I think I've told the story of how I came back to the sport I loved playing, watching, and collecting cardboard of, but in case you aren't familiar I wanted to share a cliff notes version of it.
Like many of you reading this blog, I collected baseball cards as a kid. It was my first true hobby I remember. I have lots of pictures of me with action figures like Masters of the Universe, Thundercats, Voltron, Transformers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and I remember playing with them as a kid. But I never considered them a hobby. They were objects that kept my imagination going, until I could learn to read.
The backs of baseball cards helped me understand math better and I remember putting the 1987 set together with my dad.
I do remember trading baseball cards with friends way more than I remember bringing my action figures to friends' houses. I started collecting rookie cards of future Hall of Famers in 1992/1993 by attending mall card shows, flea markets, and one of the two local card shops in the area.
I was fortunate that my parents would give me money in addition to my allowance for how well I did on the little league field. I got a dollar every time I struck someone out on the mound and a dollar everytime I got on base. If I stole a base I would get another dollar. I didn't know the term "play like hair is on fire" back then, but that is how I played. I made it a mission to get a minimum of $10 every six innings we played.
I wasn't watching much baseball between 1995 to 2005. I missed most of the steroid era of baseball as I wasn't collecting or watching the game during that time.
I gave up on baseball in 1995 because of the 1994 strike. I immediately got into other things like edgy comic books, music, and the hottest girls at school.
I came back in 2005 because I received tickets from work to go see the Phillies play the Pirates. Growing up I liked the early 90s Pirates teams (Bonds, Bonilla, Van Slyke) and my uncle and coach called me Teke (for Kent Tekulve) because of the way I pitched for my little league team. I threw wicked heat from the sidearm angle.
I liked the Pirates. I rooted for the Pirates on the road in a hostile Philadelphia crowd. There was a group of 3 other Pittsburgh fans in the section I was sitting in. That was it.
Let's Go Pirates!!!!!
They were more than half way though two decades of losing seasons, but there were some guys on the field that day that I really liked (for different reasons). I immediately liked Jason Bay because, well he was the best player on a bad team.
And I liked Ryan Doumit because he had really freaky looking black eyes on his picture on the jumbotron that reminded me of one of my favorite superheroes.
The date of that game was August 21, 2005. The Pirates would go on to lose the game 4-3 and (maybe?) future Hall of Famer Billy Wagner came in to throw heat to close out the game.
I was back into the game.
I went back home and started researching about the Pirates on my (still dial up modem) desktop internet and discovered that the Pirates hadn't had a winning season since I last stopped watching them. Andy Van Slyke had left the team after I stopped watching and they hadn't had a winning season? Ok, I'm all about an underdog. I'm also about thinking for the future.
What did the future hold?
Well the same year that I got back into baseball a certain Forte Mead high schooler got drafted, but more on that later.
I began collecting cards again (while also still being very into comic books) and began small card collections of Jason Bay, Jack Wilson, and Ryan Doumit. I also got this really neat looking gold border card of that year's draft pick teenage outfielder.
I would dabble in adding more cards of his to the collection, but Bowman didn't release 15+ prospect lines like they do now so my minor league collection of that teenage kid was pretty minimal.
I hadn't discovered COMC yet and my collection of Andrew McCutchen remained only 3 cards until his MLB debut.
Andrew McCutchen would go on to play 45 games as an 18 year old in rookie ball in 2005 and lead the Gulf Coast Pirates in every offensive category basically (by a large margin too).
45 games as an 18 year old
47 hits in 192 plate appearances
29 walks to only 24 strikeouts
.297/.411/.431 triple slash line
13 stolen bases
The future looked bright for him as a potential super star.
By the 2009 trade deadline a lot of my favorite players of the past four years had been traded away (Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Adam LaRoche, Xavier Nady), The new General Manager had traded away all my favorite players except Ryan Doumit. They even traded away the previous year's Gold Glove and All-Star centerfielder, Nate Mclouth, they signed to an extension in that year's off-season.
Why am I rooting for this team?
Should I just root for a team closer to my hometown like the Yankees or Phillies (who would both go on to meet each other in the World Series that same year)?
