Thursday, January 25, 2018

USS Mariner Project #2: Participation Trophies

Shortly before the beginning of my first year in 'midget major' baseball (10 years-old, I believe), my dad was faced with a dilemma: the sponsor for the team I was playing on pulled out and we were left with no team name and no jerseys. Back then, each team was named after the business that sponsored it. There was no Indians; no Dodgers; no Reds. There was just- McDonalds (for example), who was sponsored by, you guessed it... McDonalds. With not much time to try and find another sponsor, my dad, who was the league president, decided to sponsor the team himself. But instead of using his business name, which included his name, he went with something that sounded like one of those travel teams that would become popular a couple decades later. We would be known as Team Machine, with simple green jersey tops and white lettering.

We had a good team that year and towards the end of the season my dad surprised everyone on the team by presenting each us with a trophy that he had made out in his shop. It was cut in the shape of a baseball, with "Team Machine- For a Job Well Done" or something like that, painted on each one. This was probably 1979, so we weren't a part of that entitled, or coddled, generation where "everybody gets a trophy." No, this was simply a case of my dad wanting to show his appreciation for the efforts we put had put forth on the diamond. He certainly wasn't obligated to make each of us a trophy and we were not expecting them. Rather, it was a gracious act on his part.

With the 2018 card season about to begin, perhaps those of us in the hobby could learn something from my former teammates. Most of them returned to the team the next year and didn't get a trophy. Were they upset? No. In fact, they didn't even expect one.

Topps isn't obligated to produce a card of any particular player, but that doesn't prevent us from venting our frustration time and time again. Voicing our disappointment is one thing, but we have become those entitled brats who have come to expect a participation trophy.

"We're not happy with the cards you give us... give us the bloated Topps Total brand were everybody gets a card."

"I can't believe they left Guillermo Heredia out of the base set.. he had a good season and deserved a card."

"Fifty Yankees?! Four Aaron Judges! Why aren't there more Mariners?!!"


Putting something together like my USS Mariner Project means that there will be players who appeared in a game or two for Seattle but will have no cards to represent their time spent in the Pacific Northwest. Should I expect there to be just as many cards of my team, of which there is little collector interest, as that of a team such as the Yankees, whose collector base is huge?

If I don't like it, I guess I can always create my own cards. Or I can just give up and find a new hobby.

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