Full disclosure: I have never met nor interacted with Leaf CEO Brian Gray. I have purchased Leaf Cubs baseball cards on the secondary market.
What do you think of when you hear the word, “Leaf?” Is it Toronto, as in Maple? Or trees? Or is it baseball cards? For me, it’s the latter. Leaf premium baseball cards hit store shelves in 1990. They were more expensive than the other premium baseball card set released a year earlier, Upper Deck. Buying a pack of Leaf baseball cards as an 8-year old was a pipe dream. I can only imagine what the feeling of pulling a Frank Thomas Leaf rookie card from a pack was like.
Leaf baseball cards hung around for the better part of the 1990’s under Pinnacle, Donruss, and Playoff, Inc. Fast forward to 2020 and when I hear Leaf, I think Brian Gray. Brian is the CEO of Leaf, and seems to have quite the following of haters within the hobby. Brian Gray bought the rights to the Leaf name in 2010 after he headed up Razor Entertainment. Leaf currently makes baseball, basketball, football, hockey, tennis, and entertainment trading cards.
I’ve seen many of Brian’s tweets that I would deem unprofessional for a CEO. Brian has an ongoing feud with Ryan and Colin Tedards of Sports Card Radio, and their social media flare ups seem to occur about once every quarter, or twice a year.
Many of the heated debates made me roll my eyes and think, “Brian owns a baseball card company…and Leaf, at that?” The three hosts of the About the Cards podcast – Tim, Ben, and Stephan, have been pretty critical on their show about Leaf and Brian Gray at various times. When I saw a tweet promoting Brian Gray would be a guest on their show…it was a must-see podcast. You can watch the show in its entirety below.
During the first 10 minutes, Brian was lobbed some softball questions regarding his history with the Leaf name, the products in the Leaf catalog, etc. And quickly…my opinion completely changed about Brian Gray. He came off as a very likeable and passionate baseball card collector. Passionate being the key word. While many of his tweets defending his company may come off as emotional and unprofessional…he’s a collector just like us. He just has a platform and his own card company that he takes an extreme amount of pride in.
He’s one of us. A collector at heart. I love that passion. Brian is transparent, and while he does seems to be a bit unhinged on some topics, it’s because he cares about the hobby and his products. I would rather have a passionate collector own and run a trading card company than a suit that is disconnected to the common collector. My biggest gripe about Topps is the lack of transparency and poor customer relations. The transparency is understandable at times. You cannot reveal certain things as a company, but Topps has terrible customer relations, especially on social media.
With all that said, Brian Gray seems to be a guy I would love to talk baseball cards with or have a beer (if he drinks beer) with. Sometimes we rush to judgement based on a few tweets, and it takes getting to know somebody before we can really understand them. I really appreciate the About the Cards crew reaching out to Brian and Brian accepting that invitation to be a guest on the podcast.
Maybe Brian and I can meet up at the National 2021 in Chicago and have a beer and talk baseball cards.