'Be the MVP in NYC' winner gets a thrill
Smith relives his unforgettable All-Star Weekend experience
The winner of the "Be the MVP in NYC" baseball card sweepstakes is taking unforgettable memories back home to Sparks, Nev.
Bryan Smith, a 35-year-old who has collected more than 650,000 baseball trading cards since he began collecting at age 6, brought his sister, niece and nephew to New York where they got an insider's view of the All-Star Game and surrounding events this week.
They got a tour of the "Big Apple" and watched the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. They were also able to watch Monday's workout session from the field where they met players including Lance Berkman of the Astros and Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres -- the latter of whom happens to be his 15-year-old nephew Tyler Wolf's favorite team.
"The players were so generous, taking the time to talk to us and take pictures," Smith said. "Between the show, the stadium and the people, it was one of the best things I have ever seen."
Smith became the sweepstakes winner when he walked into his local Wal-Mart and did something he's done countless times -- purchase a pack of baseball cards. This time he bought a pack that was promoting the "Be the MVP in NYC" sweepstakes on the packaging.
The packs offered an insert containing codes for an on-line entry and the chance to win multiple prizes. He returned home, entered the code online and was floored to find out that he was the grand-prize winner.
Along with his nephew, Tyler, Smith brought his sister Kimberly Lynne Hansen, 37, of Imperial Beach, Calif. -- Tyler's mom and an avid baseball fan -- and her 6-year-old daughter, Madisyn Carter.
A former member of the United States Air Force, Smith originally began collecting baseball cards with his father, a stamp collector who combined his interest in collecting with his son's interest in baseball for a fun, bonding experience.
While Smith has collected an incredible amount of baseball cards in his lifetime, he asserts the value of a specific card pales in comparison to the enjoyment he gets from his hobby.
"I have rookie cards of Cal Ripken Jr., Don Mattingly, Tony Gwynn Jr., and more, but all of the cards mean as much to me as the others," Smith said.
But as a die-hard Yankees fan who had never been to Yankee Stadium, the grand-prize trip to New York was a thrill that he'll remember forever.
"This experience has been tremendous," Smith said after wrapping up his trip. "I can't put it into words; I was just in awe for at least the first three hours I was in Yankee Stadium."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.