Card #119 in my custom set is this 1998 Topps Rafael Bournigal. Raffy was one of my favorite players growing up in Lakeland, Florida. He started out in the Bigs with the Dodgers in 1992. I pulled his '93 Score and '93 Topps cards out of packs in '93. He played with them in '93 and '94 before being traded to the Expos. He didn't make the Majors in '95, but saw decent time with Oakland in '96, '97, and '98. It was around that time that he moved to Lakeland, Florida. I knew this because our local paper had a section in sports called "Polk County players in the Pro's", and he was always in it with his weekly stats. In '96 we moved near the local YMCA, and I found out that he worked out there sometimes. I was no stranger to ballplayers coming to the Y, since earlier that year Michael Salazar, a reliever on our local Minor League team worked there at the front desk. I brought a program over one day and he signed it.
So one day, I was shooting hoops and just about to leave when I got a drink of water and I spotted Raffy. Don't ask me how I knew it was him, I just did. I asked him if I could run home (I lived literally a block away) and bring a few cards to get signed. He was also leaving, so he offered to drive me home because I told him how close I was. So I got in his car, and Raffy and his brother drove to my house and waited while I got his cards and a pen. He signed my cards and took a picture with me.
I saw him a few other times in 1997 and 1998. A few years later when I started working for Publix, he would come in and usually came through my line. I didn't see him too much more at the Y, but I played basketball against his brother Shawn a lot. Shawn would always chuck up threes and would make a good amount of them. I haven't seen either of them in about 10 years, partially due to the fact that I've moved a few times, but I'd like to think if I were ever back in Lakeland that they would recognize me.
Raffy appeared in the '93 Topps set as well as the '95 set and was on a '96 Topps preview card. I'm trying to give him all the cards he is missing, and this '98 one brings me one step closer. Thanks for checking out this post of one of my favorite players.