San Francisco native Jeff Lyman was a star on the mound at Monte Vista High School in Danville, California. The big, strong righty was drafted in the second round of the 2005 MLB June Amateur Draft by the Atlanta Braves.
Lyman chatted with SC Daily about seeing his 1st Bowman card for the first time, his efforts to tell the history of baseball through his collection and a memorable beach with a ball game with future Baseball Hall of Famers.
Tony Reid–Your first cards were the 2004 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks card, the Bowman Aflac Prospects card and the official RC in 2005 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks and Prospects. Being a collector, what was it like seeing yourself on cardboard for the first time?
Jeff Lyman-That was pretty surreal seeing my mug on a card. It was the 2005 Bowman Draft picks was the first one. I didn’t know much about the autographs. Well, the Bowman/Topps representatives came up and plopped 2,000 cards in front of me and I sat there and signed them all. My first experience seeing my own card was when I was signing them
TR-Did you manage to snag any at the time?
JL-I didn’t snag any at the time. Over the years I’ve had to go on eBay or even make some trades for my own cards. I think I have almost one of each now.
TR– Speaking of total cards, you have 78 listed in the database, including all parallels and good stuff like that. Do you think you have one of each?
JL– I need to go check the database again! I am definitely short of 78. I have the Sterling, Aflac and all of those guys. I need to go double check that database.
TR–Your Twitter profile pic is your 2005 Bowman Heritage card. Is that one of your favorites?
JL– Yeah. I think Heritage and cards like that don’t get enough love in the hobby. Those are some of my favorite images and photography. I love those. I have a few of the variations of those cards, the minis and stuff like that. I have been able to pick those up over the years. Yeah I love that picture.
TR–When was the first time you signed an autograph for a fan?
JL-It was at the Aflac All American Game. There were a bunch of kids out there getting autographs of guys who had way better careers than me like Buster Posey, Andrew McCutchen and Justin Upton. My little brother was there, who ended up pitching for the Marlins himself. I gave him one of the posters and told him “OK Scotty, go run around and get everybody’s autograph. Make sure you get Upton. Make sure you get McCutchen. Get that Posey kid. I think he’s going to be good, too.” We’ve got a poster in our house of everybody from that 2004 Aflac Game signed, which is one of my favorite pieces.
TR– Do you have a room where all of your items are displayed?
JL– I do. They are split up. I work from home. I am sitting at my desk right now. I have four cases of 48 baseballs each that are pretty much filled. I have quite a few jerseys hanging up. I have my little cave. My brother isn’t as big into cards as he was into getting autographed baseballs, so there are some pieces at my parent’s house as well.
TR– I’ve seen your epic mail days with the 1939 Playball Joe DiMaggio, the incredible 1st Bowman Auto Refractors and everything in between. You said you are collecting what is meaningful to you. What spoke to you and how did you choose the pieces you’ve decided to PC?
JL-I noticed that my PC was getting a bit out of control. There were a lot of really cool cards that were valuable but they didn’t have any real personal meaning to me. So, I wanted to take a step back and think if I were to start over today what would it look like? What I wanted to do is tell a little bit of the story of the history of baseball. I have two young kids and this will be something I can hopefully pass down to them someday.
Obviously the names like Babe Ruth, Cy Young and Ty Cobb are there. Also, I live in a town now called Martinez, California. It’s just south of Napa, which is Joe DiMaggio’s hometown. He was a proud Martisian. My wife is from here. She would we always bump into him when she went to get breakfast. His grandkids are friends of mine. On the back of DiMaggio’s baseball card it says his hometown is Martinez, CA. Most of my family is from Boston and New York, so that is why you will find Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle in the collection. The more modern guys, I work with a few of them. It’s the mix of the modern, new era of the game along with the history of the game.
TR–What players were you a fan of growing up?
JL-I grew up in the East Bay, so I like the big three of Zito, Mulder and Hudson. My two favorite pitchers growing up were Bob Gibson and Pedro Martinez. I just tracked down a Bob Gibson Rookie, and that should be on its way soon. They both wore number 45 and that is why I always tried to wear the number.
TR–Of the Oakland A’s big three, who was your guy?
JL-With the A’s it was Tim Hudson. He was the big right handed pitcher of the big three. Funny story, I got to play with him a little bit with the Braves. As kids, my brother and I would sit right next to the bullpen in Oakland and whenever he was done warming up he would flip my brother and I the ball. We were sitting at dinner years later and I said “Tim, do you remember the two kids in Oakland sitting next to the bullpen that you would flip the ball to?” He said “Yeah, the same two kids were there every day.” I said “Yeah that was me and my younger brother. He is pitching for the Marlins right now.” He said “Man, I am getting way too old.” That was a pretty special time. He is such a nice guy.
TR–The back of your 2005 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks and Prospects card mentions a chance meeting with Hall of Fame reliever Trevor Hoffman and how he taught you how to throw a changeup on a beach in Hawaii. Please tell me that is a true story.
JL-Yes that is actually very true. My dad went to Stanford. There was a big football game and party and apparently one of his college buddies was friends with J.T. Snow. It turned out that J.T. was going to be in Hawaii the same week that me, my dad and my brother were. The first night at dinner we see him and he comes right over to our table. He said to find him out on the beach the next day. He said he was with a couple of friends that I would want to meet.
So, I see him down on the beach and I walk down there. It’s him, Trevor Hoffman, Jamie Moyer and Bret Boone. I had just committed to ASU. Trevor and J.T. went to The University of Arizona. They were joking and giving me a hard time. Then they asked what pitches I threw. I told them a fastball, curveball and split finger. I told them I had a hard time throwing a circle changeup. Trevor told me to grab the Wiffle Ball and he and Jamie would teach me how to throw it. So, we sat there on the beach for like two days, learning how to throw a circle changeup with two of the best guys to learn how to throw the pitch from. Eventually Trevor Hoffman was squatting down while Bret Boone and J.T. Snow were taking mock hacks with a Wiffle Ball bat against my changeup telling me if they could pick anything up out of my hand. That was a pretty surreal experience to say the least.