Gil Meche believes he has the largest collection of baseball cards by any Major Leaguer, numbering perhaps 30,000 or 40,000. Certainly the Kansas City Royals' right-hander talks about the collection with the passion of a veteran hobbyist.
Meche began collecting while growing up in Louisiana. But his love of cards was strengthened by his mother, Linda, who also collected with him. Linda Meche brought her son to cards shows, where they shared their love of collecting.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How did this collection get built up?
Meche: I collected from 1986 to 1991. I have every card from those five years. I've got a closet back home that's completely full of huge boxes. I pretty much haven't looked at them in 10 years. But I did it kind of with the idea of saving them for my kids down the road.
I would go to the store and buy two boxes of cards, with 36 packs per box. I did it for fun. A bunch of my buddies did it with me. We traded cards with each other. I had some guys who competed with me [to get the most cards]. That's literally all I did for five years -- that's no joke. I had a buddy who came over to my house with boxes of cards. We'd sit up all hours of the night trading cards back and forth.
I bought the 1989 Upper Deck set with Ken Griffey Jr.'s rookie card. I never opened it. I never touched it. It's still sealed. I have a bunch of Junior's cards in packs. I was drafted by the Mariners, and in 1999 I got to play with him for three months, which was unbelievable. You're a kid, collecting cards, and he's your favorite -- and I got a chance to play with him.
I didn't open a lot of the sets I bought. I was told not to open the sets, that they'd be worth more down the road if they were still factory-sealed. Probably more than half the sets I own are still sealed. Back then, it was easier to collect because there were only four, five sets.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Did you try to collect vintage cards?
Meche: My uncle actually kept a box of cards he collected in the early 1960s. When I'd go over to his house he'd let me look at them. Every once in awhile, he'd give me one. He really didn't care too much about them, but he kept them. Eventually when I'm done with the game, I'll sit down with my three kids and maybe get them involved with it, just like I did as a kid.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Where did you first appear on a card?
Meche: The Everett (Wash.) Aqua-Sox. It was 1997, short-season Class A ball in the Northwest League. A head shot. A little skinny kid, about 180 pounds right out of high school. Zits all over my face, I'm sure. I still see them now.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What's your favorite Major League card?
Meche: My rookie card of 1999. It was my Major League debut against the Angels. It even says "Major League debut" on the card. It was a straight action shot of me about to release the ball. I had finally gotten to the Majors.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.