Brayan Pena

March 12, 2013

brayan pena 001My son’s baseball cards reside, in theory, in a small wicker basket downstairs. My wife found this one in a completely different part of the house and brought it to me.

“It’s a baseball card, I guess?” she said dubiously, handing me the two larger pieces.

“Here’s his head,” she added.

Sometimes in the evening when my wife takes a brief break from her 24-hour-a-day job, I take my son downstairs and dump his cards onto the carpet. Sometimes I read the backs of the cards, which often prompts him to grab the card out of my hand and then look at me, grinning. Sometimes he handles some of the cards while I try to flip them one by one across the room and back into the basket. Eventually, he gets bored with the cards. Check that, I don’t know whether you can ascribe the feeling of boredom to him. He gets restless, interested in seeing something else. He’s walking now, so there’s always something around the next corner as well as a way to get around that corner. Sometimes he takes a baseball card with him when he goes, and sometimes he chews on it until it falls to pieces.

I pieced this chewed card back together and then poked around on the Internet in search of some details about the photo. I figured out it was taken during a moment that the subject of the photo hoped would change the fortunes of his struggling team for the better. In a game the Royals would end up losing anyway, Royals catcher Bryan Pena blocked Chase Headley of the Padres from scoring.

“I hope that that little thing will turn it around for us,” Pena was quoted as saying in the San Diego Union Tribune. “It’s for us to try and figure out and turn our luck around.”

The play didn’t really turn anything around. The Royals were a sub-.500 team before it happened, and continued to play sub-.500 ball the rest of the year. But maybe life isn’t so literal, so linear. Maybe everything is scrambled, a plaything, and we’re lucky just to hold on.


  1. Lovely. This stuff never gets old. Unlike people like us.

  2. I wish I still had my very first card, which was a 1981 Topps Robin Yount card that came out of a cereal box. There was no way I could comprehend what a baseball card was at that point, even though I was able to navigate the box score section of the sports page at the time. I am pretty sure I used Yount’s card as a towel on more than one occasion. I didn’t buy my first pack (1986 Topps) until I was 10.

  3. Reblogged this on PULP ephemera and commented:
    I’ve been allowing my in-progress book review of Josh Wilker’s glorious Cardboard Gods (https://cardboardgods.net/cardboard-gods-the-book/) to marinate for a while. I still haven’t completed (or published) that yet. . . . In the meanwhile, here’s a touching, recent anecdote by Mr. Wilker–and one that’s not at the expense of some ballplayer’s (laughable) exploits, though I enjoy those, too. Thank you, sir. Please keep this stuff coming.

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