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Saying Goodbye to an Amazing Human: Ryan R (Creator of Munnatawket Cards)

This past weekend, my friend Ryan (some of you may remember him as "roddster" in blog comments) passed away.  I first "met" Ryan via my blog - he would often comment on some of my earliest baseball cards posts.  From there, we eventually worked out a trade and before you knew it, he and I were sending "just because" packages back and forth.  Flash forward a bit later, and by then he had gotten me into his fantasy baseball league - a league that I'm still active in today!  Flash forward a bit more, and Ryan ended up visiting me in person - even spending the night in my house despite me never having met him before that day.  I often described Ryan (in a loving way) as "that guy I met from the internet and let stay at my house."  In all seriousness though, that was the kind of guy Ryan was:  incredibly caring, generous, and completely entertaining to be around.  

When Ryan came to visit me, he gifted me with a custom bat that he made.  We took that bat to my local field and hit some baseballs using his pitching machine (that he also brought along).  Ryan is also the guy that created the awesome Munnatawket minis based on the 2008 Allen & Ginter design.  Back in the day, Ryan sent me a large box of minis to distribute to my various trading partners - there's a good chance that some of you reading this right have received some of Ryan's handiwork in trades from me!  Heck, Ryan had continued to send me trades involving baseball cards and other goodies as recently as this year (such as this post from February).

I'll be honest, learning of Ryan's passing shook me to my core last weekend...and I've spent all of this week trying to process things.  Sure, Ryan and I only ever got together that one time in person - but he and I sent countless trades back and forth, often talked via text or Facebook, and even did a bunch of fantasy baseball podcasts together for our league over the years.  From what I've gathered, Ryan had that effect on many different people - such a charismatic, caring guy.  He's one of those people that you can say that the world is now a little bit worse off with him no longer here.  


Despite writing this blog since June of 2008, I still consider myself to be quite bad with words.  That said, I also felt compelled to put something out there about Ryan since many of my longtime readers will know of him - or at least his work.  

As a bit of a "final remembrance and salute", I am going to repost an interview that I did with Ryan about his custom baseball cars (among other things) from a number of years ago.  I had originally published this interview on my blog years ago but after some further reflection, Ryan decided that maybe I should take it down since he didn't want to get in any hot water with Topps (since he used Topps' design for his custom cards).  At the time of his request to take the interview down, Ryan told me to save that post and that I'd be able to probably use it at a later date.  Well, I think it's safe to repost it now - and I can't think of much of a better way to honor someone than to hear them in their own words describing some of the things they love most in life.  


Below, I have copied the entirety of my interview with Ryan from back in the day.  I invite you to read through it and then I'll try to conclude things at the bottom of the post.

Original post starts here...

I started my Nachos Grande blog back in June of 2008.  In the (almost) six years that have passed since my first post, I have participated in hundreds of trades and seen countless custom cards (both sent to me and featured on other blogs).  While some people have some great custom sets, I don't think I have felt a "wow" factor quite like I did when I first saw some of Ryan's set which was clearly inspired by 2008 Topps Allen & Ginter's.

In fact, I first learned about Ryan's set back on October 20 of last year.  Ryan sent me a Facebook message with the following image asking me "what do you think?"

My reply should surprise no one who reads this blog since I've made my love of all things Ginter apparent for quite some time.  I loved Ryan's initial set mock-up!  In fact, here's our actual exchange via Facebook:

Flash forward about a month and I receive another message from Ryan, this time stating that his initial 21 cards for the set were complete.  

As you can tell from the scans, Ryan did modify the initial mock-up a bit (mostly reducing the "color blob" in the background).  As you can see, Ryan also included both himself in the set and yours truly!  I considered it an honor to make it into Ryan's custom set - and I already showed off both the front and back of my card...but I'll happily do it again for posterity!

After the initial batch of cards, Ryan didn't rest on his laurels.  Instead, he kept moving forward designing more and more cards (including some more "quirky" cards).  A couple of weeks ago, he sent me a second package with even more cards (including some more copies of my own personal card) plus cards numbered up past 50 in his set!

For my part, I one hundred percent lucked out in terms of having Ryan contact me and therefore working my way into his set!  I have helped spread the word though - in fact, if you've traded with me in the past three months, chances are you got a card or two from Ryan's set included in your trade package.  Thanks to Ryan's most recent package of cards he sent me, I'm now restocked to continue adding some of his custom minis to future trade packages!  

