Pitchers and catchers have reported to big league camps in Arizona and Florida. One baseball collector showed up in Lakeland looking to add to his autograph bounty that includes thousands of items.
From a spring training day one story in the Detroit Free Press highlighting the group of fans who showed up to watch the early-season workouts at the camp of the defending American League champs:
Then there was John O’Brien, a 50-year-old retired city worker from Fremont, Ohio.
O’Brien had 42 dozen baseballs in his car. If all goes well, many of them will eventually contain the autographs of baseball players.
At home, he said he has 2,800 named bats, 9,600 single-name autographed balls, 40,000 autographs and thousands of handwritten letters from old-time ballplayers in which they talk about their careers.
"This hobby has cost me three wives," he said. "They tried to convert me."
"A househusband, I guess," he said.
O’Brien’s most recent prize was getting Gary Sheffield, the new Tigers’ slugger, to autograph a bat Sheffield broke during spring training in 2005 when he was playing for the Yankees.
Yes, O’Brien had been storing it.
The bat is a Marucci. On the barrel it says: "Hand-crafted for Gary Sheffield." It’s heavy, and it had white tape wrapped thickly around the skinny part, even around the knob.
Sheffield affixed his name in an extremely stylized manner, in blue marker.
"He signed it yesterday," O’Brien said. "Shef is very fan-friendly. Very personable. He’s been great his whole career."
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