From Rookie of the 12 months To Rated Rookie, Evan Longoria’s Card Amassing Is Extra Than Only a Passion

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports activities

Evan Longoria’s locker is crowded.

Hanging from a rack are t-shirts and shorts, sweat-wicking warmup tops and Diamondbacks jerseys in white, black, purple, grey and tan. Cabinets and cupboards maintain a smattering of non-public results; on the ground sits a three-tiered rack only for his sneakers. However amongst these ballplayer logos are footlong white packing containers discovered extra typically within the closets of baseball followers than within the lockers of the game’s stars. Inside, they’re stuffed with baseball playing cards.

This yr at Chase Discipline, it’s frequent to glimpse Longoria breezing into the clubhouse, a pair such packing containers tucked below an arm. The 37-year-old veteran desires to share the enjoyment of his favourite pastime. “He’s at all times bringing in playing cards like, ‘Hey, let’s open them,’” says rookie outfielder Corbin Carroll. Longoria’s teammates typically oblige. They’ve unearthed a Gabriel Moreno card and ones that includes Arizona prospects Jordan Lawlar and Deyvison De Los Santos. Carroll has even pulled a few his personal.

Longoria’s teammates could not understand it, however the veteran third baseman is barely sharing the scraps. He used to crack open packing containers of playing cards like this extra typically – and certainly, it’s nonetheless enjoyable – however Longoria has common himself into greater than only a hobbyist. What began as a pandemic-shutdown pastime has now became a severe endeavor. Longoria has inserted himself deep into the card-collecting world, rapidly studying its intricacies. At dwelling, he has “hundreds and hundreds” of playing cards, he says, lots of that are a superb deal extra worthwhile than those he lugs into the workplace to point out his coworkers.

There’s an autographed Mike Trout card that’s value a good sum of money. Longoria additionally collects Components 1 racing playing cards and not too long ago offered a 2021 Lewis Hamilton card that was certainly one of simply 5 of its type. (A type of identical Hamilton playing cards is at the moment listed on eBay for $5,000.) He’s additionally scorching after basic playing cards from baseball’s golden age, each as a result of he’s a fan and since he’s a savvy investor.

Whereas the marketplace for high-priced trendy playing cards has been extra risky – softening final yr after two years of skyrocketing funding, per an analysis in Sports Collectors Digest – top-grade basic playing cards, like sports activities franchises, steadily achieve worth.

“If I spent $40,000 on a Lou Gehrig card or a Babe Ruth card or one thing like that, in 20 years, it’s going to be value $60,000,” he says. “It’s not taking place. It’s like proudly owning the S&P 500.”

All of this began with a distinct sort of collectible. Determined for one thing to do whereas the game was shuttered in the summertime of 2020, Longoria started shopping for Pokémon playing cards to open along with his two oldest kids, now 10 and eight years outdated. The pastime caught on with him greater than them, nevertheless, and now Longoria can’t get sufficient.

A novice to card accumulating, he began by shopping for packs of baseball playing cards at Goal and Walmart, however that method by no means turned up something particular. Card producers hardly ever sneak the actually worthwhile stuff into a budget packs. “It’s like enjoying a slot machine,” he says. “You place in 100 bucks and also you’re most likely going to lose all of it.” To catch ‘em all, he realized, you gotta spend. So, he did his analysis and have become extra literate. He adopted outstanding collectors on social media and he watched card breakers on livestreams. He found out which playing cards had worth, which packs they got here in, and how one can procure them.

That spotlight to element makes him distinctive amongst professional athletes who gather. “He will get it,” says Ryan Veres, proprietor of Burbank Sportscards, a Southern California clearinghouse that sells roughly 4,000 particular person playing cards a day from a inventory of 40 million. Most sports activities stars who gather are inclined to delegate, Veres has discovered, however Longoria pops into the store each time he’s on the town. “Quite a lot of these guys will simply have guys purchase stuff for them. ‘I don’t know rather a lot about it. Simply purchase me cool stuff,’” Veres says. “However he does all the pieces himself. He’ll pound the pavement.”

With almost $150 million in profession earnings, Longoria has the scratch to be a severe collector. (Although don’t count on him to rival the almost $100 million collection belonging to Diamondbacks proprietor Ken Kendrick.) He’ll regularly promote playing cards via his Instagram profile. The remainder he retains for his children, within the hopes that they may sometime respect them. They haven’t but.

“Within the meantime, it’s like a Picasso. You get to take a look at it, it’s a narrative. Any individual comes over, ‘Hey, test this out,’” he says. “That, to me, is the thrilling half about it.”

All of it makes for an amusing picture – Longoria, a former Rookie of the 12 months and three-time Gold Glover, grinning as he plucks a card that includes some prospect who’d be fortunate to perform half of what he has. “The way forward for the sport is brilliant,” he says, and the playing cards serve to attach him to that future as he prepares to turn out to be the sport’s previous. That is Longoria’s sixteenth season, and it marks the start of his profession’s last section. Nevertheless it’s a section he entered willingly, signing with Arizona for one yr and $4 million to play part-time and reside in his offseason dwelling.

He senses the top is close to, which is why he’s begun accumulating one thing apart from playing cards. During the last two seasons, Longoria has made a degree of asking opponents to swap jerseys. He’s obtained customized uniform tops from Austin Riley and Bobby Witt Jr., buying and selling them certainly one of his personal. This yr, Bryce Harper inscribed a message on a dirt-covered jersey he’d simply pulled off his again. Longoria has additionally mined his connections to acquire game-worn uniforms from athletes in different sports activities – together with Devin Booker, Stephen Curry and even the GOAT himself, Tom Brady.

His assortment could possibly be much more sturdy – suppose Derek Jeter and David Ortiz – however he lacked the foresight in his early years to curate mementos as he went alongside. Like an actor absconding with a prop after an extended shoot, it took till the top for Longoria to appreciate he needed to deliver dwelling extra than simply reminiscences. “I’ll not have one other probability,” he says. He doesn’t need his younger Diamondbacks teammates to take their time with no consideration. Carroll, one of many few gamers within the Diamondbacks clubhouse with a reliable probability to surpass Longoria’s on-field exploits, sees the logic.

“His reasoning for it was type of cool,” Carroll says. “It made me wish to begin getting some guys that I’ve performed with and can play in opposition to. I feel it’s a cool memento, a dwelling assortment of your profession.”

The sport is hardly achieved with Longoria but. For the Diamondbacks, he’s offered cost-effective punch from the best facet of the plate, with an 112 wRC+ total and a 137 mark in opposition to left-handers. He’s a veteran presence on a striving and shocking younger group, and one of many solely males within the room with any postseason expertise. The Diamondbacks have a 50% probability at a playoff berth, per FanGraphs’ projections, and so they’ll want Longoria’s expertise.

He has reminiscences left to make, however within the meantime, there are packs to open. And so, on occasion, he plops a field on a clubhouse desk and beckons just a few teammates. They rip open the packaging and rummage via like they’re children as soon as extra, pondering which gamers are destined for stardom. And for a second, time stops.