Homer against Strahm? He collects your card
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Matt Strahm is still searching for one specific Charlie Blackmon card to add to his collection.
“It keeps vanishing on me,” Strahm said this week at BayCare Ballpark.
Strahm, 31, is one of the Phillies’ newest relievers, signing a two-year, $15 million contract in December. He will slot somewhere behind Seranthony Domínguez, José Alvarado, Craig Kimbrel and Gregory Soto in what could be one of baseball’s best bullpens. Strahm is a left-handed former starter who throws five pitches. His long hair rivals Brandon Marsh’s.
But Strahm stands out because of his baseball card collection. Specifically, he collects cards of players who have homered against him in the big leagues. It is a small part of a collection he estimates to be close to one million cards.
“I call it my box,” Strahm said, laughing. “If you hit a home run against me, you’re good enough to collect. That’s kind of my arrogance, my personality.”
Thirty-nine players have homered a combined 42 times in Strahm’s seven-year career. There are likely future Hall of Famers, such as Miguel Cabrera and Freddie Freeman; former MVPs like Christian Yelich, Josh Donaldson, Cody Bellinger, Ryan Braun and José Abreu; and relative unknowns like John Ryan Murphy and Phil Ervin.
Strahm has not collected a card from everybody, including Blackmon. He still needs ones from the players who homered against him last season, including Jonathan Schoop and Patrick Wisdom.
He has never allowed a homer against anybody in Phillies camp.
“Hopefully that doesn’t change during a live BP this week,” Strahm said.
Strahm grew up in North Dakota and collected cards until he turned 11 or 12. He started collecting again with his brother in 2018. His hobby turned into a couple shows, including Strahm’s Stadium Pulls and The Card Life.
“I opened up one box and it was like I was 12 again,” Strahm said. “Now I have a spare bedroom full of them. I don’t go out to buy individual cards. I call myself a packrat. I enjoy the product releases, every month, every year. I enjoy just getting the box, and whatever I open, that’s my collection. I’m not looking to sell, trade or buy. I look at my collection as a hobby for me, and hopefully one day it’ll be an inheritance for my daughter. And if she doesn’t like baseball cards, I hope she sells them and does something she likes. We all have those relatives who are hoarders, and they’re like, ‘What are we going to do when we get all that crap?’ I don’t want my daughter to think that.
“I just told [prospect] Mick Abel, ‘Dude, I have one of your [2021 Bowman Chrome Red Sapphire cards]. But I’ve got to find it. Give me some time.’ I’ve got a million cards. Seventy-five to 85 percent are base cards. The other 15 percent are like parallel, numbered, [autographed]. What’s 15 percent of a million? That’s what I’ve got to go through to find Mick. We’ll get it. But you’ll see during the year, I have boxes of cards up in my locker. I’ll open them during the season. Quite a few guys got into it in the clubhouse [last year with Boston].”
Strahm’s collection is almost exclusively newer cards. He does not collect vintage cards, although he once specifically sought and found a Roger Maris 1961 Topps.
Maris is from North Dakota, too.
“He hit 61 in '61, so I wanted his '61 card,” Strahm said. “I’ve hunted down all the North Dakota guys' rookie cards.”
So he’s got a Chris Coste?
“He doesn’t have a rookie card,” Strahm said. “Well, he does, but it’s not a licensed one. He’s got a weird one. I got baseballs signed by all North Dakota baseball players, too. I have Roger Maris, Rick Helling, Travis Hafner, Chris Coste, Darin Erstad.”
The Maris baseball also has autographs from Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford on it.
“My dad worked the first-ever Roger Maris golf tournament in Fargo,” Strahm said. “He ended up DD-ing [designated driving] for those guys that night. So they signed a baseball for them.”
Strahm’s advice for new collectors?
“Collect what you love,” Strahm said. “Don’t chase the dollar sign. That just takes the fun out of it. I got more hyped about a 2019 Tim Hill base card because he’s my best friend and I played with him. On YouTube, in the comments, people were like, ‘You got more hyped about the Tim Hill than the [Fernando] Tatis Jr.’ I’m like, 'Well, Tim Hill eats dinner at my house three nights a week in the offseason. It’s kind of cool.'”