MLB Authentics Collection: Offering Astros Fans a Piece of the Real Game Action

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MLB Authentics Collection: Offering Astros Fans a Piece of the Real Game Action
You can now buy actual game warn jerseys

Sometimes, it’s good to take a break from the action and this seemed to be a perfect time.

Mike Acosta has been a good friend of SABR for some time and we got an opportunity to catch up. His official title with the club is Authentication Manager. The project he has been concerned with is the Authentics collection.

He collects game used items, authenticates it, and then includes some for sale in the authentics section of the ballpark. You can find it on the first base side of home plate on the main concourse section.

The concept seemed cool to me, but it wasn’t something I was interested in buying. That changed when a friend sent me a message telling me that they had my cousin’s jersey there. My wife and I went to a game and sure enough it was there.

We plunked down about $100 and there it was. My cousin pitched one third of an inning officially. He is still bouncing around in Taiwan, but that one out, along with his presence on Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, are sources of family pride.

He and I are virtually the same size, so the jersey is a perfect fit. The same style jersey without the name and number is more than twice as much in The Shed. I’m forever sold on the Authentics.

Scott Barzilla How did you get your start with the Astros organization?

Mike Acosta: I started out as an intern in 1999.  I was working in the Broadcast Department, which was what I was studying and went on to do as a side job from 2001-2008 for various high school and college teams in the Houston area.  I went on to work in the Customer Service and Ticket Sales Departments in a full time capacity, while also serving as a team historian on many special assignments and projects for events like the All-Star Game or World Series.

Jersey worn by my cousin, Philip Barzilla

SB: How did the idea of the Authentic collection get started?

MA: Major League Baseball began their own authentication program about ten years ago in an effort to prohibit fake items out on the collectors market.  There was a study in conjunction with the FBI that found many, many “game-used” items that were exactly the opposite. 

A few years ago MLB merged the authentication program partially into the security program.  Previously an accounting company such as Price Waterhouse Coopers handled authentication, but MLB recruited local police officers to become authenticators and expand the program.  Now they sit as witnesses to all items that are used in a game. 

I have worked with authenticators since the program’s inception.  In fact I have worked on all team collections since my first season in 1999.  We have four rotating authenticators from the Houston Police Department that work on behalf of Major League Baseball. 

My job is to manage what we collect from a game and make sure they know all the details for a certain item.  Game-used collectibles have been very popular and became another revenue source for teams around the league.  In 2009 we joined the group of teams selling authentic game-used merchandise and branded it to our team.

SB: Do you (or the club) see Authentic more as an additional revenue source or more as a way to reach out to fans?

MA: It is both.  The program is certainly not the top level money maker for the club, but it does very nicely. Ticket sales and sponsorships will bring more revenue, but it is a good way to bring these items to the fans and enhance the experience at the game.  Most of the time someone can purchase a bat that was used in the game they attended or a baseball pitched by a certain pitcher to a certain batter.

Throwback gear can be found at numerous places on the internet.

SB: Of the artifacts/authentics you have been able to come across, which one excites you the most personally?

MA: We have very few jerseys from the 1986 season, which was one of my favorite seasons as a kid.  I also love seeing the old upper deck seats that Jimmy Wynn and Doug Rader hit home runs to in 1970.  Those type of items are kept in our team archive and are not for sale.  I use them for special exhibitions.

SB: Are there any materials or dates on the horizon that you are particularly excited about?

MA: The 2012 season is our 50th Anniversary and we’re planning a lot of exciting events.  They are a work in progress so I cannot divulge too many details but I can say it would be great to see the team in a Colt .45s uniform again.

SB: What do you hope to see with the Authentic collection the future? (in terms of offerings, themes, TBHOF, ect)?

I hope to keep expanding the inventory and keep things fresh.  Each baseball game is like a little present waiting to be opened.  You never know what you might get out of it and I find myself always preparing for an exciting moment.

We put these items out for sale because people have all kinds of personal attachments to various items.  You never know what someone might be looking for. It’s not always just a Jeff Bagwell or Craig Biggio jersey.  As in your case, you were able to find a family member’s jersey and that holds a special meaning.  I hope to continue making that happen in the future for others.

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