However, I didn't think I had done quite enough to hold up my end of this incredible deal - so I decided to ask Ryan if he'd be interested in an interview on my blog.  He graciously accepted - and so without further ado, here's our recent conversation about his custom cards (and his custom bat business).

The questions (in bold) are mine, the responses are quoted directly from Ryan.

1.  Besides the great design, one of the things that sets your custom set apart from almost all others that I’ve seen is the card stock and print quality.  Can you briefly describe that process?  
Designing the template took a lot longer than you'd think.  I had to re-design the 2008 Allen & Ginter logo from scratch to get a high enough quality logo for printing.  After deciding to print these I knew that printing on the correct card stock was vital to the sets credibility.  While mine isn't identical to what Topps uses for their cards, it's pretty close.  For anybody who is familiar with rip card minis you'll notice that mine are more similar to the stock used for those cards (as they have to be thinner to fit into the rip card).  I talked with a few printers, sent some samples and was told that what I needed was a 16pt cardstock.  Eventually I came to an agreement with the online print company gotprint.com to do my print work.  
2.   What’s your favorite card in your set?
I have a few favorites.  My favorite player card is the #47 Eric Hosmer.  I love the powder blue on orange background.  My favorite part of that card is the contrast between the wrinkles in his jersey.  It just all came together nicely.  My favorite non-player card is probably the Wilbur Wright.  

With his permission, I utilized a photo from an artist by the name of Ken Corbett.  I knew that the photo would fit nicely into a Ginter style card.  What I like about that card is that it is very consistent with the look of the original Allen & Ginter cards from the late 1800's which I have been led to believe utilized paintings opposed to photographs.
3.   Is it strange to see cards of yourself (and/or cards that you’ve created) for sale on eBay? 
I saw one of my own cards for sale on eBay.  I chuckled when I saw it.  It was selling for about $5.00.  I'll tell you what would've been strange; had somebody bought it! 
Editor's note:  To the best of my knowledge, no one has successfully sold a copy of my card on eBay either!

4.  Have you thought about the “end game” for the set (i.e. how many cards you hope to eventually create, the checklist, etc.)? 
Besides a cease and desist letter from Topps, I think the idolized number to reach would be 350.  It's a loose goal.  If it happens, it happens. A lot depends on people's interest in the set going forward and how much time I have to put towards it.  It may be something I put down for a few months and pick back up again next winter.
5.   Speaking of the checklist, do you have a full list of your set to date?
I do not have a checklist out, and I have what I believe to be a good reason for why I don't.  Something that makes the original 2008 set so interesting to me is that six years after it debut I'm still discovering new cards that I haven't seen before.  From Ancient Icons, to Baseball Icons, to Ext Rip Minis, I find it exciting to stumble upon ones that I've yet to see.  There's something awesome about that to me.  That something so finite can continue to surprise me and show me new intricacies.  I guess the inspiration of the whole set came from the idea that eventually I will know of, and maybe even own all the cards from this set and that will be it.  This is my way of paying tribute to one of my favorite sets and extending the frontier for collectors like me who aspire to see new cards of its kind.  
Did someone say variations?!

So long story short, I do not have a checklist.  If people are interested in collecting the set they have to work at it and develop their own checklist.  They'll have to utilize collectors they know and discover what's out there.  Discover the hidden cards, the autos, and the variations that have been created.  It's a strange way of going about things, but I think it adds to the fun of 'collecting' them.
6.  I know a lot of people are interested in the set based on the comments I’ve seen from those who have received a few cards in the mail, any thoughts on how you’d like to distribute more cards?
People can contact me directly, or go to thebenchtrading.com where I've listed a promotional giveaway for my cards to members of the site.  Also, you will have a bunch once I send you this next package so they can certainly go to you for them.  I'm excited about sharing them, and for me it doesn't matter how or from who they get distributed from, as long as they make it into the hands of people who can appreciate them.
7.  Any thoughts on the next custom set you might try (I know you also did an 80s Fleer custom set awhile back)?
There's nothing on the horizon yet.  I messed around with the idea of producing N43 relics.  I made a few templates, then shelved the idea as far as printing.  The 2009 Allen & Ginter set is also of interest to me and I've thought for a minute about making a template for that set. In the future if something catches my eye and inspiration strikes I'll make a go of it and make a new set.  
Ryan's custom Fleer set - you can see I'm not too creative when it comes to providing him with a photo of myself!

