Monday, April 30, 2012

I'M NOT BATS


AARON SIGNED THIS AT A CARD SHOW IN ATLANTA IN THE '90S.
I used to think autographed bats were the pinnacle of collectibles. Who doesn't love swinging a bat, especially a professional model. It's a little like playing air guitar. Everybody's a rock star -- until you get on stage.

The only thing better than getting my first authentic-model bat was getting it signed.

I purchased an Adirondack Brooks Robinson model from a mail-order memorabilia dealer in the early '90s with the expressed purpose of getting my idol to sign it at an upcoming card show. After pulling the bat out of the shipping tube, I took a few practice swings and thought, ''So this is how the bat felt in Brooks' hands.'' I felt a connection to him in a weird sort of way.
KNOWN MORE FOR HIS GLOVE.
CAL TOOK INTEREST
IN THIS RARE 

PIECE OF LUMBER.


I probably swung that bat a hundred times before the day came to have it autographed. Then a funny thing happened: I forgot about it. I also forgot about the Hank Aaron  and Cal Ripken Jr. bats I later bought and had autographed in person.

I just recently dug out those bats, along with an '84 USA Olympic Team bat I bought already autographed. Locating them was like a treasure hunt. When I found them, each had the barrels protected with athletic socks (classy, huh?) and were tucked away among a jumble of stuff in a seldom used bedroom. Could I have disrespected them any more? I'm surprised I didn't find them in the garage between the rake and the post-hole digger.

How did four valuable items I treasured, albeit for about a day each, become as unimportant as empty boxes and folded shopping bags?

I think it's because unlike cards and baseballs, bats are cumbersome to display properly. I've seen some of those nice displays for sale; they're not cheap and they look like they would take a degree in engineering to hang them on the wall. Let's face it, unless you store them right, bats tend to fall down, bang against each other and roll around. Then you're tripping over them, looking like Max Patkin. One week you're carrying your prized possession you just got signed and the next week you're being carried to the ER because you tripped over it.

Finally, there's an interesting story about my Ripken bat. I had him sign it one spring training. As you can see, it's an ash Louisville Slugger. Ripken used an ash P72 model early in his career before switching to a black P72. When he saw my bat, he asked how and where I got it. I had the feeling he thought I stole it or something. I told him from a mail-order memorabilia company but I couldn't remember the name. He took a close look at it, slid his hands down and around the barrel and took a quick practice swing. He said he hadn't seen his ash model in a long time. Then he signed it.

I was kind of hoping he would offer a trade for one of his used bats. Alas, it probably would've wound up disregarded like my others.


I BOUGHT THIS AT A DISCOUNT FROM THE HOME SHOPPING OUTLET STORE IN BRANDON, FLA.

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