Jordan Lawlar, the D-backs' No. 1 prospect who recently joined the big league team for the postseason push, stood in MLB's studios, showing off the smooth motions and quick reflexes borne out of years of repetition. But this wasn't a swing or a backhanded grab: Lawler was tearing open boxes of baseball cards -- 2023 Bowman's Best to be exact.
While he was ripping through packs of young prospects and new superstars, there's one former player he's looking to collect above all others: Derek Jeter.
"I'm trying to get as many Jeter cards as I can right now. Anybody that has Jeter cards, I'll take those," Lawlar said with a laugh.
Though he grew up in Texas, you can count Lawlar as another baseball phenom who spent his formative years watching Jeter with the kind of close attention usually reserved for college students the night before a final.
"Growing up, he was always my man," Lawlar said. "That's really the only reason I have for [wanting to collect his cards]. I can't wait to play in Yankee Stadium and be where he was a few years ago."
While Lawlar may be more into cards than most -- he admitted to having recently sent in thirty cards to be professionally graded -- it's a trend that has quickly taken over big league clubhouses. While Royals star Bobby Witt Jr. is a card collector and Phillies reliever Matt Strahm even collects the cards of everyone who has homered off him, the D-backs just may be leading the way. Veteran Evan Longoria has become a huge card and jersey collector in recent years, while Lawlar and National League Rookie of the Year Award front-runner Corbin Carroll is getting into them, too.
"We haven't [traded cards] just yet, but we talk about them for sure," Lawlar said about the growing D-backs card collecting corner. "I know Corbin and [Evan Longoria] have gotten out to some of the shops in AZ. [Longoria will] bring boxes back for Corbin and he's slowly getting him into it. Yesterday, we were on the couch talking and Corbin's like, 'Hey, did I tell you I'm into cards?' I'll give him a few of these."
A true baseball fanatic, Lawlar was equally excited to pull cards of his friends like Dustin Harris and D-backs teammate Alek Thomas ("He's signing this tonight," Lawler said) as he was to get superstars like Matt Olson and Julio Rodríguez. Of course, the best moment may have been when Lawlar pulled his very own card.
"Obviously, you go to Walmart and Target growing up and you open packs and stuff, but to actually see yourself on the card? There's nothing like it," Lawler said, a wide grin spreading on his face.
Soon, he pulled a card of Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki. It reminded Lawlar of the moment when he knew he wasn't in the Minors anymore.
"In my debut, he hit a triple. I think it was probably one of [the Cubs'] first hits," Lawlar said. "Once he actually hit third, everybody in the stadium stood up and erupted. That's something I'll never forget. That was the first big moment."
His favorite card-collecting moment, though?
"I was in Target one day and didn't know I was on a box," Lawlar said. "I go in there and I'm just looking for a new set of cards. I look at the box and just see myself and I'm like, 'No way.'"
Even a card aficionado like himself isn't above having some fun with the cardboard, though. When he and friend Benny Montgomery, the No. 8 prospect in the Rockies' system, were signing cards, they decided to swap signatures. Lawlar would sign his cards as Montgomery and Montgomery would pretend to be the D-backs star.
"I just Facetimed him and asked, 'Are you signing these cards right now too?'" Lawlar said. After Montgomery admitted he was doing the same thing, Lawlar wanted to "do something crazy."
"So, we both thought of some ideas. I've seen him do some crazy stuff with Borat and all that. We thought of an idea and just did it. I don't know if those others made it out [to the public], but I wish we just kept them as a keepsake."
After the box break was done, we spent some time talking to Jordan about coming up to the Major Leagues and what his life is like away from the ballpark. You can read that conversation below.
Portions of this interview have been edited for length and clarity.
MLB: You mentioned that Derek Jeter was your favorite player. Who was your favorite team?
Lawler: Kind of goes hand in hand. So, it was the Yankees. I just spent so much time watching [Jeter] that it felt like I ended up knowing the whole team by the end of the week. So yeah, Yankees and Jeter for sure.
MLB: Who is the best player you've faced and who do you dream of facing?
Lawler: We faced the Drillers earlier this year, the Double-A team for the Dodgers. They had Kyle Hurt and he was pretty nasty. He just got called back up. So, I'd say he's the best. Then I'll want to face [Shohei] Ohtani. I want him to get healthy, he needs to fix that arm and then I want to face Otani, for sure.
MLB: You came up alongside Corbin Carroll. Is he your closest friend on the team? Was it ever competitive between the two of you?
Lawler: He is one of them for sure. I'd say we've spent maybe some of the most time together, honestly. I'd say [our relationship] is good fun. Obviously when we get on the field, we get really locked in.
MLB: You mentioned that you used to play trumpet. What is something you're looking forward to doing again in the offseason?
Lawler: That's easy: It's going to be golf for sure. Golf in Arizona is unmatched.
MLB: How's your game?
Lawler: It's getting there. The time will be spent in lessons first, and then we'll go put the work out on the field.
MLB: If you could have a dinner party with three people, living or dead, who would you pick?
Lawler: I think I have to do Derek Jeter. So, Jeter, Tiger Woods and Drake. Drake is one of my favorite artists for sure.
MLB: What have you been playing on repeat lately?
Lawler: Right now, it's actually Lil Baby. So he has his new album. And I've been running it on repeat everywhere -- the bus, locker room before the game, all the time.
MLB: When you're on a road trip, what's the first thing you pack? What's the most important thing going in your bag?
Lawler: I mean, seriously, my toiletry bag. But off that, some shoes, I always have to have some shoes. I'm lacking some shoes right now, so we're going to go to the store and find some immediately.
MLB: You have carte blanche at a store. You can get anything you want, price is no consideration. Where are you going and what are you getting?
Lawler: I'm a simple guy, honestly. So, maybe Banana Republic and just getting all the different colors of jeans and pants. Yeah, I'm going to just do that.
MLB: Last question: You seem pretty close with your mom. What do you guys do when you're together? Are you watching baseball or getting away from it all?
Lawler: Dinner is always one of the biggest things I love. I love food, too. So, food and mom together is always a good combo. Those conversations are always very meaningful. But yeah, just spending any really quality time outside of the field together is what I look forward to do.