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Pa. man wins auction, spot on baseball card

July 04, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

You probably won't mistake Jay Wolt for the true Hagerstown Suns.

On their baseball cards, many players, in their 20s, are posed in batting stances or holding their mitts.

On his card, Wolt, 46, is wearing an unbuttoned Suns' jersey, a Suns' cap and sunglasses. He's kneeling and holding his Pomeranian, Pierre.

Nonetheless, on paper, Wolt is one of the gang. Winning an Internet auction earned him a spot on his own baseball card in the Suns' 2004 team set, which came out a few weeks ago.

He paid $203.52 in an eBay auction run by the Suns in May, beating out several other bidders.

What better marketing device could a man who sells sports cards for a living hope to have?

"It's like the ultimate business card," said Wolt, who lives in Littlestown in Adams County, Pa.

This is the second year the Suns auctioned the rights to a baseball card.

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"We try to involve the fans as much as possible," said Kurt Landes, the Suns' general manager.

Last year, Tony Dahbura, the corporate vice president of Hub Labels in Hagerstown, won the auction for a little more than $100, earning a card in the 2003 Suns' set.

As runner-up, Garry Laing of Hagerstown was given a chance to pay the same amount for a card. He accepted.

Will Smith, the Suns' assistant general manager, said the team gets 36 cards to fill in its team set, which this year sells for $7.

This year, the Suns had cards for 28 players, manager Mike Ramsey, two coaches, a trainer, mascot Woolie B and Scoreboard Cowboy, who might be described as part mascot and part hired help.

That left two open slots - and a promotional opportunity.

The eBay auction started May 1.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be etched in time along side other future major leaguers," the auction description said. "Former Hagerstown Suns include (the Minnesota Twins') Shannon Stewart, (the Toronto Blue Jays') Vernon Wells and (the Baltimore Orioles') Jay Gibbons."

Wolt posted a bid through an automated "sniping" Web site. "Sniping" is the nickname given to placing the top bid in an auction with just seconds remaining.

His winning bid was processed six seconds before the auction ended.

Wolt got to choose a picture for the front of his card and write a brief biography for the back. That gave him a chance to mention his family and plug his sports card business, Cavalcade of Sports.

The winning auction package included 25 individual cards, five team sets and an autographed team ball. Wolt threw out the first pitch before a game and got free tickets for people to watch him.

Wolt grew up in Millburn, N.J., about 45 minutes from Yankee Stadium. Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were gone by the time he became a fan, but their legacies, and other popular players, remained.

The Suns offered this year's second-highest bidder the chance to have a card, too, but didn't get a response, Smith said.

The second-place bidder's eBay profile lists him or her as living in Los Angeles County, Calif.

The Suns then turned to Dahbura, the third bidder, and he accepted.

Dahbura, 44, who has worked out with the team, had the nickname "Shag" on this year's card and "The Kid" on last year's.

"Tony is in his second season with the Suns, demonstrating superb quickness in the outfield and utmost defensive prowess," his card biography says. "The critics rave: 'How does he do it?' - NY Post; 'A gamer!' - Washington Times; 'Hang 'em up already!' - ESPN."

Laing, 54, also grew up as a Yankee fan in New Jersey. He rooted for Mantle the most.

For his card, he and his son, Max, 26, both business education teachers, dressed in Yankee jerseys and caps and held bats. They had their picture taken against a blank wall.

On a computer, one of Max Laing's students inserted a picture of an actual Yankee Stadium crowd as a background.

Buying a personal baseball card seemed like "a fun, frivolous thing to do," Garry Laing said.

Could Wolt, Dahbura and Laing cards become hot commodities?

Will collectors buy a Suns' team set just for a 2004 Jay Wolt?

Not a chance.

The true Suns still rule.

"I'm just along for the ride," Wolt said.

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