Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Jeff Ballard, 1992 Donruss #74

I've been listening to Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan's Effectively Wild podcast for the past year, but today was the first time that I'd heard Jeff Ballard's name mentioned on the show. With Sullivan on vacation, Lindbergh was interviewing Forbes contributor David Seideman about his experiences reporting on baseball memorabilia. Seideman offered some details on his latest article, recounting Ballard's recent reunion with a memento from his big league career.

The lefty had long prided himself on his hitting prowess, having eschewed the DH in his college days at Stanford. Obviously he never got to show off his offensive chops during his five seasons in Baltimore, but he never lost the knack. When he joined the Pirates in 1993, Jeff took batting practice reps with the position players instead of joining up with his fellow pitchers. Working primarily in relief during his two years in Pittsburgh, he didn't get many in-game chances to hit, but still made the most of them. Thanks to five hits in thirteen tries, Ballard owns a .385 batting average for his MLB career.

On September 16, 1993, he even struck a ground-rule double off of Marlins reliever David Weathers for his first (and only, as it happened) big league extra-base hit. An unknown fan in Miami caught the ball after it popped over the wall, and for some reason happened to inscribe it with the date and other relevant details. Years later, it was obtained by Gary Stilinovich, a devoted Pirates collector from Texas. He decided that it might mean more to Ballard, and managed to track down the ex-pitcher's home address in Billings, Montana. As you can imagine, Jeff was pleased to have the physical proof of his lone two-base knock, and to share it with his eight-year-old son Kyren and his five-year-old daughter Kennley, both of whom were born well after his playing days.

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