Oh, but wait. By trading away Nate McLouth that opened up a spot for that kid they drafted back in 2005. I pulled his rookie card (although the term rookie is now considered an XRC and not a true RC)
I get to see that McCutchen kid play at the majors that I hadn't seen since attending a Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs game against the Indianapolis Indians? Sweeeet!
McCutchen didn't disappoint and I began making him, Evan Meek (who I met and was super nice) and Charlie Morton (born in the same town as me) my main Pirates collections for 2009 and beyond.
I was spending money for everything that was coming out from Topps to get complete team sets of all things Pirates. This is when Topps still had a football license too so I was going head first into all things Steelers too.
The itch for cardboard had resurfaced and I couldn't stop scratching.
Rinse and repeat for everything released by Topps until about 2015 when I came to realize I needed more focus.
I didn't need to get all those Blake Taylor prospect autographs and I certainly didn't need to build up that rainbow upon release of 2014 Topps Jose Tabata cards.
I was spending hard earned money on prospects I had ZERO connection to and wasting my money away on material objects that literally meant nothing to me.
I NEEDED TO REFOCUS.
What am I most into right now?
I like Pittsburgh sports more than anything else.
Goodbye comic books of Daredevil, X-Men, and Flash
Goodbye Thundercats vintage toys from the 80s
What is my favorite sport?
Well the only two sports I played as a kid were baseball and basketball.
Sorry Jerome Bettis
Sorry Troy Polamalu
Sorry Pittsburgh Steelers
Sorry Mario Lemieux
Sorry Kris Letang
Sorry Pittsburgh Penguins
There hasn't been a professional basketball team in Pittsburgh since the Condors (way before my time) and my favorite basketball team is the Indiana Pacers (Reggie Miller is still a G.O.A.T. at Madison Square Garden if you ask me)
Sorry Paul George
Sorry Indiana Pacers
Let's Go Bucs!
I had almost 1K unique McCutchen Cards at this point
And I have all but the 1/1s of Charlie Morton through 2016
Evan Meek has been out of baseball for a few years
Gerrit Cole is a pitcher and doesn't have too many cool "action" photos.
It's Cutch as priority 1
Charlie Morton as priority 2
Everything else priority 3
Morton was traded in 2016 to the Phillies and got injured after only a few games causing only 2 cards to be released that year of CFM (Charlie F'ing Morton) That was easy to keep up with.
That allowed me to focus just on Cutch basically full time in 2016, which I did.
Unfortunately, his prices were pretty high as he had just come off 4 (YES 4!!!!) straight top 5 MVP years.
I had to be selective in what I was buying.
After a sub par year, his prices dropped as the Pirates did in the standings.
All the hype was now on major market teams like the Cubs, Yankees, Dodgers, and Red Sox. The up and coming Astros were also banging on the hype drum for a few years too (pun intended). Prices for the Bucs were back to normal and most of the hobby forgot about Andrew McCutchen.
I kept quietly (in terms of social media) building up my Cutch collection where only the readers of this blog were aware of how big the collection was getting (and of course Mrs CollectingCutch is aware too).
And now 15 years after my first gold border parallel of the teenager the Pirates drafted the year I got back into baseball I have a collection containing some very unique pieces of Cutchstory
Of course the 3K+ cards are cool and I have PLENTY left to show off, but there's some other really neat items in my collection too that aren't cardboard
Ticket stubs from his 1st 3HR game
Ticket stubs from his return to Pittsburgh
A couple baseball's that have been certified as game used hits, some even signed with an inscription of "Game Used"
An actual HR ball hit during the COVID shortened 2020 season
The collection would grow to include bobble heads, action figures, placemats, sporting good advertisements, magazines, posters, and SO MUCH MORE.
I am very happy with where the collection currently is.
I am very excited to see where it goes.
I am grateful for all of you who have followed me on this journey and especially those that have helped grow it.
It's been 10 years since the picture below was taken, but my favorite team is still the Pittsburgh Pirates and my favorite athlete is still Andrew McCutchen
My name in the real world may be Brian, but to my hobby friends...
I am CollectingCutch