Saturday, September 29, 2012

Baseball card stories from Vito Chiaravalloti

First baseman Vito Chiaravalloti played in the Blue Jays organization from 2003 to 2006, winning the New York-Penn League triple crown in 2003. Now a social studies teacher and baseball coach at Christian Brothers Academy in New Jersey, he kindly shared with me some baseball card stories. Some of the stories refer to mentions of him in an interview I did last year with photographer Mike Janes.

"Great interview with Mike, but I'd like to maybe make it more accurate if you don't mind.  First off, I feel bad if he thinks I wasn't thrilled about the "Three bat" card that he took.  I know I wasn't smiling, but I love that card and I probably was just going through a "don't smile and look tough in pictures" phase. lol.

Second, I did not sit the last game of the season that year to win the triple crown.  I insisted on playing because I did not want it to appear as if I was ducking the game or afraid of losing the batting title.  I bargained with my manager, and we reached a compromise that I would get 2 at bats.  I hit a double in my first ab, which guaranteed me the batting title no matter what Nyjer Morgan did in his game (who I think did sit his final game, but not sure).  Anyway, just wanted that to be accurate because I made a point of not sitting that game.

As for baseball cards...great questions.  I have so many stories about cards, since I collected them avidly growing up.  There was nothing cooler than when I saw my first official Topps card (which ironically Mike took the shot for).  That is a moment I will never forget, because as most ball players will tell you, they always dreamed of having their own baseball card.  But the story that sticks out most in my mind is so bizarre it almost seems made up. It was either late spring training or early season 2004 and a box of cards showed up that I needed to sign.  When I opened the box, I realized I was not the only player on the card.  It was a dual player card and I literally couldn't believe that the other player was my college teammate Tim Stauffer!  I think it was a 2004 Bowman.  I then thought they made the connection that we both went to the University of Richmond, and that's why they put us together.  But there was NO mention of Richmond on the card, so it seemed to be just a crazy coincidence.  I took a picture and texted Tim right away (not sure if I could have texted him the picture because this was 04, but I may have emailed it to him).  We had a good laugh about it, and I told him that he would be signing them next.  That moment has always stuck out in my mind.  Tim has now gone on to have a successful big league career, so unfortunately I am bringing down the value of that card.

I'm not sure if I have a favorite card of my own.  Of course the Stauffer/Bowman card with me on it is a unique one. But If I had to pick, I would say between the Cracker Jack card and the 04 Topps Chrome just because they are both different.  You would probably get a better answer from my buddy Matt Titko, though, who is an avid card/memorabilia collector.  Matt has collected every card that I ever had, even ones I never knew existed!  And he insisted on buying them all!  I was always like, "Matt, I can probably get you these cards, you don't have to buy them."  I'll ask Matt and see which one he likes the best.

My favorite card all-time though would have to be the 1987 Topps Gary Carter card, for so many reasons.  First, I was a huge Mets fan and Gary Carter was my favorite player/idol.  I collected every single one of his cards and he was probably one of the single greatest influences on why I wanted to be a professional baseball player.  But the 87 card sticks out to me because it brings me back to a moment in my life.  With the "wooden" frame, those cards are so distinct and recognizable, and any kid who grew up in the 80's and knows cards always talks about that one.  When I see an 87 Topps, especially the Carter card, I'm immediately thrown back in time. It's like I'm 7 years old again, organizing all my cards in my basement at my parents house - it just takes me back to a place and time in my life.  Plus, it's one of the first cards I ever collected, so it will always have a fond place in my memory.  On a side note, in my last season of playing professionally I got to meet my hero.  I was playing in the Atlantic League and Gary was managing for the Long Island Ducks.  We wound up building a great relationship that year, and although I never made it to the bigs, it made playing all those years worth it.  He was one of the nicest guys I ever met in the game and I was so proud that he was and will always be my favorite player."

1 comment:

  1. Sorry Vito, really think I confused two different shoots/stories! Soon as reading this I remembered joking around by the end of the dugout about the shot and Dennis doing that (one of the best guys in baseball by the way) - thinking I asked if you had bats as everyone was saying you would be sitting and you explained you were in! Man, after this many years in the minor leagues the mind starts to go!!