If collectors and fans were looking for a player’s baseball card when he toiled for the Sod Poodles or another one from the Muck Dogs, the Fireflies, the Yard Goats, the Baby Cakes, the Blue Wahoos, the Flying Squirrels, or the Jumbo Shrimp one of the sources you could get them from is Stephen and Lily Green of STB Sports. For thirty years they’ve been selling cards before some of the players made “The Show.” But now with the MiLB season being cancelled and contraction plans to eliminate about 42 teams around the nation “lean times” have hit STB Sports.
“To us it means it will probably impact our business by about 70 percent,” Green told Sports Collectors Daily. For the moment, he is doing all he can for his Mt. Vernon, Washington based business. “Right now we’re just trying to sell what we can of the older stuff and from my personal collection” said Green.
No one knows what will happen and what many teams will have to do to survive a year with nothing or very little coming in. For Green it’s a matter of what the future will bring.
“We’ve got to wait for a year. Then we have to wait for things to settle and see what teams come back and how much money do they have for baseball cards and is it a priority for them as opposed to keeping up the stadium and paying their people.”
STB Sports carries a big inventory with 160 team sets, most of which can be found in its eBay store, but with the All Star sets, the promotional sets given away at the stadium, the hot prospect cards, a few of the colleges, some of the wood bat leagues he’s dealing with a total of 181 products. The cancelled season has been difficult. “Not to have at least 160 items to sell that would be brand new to our customers that are waiting is a big blow,” he lamented.
Green has only one 2020 issued minor league set in his inventory: a Lansing Lugnuts “25th Anniversary” set that includes players who once played for the team, including Vladimir Guerrero Jr. With the season never having gotten off the ground, there won’t likely be any traditional sets released.
Fans may be also looking at a different landscape once the pandemic hopefully blends into the past. It’s possible lower level minor league teams simply won’t be able to survive or that contraction will eventually occur. Prior to the pandemic, baseball had already floated a controversial plan to eliminate upwards of 40 minor league teams in an effort to revamp the system.
Some fans have been wondering if a consensus can’t be reached to save teams in areas like in the Rocky Mountain region of Billings, Grand Junction, Great Falls, Idaho Falls, Missoula, Ogden, Orem and Rocky Mountain in Colorado Springs…all members of the Pioneer League that was founded in 1939. “By getting rid of whole areas like the Pioneer League those people will have no baseball near them and if they get rid of leagues like that you sort of lose all those fans of baseball and I don’t know if that’s even good for the Major Leagues,” Green said.
He believes baseball will soon be like triage. “I think the 40 – 42 teams were pretty much a done deal even before the cancellation of the season and that just cemented it.”
Some teams and leagues could still be rescued, however.
“I think there may be a chance for some of the teams that were to be contracted because if you have up to 40 percent of the teams that said they didn’t know they could sit out a season you may have some of the teams that were to be contracted actually have the money to stay in business and you may see that list change where they say this team can’t survive and this team could so we’re going to take this one out and this one in,” said Green.
There is nothing that people all over the nation can do until some of these decisions are reached. In the meantime, people like Andy Milovich, President and General Manager of the Frisco RoughRiders of the Texas League praised the Save Minor Baseball Task Force that was organized by members of Congress to prevent Major League Baseball from eliminating so many minor league franchises.
“MLB’s effort to cast off thousands of jobs, reduce affordable, family-friendly entertainment and undermine grassroots support for our great game will break the heart of dozens of communities across the country,” Milovich stated. “Minor league teams are vital to the social and economic lives of millions of Americans, they support scores of local businesses and jobs, provide accessible entertainment, help promote tourism spending and donate tens of millions of dollars to charitable contributions.”
While the RoughRiders were not on the list of teams facing the possibility of elimination under the MLB proposal, the club has pledged to remain vigilant and united with all Minor League Baseball teams in opposition to the MLB plan.
Stephen Green says there’s still a market for his products. “There are a handful of people who buy them as an investment that used to be a lot bigger because now about 90 percent of our customers are autograph collectors,” said Green.
Green’s 30 years of being involved in minor league baseball cards has led to an international reputation. “We get orders from Japan, we have customers from England we have customers from Taiwan including one big fan of the Yankees who is a reverend over in England. International customers have been intriguing to Green because he believes baseball is a great unifier and that is why minor league baseball is important.
So when you want a player from the Chihuahuas, the Lug Nuts, the Loons, the Rumble Ponies, or the Green Jackets, he’s still hoping one day things will return to normal and the minor league card sets will once again begin to flow.