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MLBPA and Player Tokens team up on a new baseball collectible

The Major League Baseball Players Association is entering the crypto-collectible space...will baseball fans follow?

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is an old sport with roots dating back into the 1800s. Teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, Pirates, and Reds date back nearly as long. Fenway Park itself is over 100 years old after all! And the experience of being a fan at one point or another involves one iconic collectible: baseball cards.

A little piece of paper with a picture on the front, a short biography, and a few stats on the back symbolizes the essence of the game. Cards distributed by tobacco companies, like that famous Honus Wagner, are still in demand today. Fans grow up remembering the cards they collected. Whether they had wooden frames or holograms, baseball cards are a touchstone across teams and across generations. But what if we rethought the baseball card in 2018. What if someone decided to re-imagine the trading card as a digital object? You might get something like Player Tokens.

Player Tokens, the company founded by CEO Kush Parikh went back to the drawing board and created something new. Kush himself collected baseball cards seriously for just one season, 1989, but that season, which saw the debut of Ken Griffey Jr., made a mark on him and is still the year he thinks back to when the topic turns to baseball. Part of the reason? The collecting. Which is what led him to found the company.

His company doesn’t print cards though. It sells a crypto-collectible or more easily put: a digital asset. “[The] genesis of the idea was really...there was a digital collectible called CryptoKitties that went out on the market and actually did quite well” Parikh said. CryptoKitties are digital cats that can be purchased and traded using a crypto-currency called Ethereum. The cats have different appearances and can be combined to create new generations of cats with different features.

However, the process isn’t straightforward and involves exchanging dollars for Ethereum and then spending the crypto-currency for your cats. And you need a special extension installed in your browser. It’s an effort.

Player Tokens changes all of that. To buy a token, you can use a credit card like any regular purchase. And rather than trying to establish a lineage, collectors receive randomized baseball players, on a spectrum from common to one-of-a-kind using. For players of collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon the rarities may look familiar: Common, Uncommon, Rare, Epic and Legendary. Each token looks like what you might expect out of a physical object: a circle with a portrait of the player’s face, an indication of the rarity, and the number of that token in the set, say, 20 out of 200. It’s like a baseball card collection, except you don’t need to wait for a pack that contains the check list to know your status!

And it’s all tracked using blockchain technology. This may sound like a lot of buzzwords but it’s easier to understand when you strip away the modern day phrases.

What exactly does it mean to be a digital asset? Well, Kush likes to think of the tokens as “multidimensional.” Each one has a unique ID that keeps track of the date the token was created or “minted” (opened from a pack) and the dates it was traded or sold over its lifetime. The token includes stats, short biographical information, as well as a larger version of the player art, and the token’s timeline.

That’s just the start of “multidimensional.” Over time, Player Tokens could include location information signifying that a token (or the owner) was present at a game or event of importance. Or tokens could be created at the time of a no-hitter or perfect game. Kush likes to think of this as “airdropping tokens to the stadium.” With a digital asset, unlike a physical trading card, it’s possible to create special mementos on demand right at the instant they’re the most memorable. While their website is fully mobile compatible, they will join the app community in time for another way to access and add to your collection.

And the tokens, operating on blockchain technology, could live on for years. Transferring them from generation to generation wouldn’t involve finding a box and hoping it never got lost or wet or eaten by the dog. It would still be a blockchain-recorded transaction, but one that could happen from parent to child, just like today’s physical trading cards. And as the tokens age and move they gain more history. Imagine looking back at your baseball cards and seeing who the previous owner might have been or where they lived or what games they attended? Each token acquires a six-degrees-of-separation quality. And while digital assets can’t replace the feeling of opening a pack of cards in your hands, they offer another avenue of the collecting experience.

Player Tokens has plans for things like microfantasy games (think along the lines of daily fantasy) that could be played at the ballpark or just while hanging out talking sports. “It might unlock retail discounts at the stadium...tokens could be giveaways at the stadium.” There might be a game aspect and a promotional aspect. Instead of a bobble head night maybe a team has a Player Tokens night as a giveaway or just as another form of in-park entertainment.

The MLBPA is the first group to get on board with Player Tokens and the company is looking to work with other sports and leagues - but they are a sports company and see that as their environment to grow in rather than expanding into other genres.

Could you see yourself as a digital collector?