Nick Punto is a classic middle infielder who fields his position skillfully, hits the ball the other way, bunts runners over and rarely makes mistakes. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen nicknamed Punto "piranha" because he's a relentless player who just nibbles the opposition to death. So it's not so surprising to learn that Punto collected cards of baseball's best shortstops while growing up.
11/21/2008 1:51 PM ET
Punto's collection was shortstop heavy
Twins middle-infielder taught himself Ozzie's backflip
By George Castle / Special to MLBPLAYERS.com
MLBPLAYERS.com: Whom did you collect when you were younger?
Punto: I can remember vividly as a kid collecting all the shortstops, because that was the position I played -- Ozzie Smith, Garry Templeton, Rafael Santana, Shawon Dunston. I also collected Tony Gwynn, but it was mostly the shortstops. I remember laying them out on the table and asking my dad who was the better player? I think I pretty much had every team. I would take them out when there was a game televised and check to see how those shortstops were doing. The only games televised were the White Sox, Cubs and Braves. I was a Cubs fan, but I grew up in Orange County (Calif.). I got to watch the Cubs day games and I played hooky from school. I watched Ozzie Guillen playing shortstop with the White Sox.
It didn't take long to get all these cards. The ice cream truck would come by, and I'd get a pack of cards for 50 cents from the ice cream man. All the kids in the neighborhood were trading baseball cards. I hope one day it's like that again.
Ozzie Smith was my guy. I taught myself to do a backflip like he did.
The sad part is I don't even know where those cards are today.
MLBPLAYERS.com: When did you first appear on a card?
Punto: I had a couple of Little League cards. My first pro card was Short-A, the Batavia Muckdogs, in the Phillies organization.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What is your favorite Major League card?
Punto: I like the hitting pose where they catch it right at contact or right after you swing. Not when the ball's in the catcher's glove. I'd like a diving, fielding shot, too. You can't go wrong with that.
-- Red Line Editorial