MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When you walk into The Ballpark, you’re walking down memory lane. It’s a small store that’s easy to get lost in.
“This is wall-to-wall, there is hardly any wall showing. This is wall-to wall-memorabilia,” customer Darcy Debing said.
Calvin Havercamp is the proud owner of this establishment.
“I thank God every day for being able to do a job that I love,” Havercamp said.
For him, the inspiration began after the Twins inspired an entire state by winning their first World Series in 1987. Shortly after that historic victory, he found himself in a baseball card shop.
“All of the sudden I was in a store and I said, ‘Wow, I have that card and I have this one,'” he said.
Or, he had them. Instead of the familiar story of someone’s mother throwing out his baseball cards, Havercamp actually gave them his to his older brother. In 1988, his beloved sibling was trying to become an Elvis impersonator and needed money for a costume. So Havercamp bought all his cards back.
He opened his store July 5, 1988. In 2000, he moved his store from St. Louis Park to Apple Valley. More than 30 years later, it’s believed to be the longest-running sports card and memorabilia store in the state.
He’s kept it fresh, by selling old. There are baseball gloves from the early 1900s, and vintage bats from Minnesota heroes.
“This is a game-used bat of Harmon Killebrew from ’65 to ’68,” Havercamp said while holding a relic from his favorite player.
During the early 90’s, sports card shops were everywhere.
“I picked up a telephone book and there were like 100-plus stores,” Havercamp said.
But many of them eventually struck out. Havercamp thinks that during the baseball card boom, a lot of them tried to sell newer cards while he went nostalgic. Some of the cards in his prime stash are pre-World War I and are worth thousands of dollars.
Debing, a former Minnesota Kicks soccer player, drives from across the cities just to hang out in The Ballpark.
“It’s worth it, yeah. When you find stuff in a store like this you’ll drive virtually anywhere,” she said. “We’ll just come in here and talk baseball for an hour.”
And sometimes they’re joined by the athletes they admire. Adam Thielen, Danielle Hunter, and Karl-Anthony Towns are just some of the names that have stopped by.
“I kind of feel like Norm from ‘Cheers.’ It’s kind of like my place to hang out with the guys, talk baseball, look at baseball stuff. It’s been such a cornerstone of my life,” customer Doug Parks said.
Things may change but Calvin never does. He’s gotten so well-known that people now bring their collections to him.
It’s one the few remaining places where you can relive your youth surrounded by your heroes.
“I would love to live to age 90 because I would love to do this another 30 years,” Havercamp said.