One of the things I love about this hobby is that there's no set way of collecting.
Everyone gets to do their own thing, in a way.
Perhaps the best example of that is seen through player collections. I've seen them range from the great Derek Jeter to the long-since-forgotten Bucky Jacobsen.
The blogosphere has been no exception. Some have even named their blogs after their personal favorite player collection.
Heck, even Coot Veal has a suitor.
I've mentioned before that there are literally hundreds of different guys I collect (although I didn't name my blog after any of them).
However, there are three that stand out above all the others. "The Big Three", if you will.
What makes player collections so great are the stories behind them. In this post, I'll share the reasons why I started collecting these three seemingly unrelated players. I'd love to hear the stories behind your personal collections as well if anyone's got any to share. (Player, team, or set, I love all "origin" stories.)
The first of the "Big Three" is Casey Kotchman, a card of whom you see above.
I became a huge Angels fan back in my grammar school days. Watching their run in the '02 playoffs was responsible for that.
The Angels' big prospect at the time was Kotchman. When I got back into baseball card collecting in the winter of 2005, I remembered Kotchman's name from those glory days.
I also remembered that he was supposed to be the next big thing in Anaheim.
While I don't think he ever quite lived up to his potential, I've collected him throughout the highs and lows of his career. He's always been good with the glove at first base (as you can see on the above card), but the bat hasn't always been there. He had a couple of awful seasons with the Braves, Red Sox, and Mariners between the 2009 and '10 seasons.
To everyone else, he pretty much dropped off the face of the baseball Earth.
Not to me, though. I stuck with him, even though he only had one regular issue in 2010. Thankfully, he had a big season with the Rays last year, which put him back on the baseball map. He's even in the Gypsy Queen set this year, along with the likes of Willie Mays and Albert Pujols.
I can't wait to see Kotchman's first card with the Indians in 2012.
He's come a long way.
The second of the "Big Three" is actually a guy who has been in the news lately.
When I was in Little League, I subconsciously wanted to play like Marlon Byrd, even though I had no idea who he was at the time. All hustle, all the time.
I did, for the most part. I can remember a couple times where I might not have given it my all. But I have yet to see that with Byrd, and he's been in the league for over ten seasons now.
Once I saw him play, I knew this was a guy I had to collect. Unlike Kotchman, he doesn't really have a ton of cards since he was never a big prospect. (He was a 10th round pick in '99.)
Like Kotchman, however, he had a couple of years where he completely fell off the map, mainly with the Nationals in '05 and '06. He managed to rebound and have some respectable years with Texas, though.
I was ecstatic when the Cubs signed him in 2010. I'll never forget the first card I acquired of Byrd in a Cubs uniform.
It's been a struggle for the Cubs the last few years, to say the least. While it's been hard to watch some of the time, seeing a guy like Byrd has always been a soothing sight.
The Cubs dealt him to the Red Sox last weekend. I'm a little torn with how I feel about it. On the one hand, I'm glad that he's going to a team that at least has a chance to be good this year.
But on the other hand, I'm definitely going to miss seeing his style of baseball around these parks.
I wish everyone played the game like Marlon Byrd does.
However, my absolute favorite player collection is and always will be of Hoyt Wilhelm.
One of my first posts on this blog was all about Hoyt. As I said in that post, Wilhelm is actually my second-favorite player of all-time, after Roberto Clemente.
It didn't take long for me to realize that I'd never be able to afford a Roberto Clemente collection. So I went to the next best thing in Hoyt Wilhelm. While I've assembled some nice Clemente pieces here and there over the years, it will never match my Wilhelm collection.
My first great vintage card of Hoyt was the above '55 Bowman issue of his, which is also card #1 in the set.
It sure is a beauty, isn't it?
I usually don't post game used cards too often on this blog, but this one deserves a mention.
Why? Because it indirectly resulted in my full-fledged return to the baseball card collecting universe.
This was the first card I can remember adding to my Wilhelm collection. At the time, I was still mainly collecting hockey cards, much to the chagrin of my dad. (He could care less who Adam Oates is.)
I'd been thinking about doing a little side project with Hoyt Wilhelm for a few days before I acquired the above card.
I saw that someone was selling this Wilhelm jersey card on one of the trading forums I was on, so I figured that would be a good start. After telling my dad that I was actually about to purchase a baseball card, he got so excited that he wound up buying it for me.
I guess that made me take a step back and really analyze what I was doing. I realized that I didn't really have a good answer to the question, "Why am I collecting hockey cards?"
I've always enjoyed a good hockey game, but I realized that my first and only love has always been baseball. So I quickly ditched the hockey world for baseball.
Don't get me wrong. I still love hockey. It's a toss-up between hockey and football for my second favorite sport.
But my dad's reaction to the Hoyt Wilhelm card made me realize that baseball was the sport that I was meant to collect. When I was into hockey cards, my dad didn't know who 90 percent of the guys I was collecting were. While my dad did certainly go a long ways in helping out my hockey collection at the time, I know he's glad that I'm back in the baseball realm of collecting.
Plus, now I get to enjoy a good dime or vintage box of baseball cards with my dad at all the shows. That's probably the best part.
All thanks to Hoyt Wilhelm.