Baseball-card fever hits Cubs’ clubhouse

Outfielder Jake Marisnick helped introduce the hobby to his teammates, and guys now are gathering around as new boxes and packs are opened before games.

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Javy Baez

Ka’ai Tom #60 of the Pittsburgh Pirates steals second base against Javy Baez #9 of the Chicago Cubs during the second inning of a game at Wrigley Field on May 08, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois.

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Collecting baseball cards is experiencing a major boom, and the excitement has reached the Cubs’ clubhouse.

Outfielder Jake Marisnick helped introduce the hobby to his teammates, and guys now are gathering around as new boxes and packs are opened before games.

‘‘They are into some of the new basketball cards, baseball cards, collecting those, opening up packages, everybody’s around,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘It’s like a huge ordeal when somebody gets a new box and you’re going through [it].’’

Across the country, card sales are up significantly over the last three to five years. Online retailer eBay reported card sales jumped 142% in 2020, partially driven by collectors — old and new — looking for something to do during the pandemic lockdown.

Card values are on the rise, too. A LeBron James rookie card sold for $5.2 million last month, tying a 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie card that sold in January for the most expensive card in circulation.

One of the new features of modern card-collecting is the Topps Now set, which features special events during the course of a season as they happen. First baseman Anthony Rizzo’s recent relief appearance is one of them, but it hasn’t surfaced in the Cubs’ card-opening sessions.

‘‘I haven’t heard about that, but that would be nice,’’ Ross said. ‘‘I’ll see if Rizz can sign me one, if that’s a thing.’’

Ross has joined in on the action, too.

‘‘They even let me open one the other day,’’ Ross said. ‘‘I didn’t have a whole lot of luck in getting the good cards, so I’m suspended from opening any cards.’’

Baez improving at the plate

In April, shortstop Javy Baez looked as though he was back to the free-swinging, high-strikeout ways of his first couple of seasons in the majors. But he has been better in May.

Last month, Baez struck out 39% of the time and drew only one walk. So far in May, he has cut his strikeout rate by 16% and boosted his on-base percentage and batting average by about 100 points each.

‘‘I feel like this is more the player that we all have seen have a lot of success,’’ Ross said. ‘‘Working through some things early on mechanically and approach-wise has really got him locked back in.’’

Ross said he has seen Baez look more in control at the plate lately by staying in the zone in his approach and with his swings.

Checking in on the IL

Marisnick exited the game Sunday in the top of the first inning with a strained right hamstring suffered while trying to chase down an RBI single by the Pirates’ Wilmer Difo.

Baez left the game Saturday with back stiffness and was out of the starting lineup. He grounded out to second while pinch-hitting in the ninth inning to end the game.

Right-hander Jake Arrieta (abrasion on right thumb) and infielder Nico Hoerner (strained left forearm) are on schedule in their rehab. Arrieta threw a successful bullpen session Saturday and is scheduled for another when the Cubs are in Cleveland. Hoerner has been taking dry swings and doing infield drills with no issues.

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