Loving Baseball Cards, Then Loving Baseball

My twin boys are eight-years-old, and I've realized lately an interesting aspect of being a parent of children who are older than, say, six; namely, that what they're experiencing now in their lives now is well within the reach my own memory of what was going on in my life at the same age. Did that make sense?

I hope so. Anyway, that brings us to baseball cards

My brother and I collected them when we were boys in Cincinnati. Five cards per pack, and I believe each pack was just a nickel. (Boy, am I going to be dating myself in this post.) Each pack also had a flat slab of bubble gum included. That gum was so good, and the smell of it stayed with the cards for years. In a good way. Being Reds fans, it was always a big deal when a Pete Rose or Frank Robinson or Vada Pinson card showed up, but there was no better chance of that happening than getting a card of a Washington Senator. The ultimate quest, the Grail, even in Cincinnati, was a Mickey Mantle card. Unfortunately I never got one, and never knew anyone else who did, although there were rumors once of some kid a few streets over who had one.

We traded them, "flipped" for them (that's a competition when you flutter your cards to the ground, and the one landing face up gets the loser's card.) I think we had a few thousand by the time we were all done, when we were maybe ten or eleven years old. We still whine to our mother every time we see her about how she threw them away when we went off to college, but for the most part, thoughts of baseball cards are as far back in the past to me as The Monkees.

That is, until recently, when one of my sons began collecting them. He already has over 400 (I know that, because he keeps a running count and makes sure I'm constantly updated) and they are, right now, among his most treasured possessions. It's great to see him arranging and sorting them by team, and learning how to read the stats on the back. But what's best of all is that it has him interested in actually watching Major League baseball games! He was so excited before the Yankees-Red Sox opener Sunday night; he sat there in front of the television, his card book open to the Yanks and Sox pages, picking out his card of each player as they came to bat, got a hit, or made a good play. (Sadly for Yankee fans, the Kevin Youkilis card got quite a bit of attention.)

The twins' first practice of their first Little League season is this weekend, and they're totally psyched. All of a sudden, thanks to those cards, the Watkins boys are talking baseball every day, and nothing could make me happier. Well, maybe a Mickey Mantle card. But that's about it.