Paul F. Jones was 10 years old at a Las Vegas Stars baseball game where he first got a pack of baseball cards. Jones, the son of Barry and Lorraine, has autism and according to Barry, he was standing as still as a statue, not asking for autographs on his cards like the other kids at the game.
“The players would walk by and see him and he wouldn’t say anything, and they eventually went into their locker room,” Barry recalled. “The manager, Tim Flannery, came out and saw him and I think he knew that he had a disability, so he came up and asked Paul if he wanted his autograph. Paul nodded and then Tim asked him if he wanted his other cards signed.”
Barry said Tim then saw that Paul’s cards weren’t signed before inviting him into the locker room. Barry passed Paul over the railing to Tim and that’s when Paul got his first signed baseball cards.
Following that game, Lorraine suggested making collecting baseball cards a hobby for Paul.
Now 25 years later, Paul holds the world record for the largest baseball card collection owned by a person (not a company or business) with over 3 million cards. Barry said Lorraine may sometimes get frustrated with all the collecting, but he reminds her that she knew he was crazy when they got married. Paul also has over 99,000 signed cards.
“Most of the signatures I get, I’ve met that player,” Paul said.
Paul was named a Guiness World Record holder in 2008 for having over 500,000 cards, which has grown significantly since then. According to Barry, baseball has helped Paul learn geography, reading and math.
“Geography came about through learning the teams in each state and most teams are in the capital,” he explained.
Paul and his parents live in Idaho Falls now after moving from Las Vegas, with Paul and Barry occasionally making a trip to Rigby for a haircut at a local barber, which eventually brought them into the Jefferson Star newspaper.
“We travel the country during the baseball season though,” Barry said. “Everything we do, we do for Paul.”
Paul, who has spent 22 years as a bat boy and occasionally an honorary bat boy for teams he’s seeing play, will be spending this season with the Idaho Falls Chukars.
“My favorite team is the San Francisco Giants though,” Paul said.
Paul, whose favorite player is Josh Hamilton from the Rangers, said he’s been able to meet tons of big name players and that he used to be best friends with the Giants Manager who would send them tickets to games. Paul has met Jose Canseco, Tim Salmon, Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Bill Butler. He’s also met 54 Hall of Famers, including Duke Snider, Raleigh Fingers and George Brett.
His collection, which is valued at approximately $500,000 market value, is worth even more as a collectors item, Barry said.
“If anyone is wanting to get rid of their old cards, Paul would be happy to have them,” Barry said.
Anyone looking to donate old cards to Paul can reach Barry at 702-813-2475.
When asked what card collecting means to him, Paul’s eyes crinkle, smiling from behind his face mask.
“Card collecting is awesome and it’s becoming big again,” Paul said. “I do it for the love of the game, not for money or anything. I’m hoping that my collection is put into the baseball Hall of Fame one day.”