(This is Day 14 of our response to Tony L.’s 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge. See all our posts in this series here.)

By the early 2000s, baseball cards were about the last thing on my mind.

I had finished grad school a couple years earlier, moved out of state, and was firmly entrenched in career- and family-building mode.

I occasionally bough2001 Fleer Platinum Dmitri Youngt a copy of Beckett or thumbed through a stack of cards, but mostly my collection was just an albatross that I lugged through move after move.

It stayed that way for at least 10 years, so this installment of the 30-Day Baseball Card Challenge is particularly, well, challenging.

What I’ve discovered, though, is that it’s also sort of thrilling.

I mean, imagine you blasted into outer space on January 1, 2000, slingshotted around a few planets, and then plunked back down in your Barcalounger in 2017.

Now, imagine someone brings in a super monster mega triscadeca-decker box teeming with one each of the roughly 120,000 different baseball cards issued during the 2000s — according to the PSA Population Report — and asked you to pick out a favorite.

That’s basically where I am with this post, thanks to the marvels of the Internet and Tony’s charge to choose “One of your favorite cards from the 2000s.”

It’s overwhelming and awesome all at the same time.

Doesn’t every collector dream of wading through 100,000 or more cards with the chance to pick out any that he wants?

Of course!

But where do you start? How do you narrow it all down?

That’s the rub.

Start at Home

What I’ve found in life and in baseball cards, though, is that you hardly ever go very wrong if you remember your roots. Remember who you are.

And, when it comes to baseball cards, I am a few things:

  • I’m a child of the 1980s.
  • I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan.
  • I’m a baseball card collector, and I appreciate other collectors.
  • I’m a nostalgia geek.

With these basic truths in mind, I was able to eliminate a huge chunk of the sets issued during the 2000s. Anything that hung its hat on space-age technology or being the most glistening glossy cards among all other glisteners were gone.

So were most base cards of then-current players. Nothing nostalgic about those.

That still left me with plenty of options, so I once again narrowed my search with another nugget of knowledge — that Topps loves its nostalgia, too, and has lavished us with Heritage and Archives goodies over the years.

Is There a “C. Nettles” in There Somewhere?

While clicking through the Google Images wrought by searches related to those offerings from The Old Gum Company, other “old” looking cards from the 2000s came into view. There was lots of good-looking cardboard to choose from, but one card stopped me cold. It looked like a 1981 Fleer card, but there was something slightly different about the design, and it showed a modern player — Jason Kendall.

A little digging revealed that it was a 2001 Fleer Platinum card.2001 Fleer Platinum Dmitri Young (back)

Now, Jason Kendall didn’t do much for me, but if he had a card then …

And a little more searching revealed that, yes, there were plenty of Reds in the Fleer Platinum set, too.

I’d welcome them all into my collection, but card #242 of Dmitri Young hit me in my collector’s heart.

I had forgotten all about Dmitri, but he reminded me of everything that thrilled me about baseball cards in the first place. He had been a young, talented prospect who didn’t quite pan out for the St. Louis Cardinals, then came to the Reds and turned in some nice seasons on the Riverfront.

He never clicked as hard as folks thought he might, but that latent potential was exactly what would have made him a favorite of mine had he played in 1980s. I’d go back to his cards every year, studying them for any hints of when he might break out.

As it turned out, Young struggled with weight and other health issues during his career, and he was gone from the Major Leagues at age 34 even though it seemed like he still had some life in his bat.

But the Young card struck me for another reason — Dmitri is one of us.

During his playing career, he became famous for the heady baseball card collection he had accumulated during his playing days, and before. And it was big news when he sold off a big hunk of his best cards a few years ago.

So is there any better card from the 2000s than Young’s 2001 Fleer Platinum issue? Maybe, but I doubt there’s anything better out there for me.

Old Dmitri and I may not be what we were at the turn of the century, but thanks to this beautiful Red-slathered slab of cardboard, we can both be forever Young whenever we want.

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