8.  Since the back of your custom set mentions your custom bat company, we should discuss that as well!  What is the history behind your company (how did you get into making custom bats, how long does it take to create a bat, etc.)?
I started making bats three years ago.  I was in Greensboro, NC visiting the Greensboro Batting Center on my way to the card shop within the facility.  I walked by a rack with bats for sale and a few caught my eye.  It was a hand crafted bat made by a local furniture maker.  I owed a buddy a bat from a bet we had made so I bought the bat to give to him.  The idea of making bats stuck with me and a few weeks later I bought an affordable lathe.  I developed relations with local wood sources and started securing lumber, drying it, and cutting bats.   
To make a bat when I first started would take me a few hours.  I've refined the process now where I can have a bat made in as little as 30 minutes to an hour.  A lot of the detail work after the actual bat is made can take a lot of time too.  Sanding, painting, staining, gloss coat, logo applications, etc...  With all the final detail work added to the equation almost every bat has been given at least an hour of my attention before being ready for use. 
Custom bat making in progress!

My original inspiration was to make bats for myself (which I still do because I hit a lot), but as I became more practiced at the craft I started to sell them.  While I've not finished refining my process, I have reached a point where I am happy with the bats I make and feel confident in the product I sell.   
My logo is on the back of the cards, and while some may think that it is a marketing ploy, my gut feeling is that my target bat market is very different from my card trading market.  I just don't think that the people buying cards are necessarily the same people buying bats.  The game of baseball has so many different kinds of fans that enjoy the game for so many different kinds of reasons.  As a matter of fact, I value that aspect of this sport.  The addition of my company logo on the back is more of a fun way for me to pair my two hobbies together and document an interesting part of my life.  
9.  Do you have a website for your bat company?
...embarrassingly no.  As of right now I do not.  I have bats listed on eBay under my business name 'Munnatawket'.  I also do custom orders via my email so if there is interest out there for hickory, ash, maple, or birch baseball bats I can be contacted by my email.
10.  That leads me to my final question - how can people contact you?
Editor's note:  ***redacted***
Thanks for taking the time to answer all my questions Ryan - and (more importantly) designing such an awesome custom set.  Since I have been in contact with Ryan about the set for a number of months, I know how much time (and thought) he's put into the set.  For most of us, the high quality of the cards, the printing, the card stock, the design, etc. is enough to wow us.  I, for one, know that I could never design such a wonderful custom set.  However, the real reason why I love Ryan's set ISN'T because of the card stock, design, or even the fact that I'm in the set.  

No, the real reason that Ryan's set is great is because it captures the essence of the set it is imitating.  Ryan's answer to #5 above captured that perfectly.  He doesn't produce a checklist because it takes away some of the wonder and mystery.  We all know that Topps' Allen & Ginter's set will have at least one or two unannounced mini sets.  Last year, Topps managed to surprise everyone by included rare 1/1s nestled in between the cardboard sheets used to construct the hobby boxes.  Ryan is creating his own version of the surprise factor by keeping his checklist close to the vest.  
One last "secret" that I get to reveal in this post!
I will admit, before I had Ryan's answers to my questions, I was planning on including scans of all the beautiful cards that Ryan sent me (many of which he sent in duplicate for me to send to my trading partners).  However, upon reflection I think that would be doing Ryan's set a huge disservice.  There is something kind of cool about seeing a few cards here, a few cards there and slowly piecing together the entire set.  Instead, I have peppered the interview with some assorted cards from the set - and while you can see the first chunk in one of the early scans, there are at least 30 more cards that belong to the set that aren't shown here!  The mystery of Ryan's set is still alive...and if you complete a trade with me in the near future, chances are you'll get a few of the custom cards to start your own copy of his set!  

For fun, if you have received some of Ryan's custom cards (and posted them on your blog), feel free to leave a link to your entry here.  In that way, other people can peruse the various blogs and slowly start to form their own checklist for the set!  I can also say that I have spring break coming up in a week...so you can expect that I'll be doing some more trade mailings which will include some of Ryan's cards to various people that I've traded with in the past...so check your mailboxes!

Original post ends here


So there you have it, a great friend who is no longer here.  I can't find the words that I want for this space, so let me leave you all with a bit of advice:  tell those you care about, that you care about them.  Hug those you love.  Talk to those who you haven't made time for in awhile.  Find something good in every day.  Live your life.  

You never know for sure when it will all end - and the last thing you want is a life full of regrets.  

The one consolation I can take from Ryan's life is that I do believe he lived his life as he wanted most of the time.  He was a guy with a lot of interests and talents - his jobs included things such as working for the Arizona Diamondbacks for a summer as well as a firefighter fighting forest fires out west.  He and I had a lot in common with our love of baseball, baseball cards, and disc golf (heck, even with disc golf we each sent discs back and forth for the other person to try).  I would have loved to have gotten the chance to play a round of golf with him, but at least I'll always have our day of hitting baseballs with his custom bats to look back on.

