was a lot of fun, while my interest in stamp collecting slowly faded.

    My only point of possible disagreement is when you say you will only have a few years to legitimately share your interests. My dad is now 76 years old and I live on the other side of the world from him, but a few years ago I got back into stamp collecting thanks to the interest he inspired in my almost 40 years ago and its an interest we share, we constantly message each other about it. In fact, he may have short circuited my attempt to get my son into baseball cards by getting him into stamps first – he loves the stamps grandpa sends him (stamps have dinosaurs, baseball cards don’t, its hard to compete) and already has a huge collection that he plays with all the time (while the baseball cards I gave him fell to the wayside). So that’s how one father’s interest has spanned three generations and in old age he is reaping the rewards of the seed he planted in me as a kid. So its great that you are recording all of this “as is”, I’m sure your boys will carry this with them for the rest of their lives!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did stamps and coins as a kid as well. Mine have shown little interest in those (I have my coins in 2x2s but haven’t done anything with the stamps) but I suspect it’s because they’re even harder to come across than baseball cards. We rarely get any mail with stamps now and when we do, those stickers are impossible to soak off. And coins? No one carries cash anymore.


      1. We should meet up at a Thunder game sometime. You and the kids should try to get to the one each year when they give out team card sets. My 2015 set is a “wow”: Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and five or six other guys who’ve made it to the bigs. (I’m sec 210, s1, this year, in front of the radio booth)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh man the baseball card giveaway would be a favorite. Pretty sure we won’t make it (we’re sending the kids to California for the summer (all four of their grandparents are there) so we can finish up a cross-town move without them getting in the way) but if I’m in town I might give it a shot. I’ll try and wander by your section if I do. I’ll look for the dapper mustache.

        I *do* have one more Trenton post to write for here through when I get internet hooked up at my new house. They gave away Spanish-language baseball cards on the Trueno night *Severino, Sanchez, Torres, and Andujar) and so of course I have to add it to my series.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed your piece. One of the great things about growing up was collecting baseball cards and their connection to me and my world. Just for grins here is another one for you. My birthday is Nov 6. I will not give you the year but Truman was President. So I have started a collection of players born on Nov 6 no mater the year. How am I connected to you? At least by Caleb Cotham. See his Trenton Thunder 2014 card. I am betting you son would get a kick out of learning about players with whom he shares a birthday.


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