From Rookie of the Year To Rated Rookie, Evan Longoria’s Card Collecting Is More Than Just a Hobby

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Evan Longoria’s locker is crowded.

Hanging from a rack are t-shirts and shorts, sweat-wicking warmup tops and Diamondbacks jerseys in white, black, red, gray and tan. Shelves and cabinets hold a smattering of personal effects; on the floor sits a three-tiered rack just for his shoes. But among these ballplayer trademarks are footlong white boxes found more often in the closets of baseball fans than in the lockers of the sport’s stars. Inside, they’re filled with baseball cards.

This year at Chase Field, it’s common to glimpse Longoria breezing into the clubhouse, a couple such boxes tucked under an arm. The 37-year-old veteran wants to share the joy of his favorite hobby. “He’s always bringing in cards like, ‘Hey, let’s open them,’” says rookie outfielder Corbin Carroll. Longoria’s teammates often oblige. They’ve unearthed a Gabriel Moreno card and ones featuring Arizona prospects Jordan Lawlar and Deyvison De Los Santos. Carroll has even pulled a couple of his own.

Longoria’s teammates may not know it, but the veteran third baseman is only sharing the scraps. He used to crack open boxes of cards like this more often – and indeed, it’s still fun – but Longoria has fashioned himself into more than just a hobbyist. What started as a pandemic-shutdown pastime has now turned into a serious endeavor. Longoria has inserted himself deep into the card-collecting world, quickly learning its intricacies. At home, he has “thousands and thousands” of cards, he says, many of which are a good deal more valuable than the ones he lugs into the office to show his coworkers.

There’s an autographed Mike Trout card that’s worth a fair amount of money. Longoria also collects Formula 1 racing cards and recently sold a 2021 Lewis Hamilton card that was one of just five of its kind. (One of those same Hamilton cards is currently listed on eBay for $5,000.) He’s also hot after classic cards from baseball’s golden age, both because he’s a fan and because he’s a savvy investor.

While the market for high-priced modern cards has been more volatile – softening last year after two years of skyrocketing investment, per an analysis in Sports Collectors Digest – top-grade classic cards, like sports franchises, steadily gain value.

“If I spent $40,000 on a Lou Gehrig card or a Babe Ruth card or something like that, in 20 years, it’s going to be worth $60,000,” he says. “It’s not going down. It’s like owning the S&P 500.”

All of this started with a different type of collectible. Desperate for something to do while the sport was shuttered in the summer of 2020, Longoria began buying Pokémon cards to open with his two oldest children, now 10 and 8 years old. The hobby caught on with him more than them, however, and now Longoria can’t get enough.

A novice to card collecting, he started by buying packs of baseball cards at Target and Walmart, but that approach never turned up anything special. Card manufacturers rarely sneak the truly valuable stuff into the cheap packs. “It’s like playing a slot machine,” he says. “You put in a hundred bucks and you’re probably going to lose it all.” To catch ‘em all, he learned, you gotta spend. So, he did his research and became more literate. He followed prominent collectors on social media and he watched card breakers on livestreams. He figured out which cards had value, which packs they came in, and how to procure them.

That attention to detail makes him unique among pro athletes who collect. “He gets it,” says Ryan Veres, owner of Burbank Sportscards, a Southern California clearinghouse that sells roughly 4,000 individual cards a day from a stock of 40 million. Most sports stars who collect tend to delegate, Veres has found, but Longoria pops into the shop whenever he’s in town. “A lot of those guys will just have guys buy stuff for them. ‘I don’t know a lot about it. Just buy me cool stuff,’” Veres says. “But he does everything himself. He’ll pound the pavement.”

With nearly $150 million in career earnings, Longoria has the scratch to be a serious collector. (Though don’t expect him to rival the nearly $100 million collection belonging to Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick.) He’ll frequently sell cards through his Instagram profile. The rest he keeps for his kids, in the hopes that they might someday appreciate them. They haven’t yet.

