Earlier this week, I was browsing some old scans of cards I had received from my buddy Mark of "Clubhouse Kaz" fame over the past few months in preparation for a trade post.
That same night, Mark announced he was stepping away from his blog, which he's run since 2012. It's always sad to see a familiar face of our community leave, and although I can certainly relate to the feeling of blogging burnout, Mark's departure hit me a bit harder than most.
Mark has probably been my most frequent trading partner over the nearly five years I've run this blog, and he's sent me some of the best and most well-rounded trade packages I've had the privilege of receiving during my time here. More than that, however, he's shown himself to be a kind soul, and his posts are always entertaining reads. His was one of the first blogs I discovered back in my early blogosphere days.
Hearing of his semi-retirement from the blogs was like having an old friend move away.
As an ode to Mark's time around here, I've collected a gallery of some recent packages/PWEs he's sent that show how well he knows my collection and how much thought he puts into every batch of cardboard he sends.
At times, it's just random cards that Mark might have a hunch about, and more often than not, his hunches are right on the money. Dennis Martinez in a designer shirt and shorts (?) and a card-that-never-was with the Luis Aparicio Donruss throwback were both treasured binder hits, as was the panoramic minor league stadium shot at the top of this post.
Sometimes you just have to play the hunches.
Mark's been known to be somewhat of a czar of oddballs.
I opened many packs of Ted Williams as a kid, but I'd never seen any promos from the set before Mark dropped that Honus Wagner into a trade package a few months back.
And count me among the many who never knew Aquafina made baseball cards.
Mark fired up the way-back machine with this quartet of spectacular throwbacks.
Mark's picked up on one thing I've tried to broadcast in the history of this blog: you can never go wrong with sending music-themed cards my way.
I haven't checked, but I'm probably close to a complete set of these Pro Set MusiCards by now. They're relatively easy to find and don't cost a whole lot.
I'm not a huge, huge fan of most of the artists in the checklist (I've never even heard of some of them, though that might be my relatively young age talking), but this is still the best all-music release out there, in my opinion.
KISS was the first band my dad ever saw, a show which laid the foundation for his long history of concert-going.
This scan goes out to him.
A separate PWE saw Mark shoot a couple 2013 Topps parallels my way.
The Sogard is a new hit for my double dip mini-collection, and the Matsuzaka is a rare zero-year card from Flagship, as Dice-K never actually suited up in a game for the Indians.
Another small package from Mark saw him continue to keep the zero-year train chugging along.
Addison Russell never saw time with the big club in Oakland. The A's traded him to the Cubs in the much-maligned Jeff Samardzija deal at the 2014 trade deadline.
I was a big fan of Shark -- and still am -- but I'd make that trade a hundred times out of a hundred.
Mark and I share a similar passion for parallels.
Purple refractors and golden honeycombs are always welcome in our homes.
Of all the bloggers I've traded with, Mark has probably contributed most to my two largest player collections: Vlad and Ichiro.
I'd never seen that "Laser Cuts" insert set before, but given Pacific's kooky history, I guess I should've known they had a role in the brief laser-etching craze of the late '90s.
Let's see, let's see...what hasn't Mark covered yet?
Oh, yeah: reprints. Mark checked that box off with this Shoebox Collection reprint of The Killer's 1955 Topps rookie.
Reprints don't seem to be as popular with collectors these days, but I am and always will be a fan of 'em.
Mini-collections ahoy here.
It took a few viewings to notice Miguel Montero (a current Cub) is tagging out Dexter Fowler (another current Cub) on that x-fractaorrifc play at the plate.
There's yet another new Vlad for the binders, as well as a fantastic magazine-cover-turned-baseball-card from the Sports Illustrated archives.
Mark's showed his mastery of my collection with his most recent PWE, which featured a litany of Fan Favorites singles, easily one of my top five favorite brands of my collecting lifetime.
I don't like Topps Lineage anywhere near as much as Fan Favorites, but I do enjoy sparkly parallels, and Mark had me covered there as well.
The man does it all.
I'm starting to think Mark might also have ESP, because while I don't think I ever announced it on the blog, I recently decided to make Fernando Valenzuela the subject of one of my top-tier player collections.
Lo and behold, this beautiful Squirt oddball of Fernando turned up just a short while later. I probably haven't had a sip of the lemon-lime soft drink in about a decade, but I get a craving for it every time I see one of these cards. (Do they even sell it anymore?)
While I'm sure Mark and I will continue to swap cards during his indefinite hiatus from the blogs, I'm still going to miss his posts showing up in my blogroll. In the meantime, I'll let the cards I've just shown speak for themselves in terms of just how much Mark cares about helping the collections of others. He'll long be a friend of this blog and many others out there.
It's been fun, pal.