ST. LOUIS — When everyday professionals exchange business cards, most of them barely give any thought to even looking at the card itself. A cursory and courtesy glance, that's it, so one isn't considered thoughtless. Then you'd stuff the card in your wallet and, often, that's the last you see of it until you clean your wallet out six months later.
But imagine if somebody whipped out a business card that looked almost exactly like a baseball card from, say, 1987. Talk about a conversation enhancer. Heck, you'd probably never stop talking to the other person. You'd want to know where the card came from, and how you'd want to get a few dozen for yourself. And you wouldn't want to stash the card in your wallet — you'd wreck it with creases and dog ears. Might as well stick it in bicycle spokes, another longtime baseball card faux pas.
Well, such a fantasy world exists in reality now, thanks to the Rookies app — which is available free for Apple's iPhone — and allows a person to produce fully customizable cards, with glossy color photos on the front and statistics on the back. They run $12.99 for 20 cards that come in a real wax pack. With the exception of the consumer not being an actual major leaguer, these things look and feel like the genuine thing. No stale gum, though, because of difficulties with federal regulations. It's just as well.
Business cards dressed up as baseball cards aren't the only application for Rookies, but it's what entrepreneur Matt Sebek of the St. Louis had in mind when his team began developing the cards two years ago.
"We all grew up trading baseball cards and dreaming of one day having our face on one," Sebek said in a conversation with Big League Stew. "For most of us, that dream never came true. But now, we're experiencing things that are even more important than those adolescent fantasies. We're getting married, we're having kids, we're interacting with business partners. So, the idea of 'Rookies' was to intersect the nostalgia of baseball cards with current-day interests."
A few other companies, such as MyTradingCards.com, offer similar services to the Rookies App. But there are two key differences, Sebek said.
"In short, it's a quality and usability issue," Sebek said. "Ours is an app, which allows dads to literally complete the entire creation-to-checkout process from a Little League field. It's much more usable than anything else out there. And it's free. Secondly, the other companies are just printing cards on photo paper. So basically, it's a photo on a baseball card. That's different than a 'baseball card.' "
A Cardinals fan, Sebek said his all-time favorite baseball card is the Willie McGee from the 1986 Topps set. Mostly because of the folklore behind it.
"Right before the photo was taken, he took a drink of what he thought was Jack Clark's Pepsi," Sebek said. "It was actually tobacco spit. A story like that has to be true."
This is where Sebek is coming from; he's a fan. He also runs the consistently funny St. Louis sports blog JoeSportsFan — where you might have seen the "Yadier freakin' mind?" T-shirt and the Fozzie Bear/Michael Wacha unification. But this is his best idea so far.
Once you create your images, you can send them to Facebook and Twitter, and if you want real cardboard cards, you place an order and you'll get them in seven days, Sebek said. Updates and new card templates are added often. Sebek also said they're working on a version for Android, coming in spring training.
"They can purchase a pack of the cards to use as wedding gifts, birth announcements, business cards, whatever they want," Sebek said. "Considering each user doesn't have to pay for a photographer or for printer setup fees, we're confident that it's still the best deal around."
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