“In the meantime, it’s like a Picasso. You get to look at it, it’s a story. Somebody comes over, ‘Hey, check this out,’” he says. “That, to me, is the exciting part about it.”

It all makes for an amusing image – Longoria, a former Rookie of the Year and three-time Gold Glover, grinning as he plucks a card featuring some prospect who’d be lucky to accomplish half of what he has. “The future of the game is bright,” he says, and the cards serve to connect him to that future as he prepares to become the game’s past. This is Longoria’s 16th season, and it marks the beginning of his career’s final phase. But it’s a phase he entered willingly, signing with Arizona for one year and $4 million to play part-time and live in his offseason home.

He senses the end is near, which is why he’s begun collecting something other than cards. Over the last two seasons, Longoria has made a point of asking opponents to swap jerseys. He’s received personalized uniform tops from Austin Riley and Bobby Witt Jr., trading them one of his own. This year, Bryce Harper inscribed a message on a dirt-covered jersey he’d just pulled off his back. Longoria has also mined his connections to procure game-worn uniforms from athletes in other sports – including Devin Booker, Stephen Curry and even the GOAT himself, Tom Brady.

His collection could be even more robust – think Derek Jeter and David Ortiz – but he lacked the foresight in his early years to curate mementos as he went along. Like an actor absconding with a prop after a long shoot, it took until the end for Longoria to realize he wanted to bring home more than just memories. “I may not have another chance,” he says. He doesn’t want his young Diamondbacks teammates to take their time for granted. Carroll, one of the few players in the Diamondbacks clubhouse with a legitimate chance to surpass Longoria’s on-field exploits, sees the logic.

“His reasoning for it was kind of cool,” Carroll says. “It made me want to start getting some guys that I’ve played with and will play against. I think it’s a cool memento, a living collection of your career.”

The game is hardly done with Longoria yet. For the Diamondbacks, he’s provided cost-effective punch from the right side of the plate, with an 112 wRC+ overall and a 137 mark against left-handers. He’s a veteran presence on a striving and surprising young team, and one of the only men in the room with any postseason experience. The Diamondbacks have a 50% chance at a playoff berth, per FanGraphs’ projections, and they’ll need Longoria’s experience.

He has memories left to make, but in the meantime, there are packs to open. And so, every so often, he plops a box on a clubhouse table and beckons a few teammates. They rip open the packaging and rummage through like they’re kids once more, pondering which players are destined for stardom. And for a moment, time stops.

Zach Buchanan has covered baseball for more than a decade. He has been a beat writer covering the Diamondbacks and Reds, and more recently covered prospects for The Athletic. He lives in Arizona.

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10 months ago

I’m going to be Debbie Downer on an otherwise really cool article…

A card worth 40K now being worth 60K twenty years into the future is a really lousy return on investment, and far far worse than owning the S&P…

However, something tells me Evan Longoria will still be ok, even with less than market returns…

10 months ago

Sure, but specifics of his example aside he’s right that you’re better off buying high quality vintage than chasing whatever the modern hype du jour is.

10 months ago

Modern is very akin to gambling. Massive price fluctuations and such. Breaking is literally gambling.

10 months ago
Reply to  synco

Modern is definitely more volatile. Though the concept behind breaking being gambling (which it is) is different from the concept behind modern cards being more volatile.

Jason Bmember
10 months ago

At a 5% annual return that should be over $100K in 20 years…all that said, some types of cards (not all) have really taken off post-pandemic. Some have softened considerably in the last 12 months or so, but even so certain cards/types remain 2x or 3x what they were pre-pandemic

10 months ago

Yeah, with recent inflation, that would actually be a substantial loss of value. And yeah as you say, the opportunity costs (S&P, etc) are huge.

Having said that, his returns on big name vintage are probably much better than the quote he gave.

I got a Jackie 1950 Bowman PSA 3 about five years ago for $500 and I could get $2500-$3000 for it now.

Last edited 10 months ago by gavinrendar