Justin Verlander was among the rare card collectors who enjoyed the looks of the cards more than who was pictured on them.
The hard-throwing right-hander from Old Dominion was the Tigers' first-round pick -- and second overall -- in 2004. He pitched in just 20 games in the Minor Leagues before entering the Tigers' rotation late in 2005. The 25-year-old had a 35-15 record in his first two full seasons in Detroit. All of his depictions on cards are in a big league Tigers uniform.
Verlander recently spoke about the design work that pulled him into card collecting as a youngster.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Which cards did you collect when you were younger?
Verlander: It wasn't so much the player as it was the card. I liked the way the cards looked -- the design, the background. They were doing a lot of neat stuff when I started collecting cards ... I remember some card, it had a guy swinging and the background kept expanding backward. It was real weird-looking and funky. That was my favorite -- all hitters, too. I don't remember pitchers ... I had a lot of Frank Thomas' cards. I liked baseball, I liked cards. I remember Topps, Upper Deck, Fleer.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Did you trade cards?
Verlander: Sure. I had fun with it. A couple of my buddies used to collect them, too, and we'd trade them. Of course, I got the best of the deals.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Where did you first appear on a card?
Verlander: I had Little League cards -- a little cardboard thing -- and my dad had a bunch of them. I really didn't have a Minor League card. I signed a Major League deal out of the draft, so I was in my Tigers uniform. That was pretty unique. Here I was collecting cards, and there I am on one.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What's your favorite card ever since?
Verlander: I like seeing all of them. They're always coming out with new and different stuff. When people ask me to sign them, you always see new cards. I think it's neat. If I get a card where I'm in the middle of my mechanics, I'll just check out my mechanics and make sure they're all right. You learn from it.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.