Finally, to end on a happy note because Ryan would want a happy note:  I still have a fair number of Munnatawket minis that Ryan created and gave to me to distribute.  I don't have the right mental headspace at the moment to come up with a particular plan, but stay tuned to the blog because I want to figure out some final way of spreading joy thanks to Ryan's talents one more time.  I can't think of a better way to honor Ryan and his love of card collecting than to send a little bit of that love to as many people as I can - so yes, expect more Munnatawket minis in the not-so-distant future.  

For now, go enjoy your day - for Ryan's sake if nothing else.  Peace.

RIP my friend, you'll be missed.


  1. That's a great loss, so sorry to hear. I have a handful of those minis and I'll cherish them even more now.

    1. I'm going to do a giveaway for my remaining stock of minis starting tomorrow (Saturday). I can't think of a better way to honor Ryan than to spread his joy of baseball cards (and his workmanship) across the blogosphere!

  2. Sorry for the loss of your friend. I'm glad you have the cards hr created to go along with your memories of him.

    1. Thank you. This loss hit me hard, no two ways about it.

  3. Sad news, but nice tribute. I love the few Munnatawket cards in my collection.

  4. Very sad to hear. I remember that interview and interacted with Ryan through my blog. I have almost all of the initial mini set he made plus a few extras (including that Kate Upton card). They reside with the rest of my A&G minis because they're as A&G as anything else.

    1. That Kate Upton is card #0 in the set. Ryan did that so people who didn't want a "scantily clad" woman in their set could simply start with card #1 and still feel like they have a full set. There are a number of variations in the set as well to track down - heck, I'm not even sure if I know everything that Ryan created for the set!

  5. Sorry for the loss of your friend. You honored him well with your post, and his talent and ability to spread joy will be missed.

  6. So sorry.
    You offered some great advice: tell those you care about, that you care about them.
    My son and I always end our phone calls with "I love you Pops" and "I love you Son".

    1. That's a great way to end a conversation, you just never know what will happen in life.

  7. I'm sorry to hear about Ryan's passing, Chris. I remember those minis (I believe you may have sent me a few) and thought they were quite well done. And more importantly he was a friend and family member to many. Thank you for this great tribute to him and may he rest in peace.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, I do believe I probably sent you some over the years of our trading!

  8. Sorry to hear of Ryan's passing. I always enjoyed when you sent me a few of the customs he made, and I proudly still have them. Very nice tribute you put together.

    1. Thank you, this one was one of the toughest posts I've ever tried to write. I'm not good expressing emotions!

  9. Like you, I was saddened & stunned when I heard the news.

    Ryan got me into Slocon for a couple of years before I bowed out (me & fantasy baseball do NOT get along) but I was grateful to have joined because that's how I met Ryan.

    He moved off of this tiny island before I moved here & that bums me out too, since we had so much in common. The freaking Mets, baseball cards, etc. We were able to meet in-person briefly last summer but that's it.

    Munntawket is the Native American name for this island and one of the ferries is named that. That was always my favorite ferry and when I moved here, that's what I chose to have on my personalized license plate (abbreviated). Now I will think of Ryan when I see the plate & the ferry.

    Unfortunately, I do not have any Munntawket cards, so I would LOVE to work out a trade with you Chris to add one or two to my collection.

    I'm glad you were able to connect with him online & in-person. My sincere condolences to you and all who knew Ryan better than I did.

    1. Yeah, Ryan and I had a ton in common as well even though we only ever got together in person once. He was such a vocal supporter of the fantasy league - and he made it super fun for everyone involved in it. I'm going to be doing a free giveaway of what I have left of Ryan's Munnatawket cards starting tomorrow (Saturday) - be sure to sign up and I'll gladly send what I can your way!

    2. Fantastic, thank you Chris!

  10. My condolences on the loss of your (and the hobby's) friend.

  11. Sorry for the loss of your friend. This was a very touching tribute and now I finally know where those Munnatawket customs originated from. I have a handful floating around in my collection that I received in a Raz Card Blog care package years ago.

  12. Sorry to hear about the passing of your friend, Chris. He couldn't have been that old, and since it sounds like whatever happened was sudden, makes it just that much worse. I don't know if it helps at all, but should be able to take some solace in the knowledge that you were able to make such a close friend; even if it was for a relatively short time.


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