Junior, Rose cards filled Freel's closet
Super-utility man will bring his collection to Inner Harbor
Ryan Freel would be an ideal candidate for an "all-hustle" baseball card set. The always-in-motion Baltimore Orioles handyman, acquired in December from the Reds, will play at a high speed at a variety of positions.
But in addition to that versatile style being part of Freel's personality, he might have learned more via osmosis from his enormous childhood collection of baseball cards.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Who were the favorite players you collected?
Freel: I probably went after Ken Griffey Jr. when Upper Deck came out with [his cards], and it just skyrocketed in value. When you collect cards, you want the ones that mean something. That's one guy I can really remember keeping. He was blossoming.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Did you have Griffey sign those cards since he was your teammate?
Freel: I think maybe one card, because it was for a charity. He's got a lot of stuff to sign. I didn't want to mess with him.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Which other cards did you collect?
Freel: I enjoyed Pete Rose. He inspired me the way he played. I had Pete Rose cards. As the years went on, I started collecting his. I used to collect whatever. I have hundreds of thousands of cards.
Others were Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Will Clark. I liked the New York Mets with Gary Carter, Mookie Wilson, Darryl Strawberry. I had sets and sets.
My dad [Pat Freel] worked in a merchandise distributing company and he would have merchandise left over. He'd exchange it for baseball cards. I had them in my closet -- the whole closet filled up. My clothes were hanging on top of the cards. They're still at my house. I have too many.
I think it will be cool to have my daughters looking through them one day.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Where did you first appear on a card?
Freel: St. Catharine's [Ontario] Stompers, my first Minor League team. Yeah, I looked real young, absolutely. My mom still has that.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What's your favorite Major League card?
Freel: I don't have a favorite. I'd take a diving catch in the outfield image, though.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.