Updated: Jun 25
Many of us who grow up playing sports, grow up with “Big League” dreams, dreams to be a professional athlete. For five social media personalities, “Big League” dreams took on a new meaning this year with the release of 2023 Topps Big League. An unfathomable or what may have seemed to be an unattainable dream became reality. They would get their own official trading card in a Topps release.
There have been members of the card community questioning, “Why those five?” Regardless of opinion, it is beyond cool to see the Topps and Fanatics team thinking outside the box for this release. That’s why I’m here to share each of these content creators journeys and reactions to their call up to the big leagues.
Stephanie Garcia “Mama Breaks”
Amassing 16.2k followers on Instagram, Stephanie Garcia “or better known as Mama Breaks” has built a community around being herself and encouraging others to do the same. Previous to being in sports cards full time, Garcia was a teacher. When asked about her initial thoughts on the release of Topps Big League, Garcia responded, “It’s hard to wrap my head around, but my general feelings are proud. It makes me think about my students and sons.” Family is a big part of Garcia’s life and she plans to share this milestone with her sons in the future, “I’m definitely looking for cases to save and rip with them in the future. I definitely will sign a copy for each of them and have it graded. 1 of 2 with “Love Mom” inscription.”
Like many others, Garcia’s collecting journey started during the pandemic, though collecting somewhat when she was a kid, her “Younger self wouldn’t believe this is happening.” Garcia looks back at her younger self as “having a lack of confidence and had a hard time believing in herself.” When hearing that, I was surprised as I get to know the Stephanie today. I concluded the conversation by asking her how she would tell her younger self about this accomplishment and I think this is something everyone needs to hear. “This is you. You did this because you started believing in yourself. You chose to follow your heart and go after this. This is what can happen when you follow your heart.”
Aaron Nowak “SlabStox”
Aaron Nowak is one half of the SlabStox crew that brings the hobby all to do with the sports card market. Nowak grew up both playing sports and collecting sports cards. During his childhood, commonly with many others Nowak believed, “You gotta join the MLB or be a professional athlete to have a trading card.” Since his early collecting days, sets like Allen and Ginter have featured celebrities, personalities, etc. and he noted that, “Someday that was the dream.” Collecting has been a major part of Nowak's life, so much so he wanted to own his own card shop as a kid. Through time those dreams and passions turned towards content creation.
Content creation in sports cards has taken off since the pandemic, and hasn’t always been what it is now. I asked Nowak what his younger self would think of his current place in the hobby. “What the heck. There wasn’t really anything growing up content wise and you’d have to do something pretty massive to get a card. At 8, I didn’t even know what social media was and it didn’t in some ways even exist yet.” The Topps Big League set features five different people who have utilized social media to grow their brand and Nowak had some thoughts about the first release, “It’s cool to see it come together in a cool way for the hobby.”
Tim McEnery “Slab Strong”
Tim McEnery is the founder of “Slab Strong”, a product that helps protect graded cards in a fun and colorful way. This release comes at an eventful time in McEnery’s life as he notes, “Besides getting married this year, this is one of the coolest experiences.” Along those lines McEnery also shared “Corey (founder of “Show Your Slabs”) was the one it (the card) was talked about in front of and the day he suggested it, I was getting married.”
McEnery has always been into sports cards and grew up collecting them. He also grew up playing sports and, “Though I had dreams to be a professional athlete, I never really got to the card aspect.” Through McEnery’s collecting journey and business venture, he has found a new confidence and believed his abilities would lead to fun experiences. “I’ve always expected to do something cool and I was always confident enough to believe it. I knew that it (getting a card) was something I could accomplish.” Although being confident in his abilities, McEnery would want to tell his younger self, “Don’t give up. There’s some cool opportunities. Don’t take advantage of this opportunity to do good.”
Geoff Wilson “Sports Card Investor”
Geoff Wilson is the founder and face of “Sports Card Investor”, a Youtube channel that has 245k subscribers and while being one of the most recognizable brands in the hobby, they have also educated many. Wilson collected sports cards as a kid and even, “Created my own card on print shop.” Wilson’s collecting has evolved since his childhood and he shared that having a card in Topps Big League was “Awesome. To have an official trading card as an adult (after making one as a kid) is pretty cool.” Despite not being able to share this experience with his younger self, Wilson wanted to make sure he shared this experience with his family, and it led to a cool moment being caught on camera, “My son Reeves pulled my card and we caught it on camera for the “Card Kids” Youtube channel. It was the first time we had seen the card.”
While Wilson enjoyed sharing this experience with his family, he wanted to create an
experience for others and made, “Fun things to give people extra incentive to rip the product.” So Wilson put different bounties on his card. Going back to his earlier collecting days, he had a bounty that was exclusive to kids. “The first kid to pull my card out of a box and send a picture to me, wins a free box break with me and a box battle at a future sports card show.” Now there are also other bounties that anyone can take part in. “First person to grade the card with PSA and receive a PSA 10, wins $1000. There are also similar bounties with other grading companies SGC and BGS.”
After reflecting on the experience of having his own trading card, Wilson ties it back to family, “As an adult, the card will forever be there for my kids, grandkids, great grandkids, etc. to be able to hold and know about my trading card.”
Ryan Johnson “Cardcollector 2”
Ryan Johnson also known as “CardCollector 2” has built a sports card brand that has over 200k followers/subscribers across Youtube and Instagram while also having a retail store in Grove City, Ohio. Johnson has experienced a lot in the hobby in his seventeen year collecting journey that landed with him doing sports cards full time in 2018. Johnson described his reaction to being in the product as, “Honestly I was shocked at first. I’ve collected for seventeen years and for someone who’s whole life is sports cards, it’s a dream to be in a product with athletes you collect. Having a card that could be in the same pack as Mike Trout is pretty cool.”
Earlier this year, Johnson announced that he and his wife Regina were pregnant and having a baby boy later this year. Johnson is looking forward to sharing this highlight in his collecting with his son. “I’ve bought cases of Big League as you only get a rookie once. I hope to pull my card with my kid in the future. I didn’t really rip packs with my dad growing up and with how important sports cards are to me now, I’m looking forward to it.” Johnson also expressed that getting his own official trading/sports card was “surreal” and something his “younger self wouldn’t believe.” As sports cards have become Johnson’s life, he has advice he would've given himself when his collecting started, “I wanted success immediately. Good things take time and everything eventually works itself out.”