Here’s a guy who can tear the cover off the baseball.
Gregg Garfinkel plays third base for a fastpitch league in California, and while he may not have the fielding or hitting chops of his idols — Mike Schmidt and Ron Cey — this transportation attorney knows how to handle a baseball.
Garfinkel, 54, runs Baseballidays, a business where he turns baseballs used by big leaguers into personalized gifts, including key chains, menorahs, miniature Christmas trees, flags, wreaths and even roses.
Many of the balls bear the tell tale marks of use by players who have hit them hard.
“What games they are from, I do not know,” Garfinkel said. “But everything I make has a story behind it.”
For Passover, Garfinkel created a baseball-themed seder plate, which is the centerpiece for the table during the Jewish holiday. The large dish rests on home plate with six small plates and features a baseball in the middle of the “star.”
Garfinkel corrals used baseballs from his friend, Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo, and he also buys them during spring training. Garfinkel’s teenage sons, 18-year-old Ben and 15-year-old Brandon, help him prepare and market the baseballs.
“The painting is done by an art teacher friend of mine,” Garfinkel said.
Baseballiday customers have included Minnesota Twins general manager Thad Levine; the daughter of longtime broadcaster Vin Scully, who bought Christmas tree ornaments; Joe Braun, the father of Brewers star Ryan Braun; and Cey’s daughter-in-law, whose husband, Dan Cey, is the varsity baseball coach at Calabasas High School in California.
A big customer was Eric Holtz, the head coach of the Israeli senior national team, who loved the baseball-themed menorahs.
“He saw them on Facebook and sent me a message,” Garfinkel said. “He bought 25 menorahs from me.”
Holtz recently texted a photograph of himself and Hall of Fame reliever Mariano Rivera to Garfinkel, with both men admiring his work.
Garfinkel got the idea for Baseballidays in 2017 when Ben came home from school and said he was required to sell Christmas wreaths.
“Someone told me it was too bad they don’t make wreaths out of baseballs,” Garfinkel said. “So, I went to Google and looked up ‘baseball’ and ‘wreaths.’”
An idea was born.
Garfinkel started using the baseball covers for keychains, but the menorahs really became a star for the business.
“I’ve shipped them to Singapore, Canada and Italy,” he said.
Garfinkel has always loved baseball and began collecting, interestingly enough, on Aug. 9, 1974 — the day Richard Nixon resigned as president of the United States. There was no connection, really — Garfinkel’s mother was throwing a party for his ninth birthday, and one present was a pack of baseball cards.
“A neighbor brought a pack of 1974 Topps,” Garfinkel said. “I was enthralled.”
Garfinkel played shortstop in youth leagues but then shifted to third base while in high school. Garfinkel earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from California State University and his law degree at the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific. He currently works for the Los Angeles-based law firm of Stone|Dean.
He met his wife, the former Julie Ann Covell, a fellow attorney at his law firm, in 1992.
“I knew she was the woman for me when she could recite the starting lineup of the 1976 Cincinnati Reds,” Garfinkel said.
They were married in 1999. But in 2002, Julie was diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer went into remission after therapy, but in 2007 it returned with a vengeance. Julie died March 10, 2012, but not before winning the 2009 MLB Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer contest
“Many of my friends feel like my crafting is simply me channeling my wife’s creativity,” Garfinkel said. “Since I am such an uncreative attorney.”
Julie was big on crafts and scrapbooking, so there might be something to that. Each year, Garfinkel places a “bouquet” of baseball roses at her gravesite. In 2013, community efforts enabled Garfinkel to buy a scoreboard for Julie, which was dedicated at Field No. 2 at the Northridge City Little League.
The baseball roses are a popular product.
“They are big sellers on Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day,” said Garfinkel, who jokes that his roses are Hall of Fame worthy.
It has been trial and error at times for Garfinkel. Once, he drilled a baseball that had been signed by Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez and turned it into a keychain.
His hobby has turned into a business, but Garfinkel enjoys it as a break from arguing cases in federal court. He has written articles and contributes to the firm’s blog, and allowed Ben — now a student at the University of California at San Diego — to intern at the firm when he was 14.
Garfinkel is proud of Baseballidays but deflects the compliments.
“I’ve had people call me an artist, and I’m like, ‘Dude, I’m just a rabid baseball fan with time on my hands.
“I’m the guy who makes stuff out of baseballs.”