Monday, October 29, 2012

Baseball card stories from Steve Sparks

Steve Sparks pitched nine seasons in the major leagues for five teams. His best season was 2001, when he went 14-9 with a 3.65 ERA for the Tigers, leading the American League with eight complete games. Now an account executive at Flagstone Lending in Houston and the pregame and postgame TV analyst for the Houston Astros, he kindly answered my questions about baseball cards.

" I have a deep fondness of baseball cards that lure me to the time I truly fell in love with the sport.  I had a morning newspaper route from 3rd grade until I went to college.  A very large portion of the money I earned went to the dime store.  Topps was the only company for years that produced cards, and that was perfect.  The packs were inexpensive, and it was easy to keep track with all the cards with their checklists.  I even got a box of cards for my birthday on multiple occasions.  At least twice a year, I would empty all my cards throughout my room to re-categorize.  I would often get lost on one card for thirty minutes memorizing his stats.
  You can imagine it was a big thrill for me when I actually saw my first Major League card.  It was the winter after my rookie year and I was on the Brewers winter caravan throughout the state of Wisconsin, promoting our team.  My wife always used to kid me about sticking out my tongue when I was concentrating to which I vehemently denied, but sure enough, my first baseball card proved her right.  I laughed for that reason when a fan showed me that card, but I felt a tremendous burst of pride to be included with all those great players I collected my entire life.
  One of my favorite cards is the one where I’m stretching before a game and waving with a goofy grin on my face.  That kind of epitomizes my personality and my career!  The other card I enjoyed was an insert to Cracker Jack.  There was only a few players selected for that issue, and I was somehow included.  I’ve only seen it a couple of times. 
   I’m currently in the mortgage business.  My job has provided enough flexibility to stay in the game, though.  For the past six seasons, I have worked as the TV analyst for the pregame and postgame shows of the Houston Astros.  I can’t imagine a time where baseball will not be a part of my life, and it started with those cards."