The hobby of baseball pin trading is no bigger than it is in upstate New York.
For those who don’t know, Cooperstown, New York, in addition to being home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, plays host to three amazing youth baseball facilities in All Star Village, Dreams Park, and Baseball World. Each of these facilities offers ball players between the ages of 11 and 14 the chance to play week-long tournaments in first-class facilities. The first day at these baseball shrines is hectic, memorable and at times overwhelming.
The opening ceremonies are usually the precursor to the real action of the first day, it’s not quite as obvious as “let the trading begin” but it’s pretty close. Players run from one team to the next collecting pins from all the teams. It is a sight to see and experience.
Our 14U Baseball Oshawa (Ontario, Canada) Legionaires team decided to travel to attend a week-long Baseball World tournament. While we were in the planning stages, we were told we HAD to order pins. Our first questions were, what are pins and why do we need them? Pins are a hot commodity in Cooperstown as we quickly discovered on opening night at the tourney.
Trading team pins is as almost as old as the invention of youth baseball tournaments.
Several Baseball Oshawa Legionaires’ teams make the trek to Cooperstown each year and the summer of 2016 was no different. The Canadians are also popular with other teams as they share stories about their country, hometowns and love of baseball. It takes very little time for the teams to seek out the Canucks and their pins.
“We had to get their pins,” said Jack Benton of Illinois. “We’ve never played Canadians before and we wanted to have their pins for our collection.”
The Legionaires pins were simple, but elegant as they borrowed from the Interstate symbol Major League Baseball used for the most recent spring training. The pin featured the stylish main Baseball Oshawa ‘O’ in the middle of the sign and the words Cooperstown 2016.
The year is important as it offers the pin collector a chance to quickly recall the year that they made the trip to the hometown of baseball. It’s not unusual that after 30 years someone could forget the exact year they did something, having a year on the pin can really help recall old memories.
Of course pins aren’t exclusive to amateur baseball, Major League Baseball teams have been creating and selling pins for years. It’s still an annual tradition for teams who make the World Series to create commemorative “press pins” in honour of the event, in fact for several decades these press pins were included on the World Series trophy itself.
What makes the pin appealing is the versatility of the pins which can be stuck on walls, in picture frames and on commemorative towels like most visitors to Cooperstown are given by the tournament organizers.
The pins can be simple or as elaborate as the designer can dream up for the company creating the artwork and it is an art form. The art is on display at the Cooperstown Bat Company. This shop, which is just a flare away for the Baseball Hall of Fame, has thousands of pins on display.
Connie Haney, one of the store owners, says her shop began collecting pins back in 1999 and it just evolved from there. Today she estimates there are 9,000 pins on the wall as the collections continues to grow daily. There are so many in the back room of the store that the pin walls were expanded this year and in one area the 15-foot high wall is completely covered with pins.
It is an awesome sight. Even more exciting is the reaction of people when they see the collection.
“We have kids, who are now in college, coming back to the store and they are so excited when they find their team pin,” added Connie.
The rules are simple at the Cooperstown Bat Company, the first kid in with a pin has the team pin posted and in return they receive one from the store.
Connie says they didn’t mean to get into the in trading business and they don’t advertise the practice. “Baseball people are aware of it and it just gets passed along from team to team.”
Just like the tradition of pin trading.