I have a dirty little secret when it comes to collecting baseball cards.  Ready to hear it?

OK, then … lean in close …

I don’t keep up with the new card market.

In fact, I haven’t kept up with the new card market since, oh, about 1993. Maybe 1994.

There are a lot of reasons for that …

All of the new issues coming out around that time, with parallels and chase cards and super premium cards and … *sigh* … and, well, it all sort of confused me. That was on me to a great extent, because I was in grad school at the time and didn’t have much mental space for anything else new.

But then I got married … started a family … started the old career path.

In those years, I did have a bit of time, and a bit of mental space, and I went back to the new card well here and there … and left confused every time.

I suspect I’m not alone in this scenario, and the truth is I’m not sure I want to change it. So much time has passed and so many hundreds of sets have been pumped out in the last 25 years that I’m not sure I could ever catch up with it all, even if I wanted to.

Thing is, though, I’ve never stopped following baseball itself in the here and now (or the there and then, as it were).

I watched the rise of the latest New York Yankees dynasty.

I watched the fall of curses for the Boston Red Sox (over it) and the Chicago Cubs (yay), and the continuation of the Cleveland Indians‘ woes.

I watched the so-called steroid era rise up and then get smacked down, with home run hitters suddenly becoming social pariahs.

I watched the power return over the last few years, with all sorts of explanations that don’t involve drugs, and everyone just sort of accepting it. Now there is talk of lowering the mound or moving it back or adding the DH to the National League …

Yep, baseball is a funny game, and I love every minute of it.

2019 Topps Miguel Sano

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Every once in awhile, too, I sneak another peek at those new cards — sitting over there on the shelf at Target or waving at me from across the card show floor or flashing by on this blog or that.

And you know what? They look darn good, for the most part. I like them and could collect them under the right circumstances.

I also realize that you can’t really do a proper Spring Training Baseball Card Challenge without including new cards in some fashion. After all, spring, and Spring Training in particular, is about new beginnings, new players, new teams, new hopes, new, new, new. So how can I leave out new cards?

I can’t.

So here I am, picking a brand new card to talk about on Day 7 of this challenge.

My gut — my heart — told me to pick one of those 1984 throwback cards … Heritage or Archives or whatever … or one of the other pasteboards that Topps put out this year but look like they came out in one of my years.

That felt like a cop-out, though, so I decided to be a bit more rigorous and pick a current card of a current player. Even more than that, I wanted a 2019 card, and a 2019 card that I could actually go out and buy right now if I wanted to.

So I perused the roll of 2019 Topps Series 1, which came out in late January, and found one I like … #116, Miguel Sano.

What’s good about this card?

Well, Sano had some health and conditioning problems last year, and his off-season wasn’t as quiet as you might hope, but he’s still a youngish slugger who made the AL All-Star team in 2017.

More importantly, the card’s base design is at least OK, with a hockey-stick inner border design that’s an obvious nod to 1982 Topps baseball. Since I can’t control Topps’ choices for their base design, I’ll give myself a pass on that particular throwback.

I also like the horizontal orientation of the card, and Sano looks pretty, um, neat¬† (I’m old, remember) crouched down at third base with his sun glasses down, ready to field anything that comes his way. At least we know he can’t use the old “lost the grounder in the sun” excuse for any miscue.

And finally, Sano sports the old interlocking T-C logo on his cap and that same logo threatens to swallow him up from his left, looming on the outfield wall like some 1980s baseball insignia version of Godzilla.

2019 Topps Miguel Sano

Overall, it’s an awesome visual that reminds me instantly of Kent Hrbek and those other great Twins of my youth — Kirby Puckett, Frank Viola, Gary Gaetti, Dan Gladden … um … Sal ButeraMark Salas.

You get the idea.

And, yes, I know that Gaetti was a third baseman, like Sano, and Hrbek was a first baseman, but this shot of Sano reminds me of Hrbek first.

I already conceded a lot by drawing on a brand new card … it’s not likely I’ll soften on this Buy-A-Vowel point any time soon.

Check out the entire series of 2019 Spring Training Challenge posts here.