Sept. 13--When I attended LouFest last weekend, my friends and I chuckled at the return of high-waisted mom jeans that have been repurposed by hipsters into cutoff shorts. It's just another example of how parts of our past -- both good and those, perhaps, better left forgotten -- often come back in style whether it's neon, bangs or fanny packs. But when they do, they are often given a modern twist.
Now Matt Sebek, 32, is hoping to do the same with baseball cards. The obsession of many back in the 1980s, the trading cards have lost some of their luster for today's youth who are more taken these days with iPads and PlayStations.
But Sebek, a sports and technology nut who runs the humor site JoeSportsFan.com, knows there's a whole generation of adults like him in their 20s, 30s, and 40s for whom baseball cards bring back nostalgic memories. They spent their childhood carefully cataloging and trading the cards and storing them in shoe boxes under the bed or in binders with plastic holders.
So he, along with a small team of developers, have created an iPhone app -- available today -- called Rookies.
Users will be able to create personalized baseball cards with their own picture -- or that of their child or dog or whatever -- and then can share it on Facebook. And then -- here's the coolest part -- they can get them printed through the app into baseball cards that look and feel like the trading cards from the 1980s.
He envisions a range of uses for the personalized cards ranging from business cards to invitations to children's parties to wedding announcements. The price for a pack of 20 cards will be $12.99 -- but the app and sharing the images online will be free.
The concept is an interesting case study of blending the new with the old.
And in some ways, Sebek pointed out, he's using technology to flip the deck.
"That's what I love about it," said the Webster Groves resident. "A lot of things are going from the tangible, tactile world to the digital. This is almost the reverse of it. We're using technology to print tangible things."
As more of our world has begun to shift to the digital, there has been some movement afoot to keep some physical things around. With so much sharing of photos on Facebook and Instagram and other digital venues, some people have begun to miss having physical print pictures in their lives.
So now Walgreens has put into place services where you can print your photos from Instagram in its stores using certain apps. And Polaroid has begun to open Fotobars (none in St. Louis yet) where people can download and print pictures from Facebook and other digital sites.
But as Sebek began to develop his idea more than a year ago, he ran into a stumbling block. It was a lot harder finding a printer to make the pictures from his app into baseball cards than he expected.
"There are a lot of printers -- but most of them as set up to do large orders on thin paper," he said.
But he needed to do the opposite -- find a printer who could do small orders such as a 20-pack of baseball cards -- on thick, cardboard-like paper that looked and felt like the baseball cards of his youth.
Over the span of about eight months, he talked to about 10 companies across the country, but didn't have much success. He finally found what he was looking for much closer to home -- in Fenton of all places.
He hooked up with Garlich Printing, which started out as a traditional print shop in the 1920s, but which has been expanding rapidly into the digital printing sphere in recent years.
Not only was Garlich able to accommodate Sebek's need for on-demand, short-run orders on thicker card stock, but it also successfully toiled to find a way to print the Rookies logo on a waxy wrapper, reminiscent of the way baseball cards were packaged back in the day.
Because the cards came with a stick of bubblegum, the wax paper helped keep the moisture in, noted Mike Hayes, a Garlich account executive who has been working with Rookies.
Printing on wax paper is not something that is being done a lot these days -- especially not for small orders, he said.
"So I started looking around to see how we could produce it," Hayes said. "I can't give away all of the details of how we got to it. But it took a lot of months. It's been kind of a fun journey for all of us."
This is a side project for Sebek, who is the director of mobility at Asynchrony, a St. Louis-based technology consulting firm.
On Thursday, he heard back from Apple that his app would be ready for download that night or this morning.
The timing couldn't be better.
"We still have a couple of weeks left in the baseball season," he said.