Ken Griffey Jr., meet Vernon Wells. And not just in the slugger category or at All-Star Games. If anyone was a more diligent card collector of Griffey through his Mariners seasons, please stand up and raise your hand, because Wells compiled a pretty extensive collection of Junior's cards.
MLBPLAYERS.com: At what age did you start collecting?
Wells: I was eight, nine years old. It was about the time Upper Deck started their new set, and obviously the big card was the Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card. It was a matter of how special a player he was and how much fun he had playing the game. Arguably, he'll go down as one of the best to ever put on the uniform.
It was a card everybody wanted and everybody tried to get. Fortunately, my dad (commercial artist and former Canadian Football League wide receiver Vernon Wells) was associated with Upper Deck at the time, so I had plenty of wax boxes that still aren't opened -- '89 Upper Deck.
The only time I could watch baseball on TV was when Ken Griffey Jr. played. I didn't really cheer for the Mariners, but I pretty much just cheered for him.
Each year, I'd have all his cards, and they're in a closet. When I first got called up in '99, it was a treat being on the same field as him. I did trade a couple of Griffey cards just because I had an excess of them. I'd trade in a crossover for an Emmitt Smith rookie card, things like that. Troy Aikman, too.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Who else did you collect?
Wells: I remember having Frank Thomas' rookie card, because Leaf had it in the set coming out. I met Frank when I was 12 at a signing, and I remind him how old he really is.
MLBPLAYERS.com: When did you first appear on a card?
Wells: I remember seeing my first card in 1997 in St. Catherine's, Ont. The first was in a Blue Jays pullover, from the waist up. Just posing. It was actually in a back yard. They came to my house and took the picture in the back yard instead of the ballpark.
My first action shot was the instructional league in the next offseason. It was kind of boring.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What's your favorite Blue Jays card?
Wells: I'm on a card with Carlos Delgado in 2003 -- that's when I knew I had made it, when I was on a card with Carlos. I'm going to have to talk to the photographers to get better shots of me on the cards. They're always kind of the same pose, in mid-swing or mid-stride with a funny look on my face, running the bases.
I'll definitely have to talk to somebody about getting in cards with Junior and Frank.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.