Creator of Hats and Tats and Crew Era 13 member, Benjamin Christensen, recently moved from one side of the country to the next. But the move from Florida to California didn’t stop him from bringing his whole New Era Cap collection. In our interview with Ben, he tells us how he came across blogging by accident. He clearly displays a wealth of knowledge for the game of baseball which many of us wish we had in our memory reservoirs. Don’t miss this one. Click the jump for more. What’s on your mind? Want to show off your collection? Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org
Name: Benjamin Christensen
Where your from: To take a page from the Ultimate Warrior, I’m from Parts Unknown. But in all seriousness, I’m originally from a little east of Oakland, California; however, I spent most of my life living in Bakersfield, California, Portland and Eugene, Oregon. But now I’m back in Oakland, for now.
Social Handles: I’ve done a pretty good job of sticking to the same handle for Instagram and Twitter: Shakabrodie. Only my You Tube account is different: Shakabrodie2000
Hat Size: 7 3/8
When did you notice hats starting to pile up?
I think the first time I really took notice of my hat collection came in July of 2011. Prior to then I had roughly 20 hats from various brands, professional teams, colleges and styles. For some reason I took a hard look specifically at my New Era collection and came to the conclusion that I needed at least one of every Major League Baseball team. I think that took me a little under a month to put together and up on display on my wall. Once I stepped back and took a good look at it again, I knew that couldn’t stop there. I have always had a fascination with Major League and Minor League caps, and over the last two-and-a-half years I bought what I could when I could, only focusing on caps that have actually been worn in games. I’ve never looked back. I just keep adding to the pile.
How many caps do you have?
I did a count like two days ago and my collection is currently sitting at 372 caps. For some reason it felt like it took forever to get to that “one cap a day” platform. Once I got over that hump I’ve noticed myself showing a little bit more restraint when pulling the trigger on buying a cap. Now I track caps down and add them based on rarity and necessity, meaning that I have a set list of caps I need to hunt down to complete a theme or a specific time period before I move on to just snagging any cap that looks cool. Caps I’m specificly looking for are: 2012 Stars and Stripes collection for the Washington Nationals, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Angels.
Do you striclty collect onfield fitteds?
I have a few caps that are custom colors, and all of them happen to be Atlanta Braves Chief Noc-a-homa style or a speckle of Oakland Athletics that I thought looked cool enough to have a decent story behind them. But for the majority, yes, roughly 98% of my collection is comprised of caps that had been used on the field at some point in their respective history.
You recently moved? How did you pack and store your caps?
Did you take any extra precautions or just packing as usual? It’s crazy to look back on it, but I’ve actually moved twice since the end of this last August (2013). For the first move I had left about 20 caps with my girlfriend at her apartment in Florida from the previous time I had visited her. The rest of them I divided out based on caps that I had written about in my blog and ones that I still had left to tackle. For the ones I left behind in Oregon I packed them up in large New Era shipping boxes to keep them safe. The caps that I took with me to Florida (roughly 115), I packed into a big enough suitcase and took it on the plane with me as my carry-on bag. There was no way in Hell I was going to let my most precious of cargo out of my site.
When we made the move from Florida to California I packed the majority of my caps that I could fit into the same suitcase and the rest I packed into New Era shipping boxes to make the trip in the storage pod we had. It took us about six days to get from coast to coast, and believe me, I sweated about my caps every mile of that trip. Once we got settled, all was well. It took a few more weeks to go by before we could fly up to Oregon to get the rest of my caps (and belongings), but getting them all settled in the U-Haul truck and finally into our new apartment was truly rewarding. I hate being away from my caps. I honestly couldn’t tell you why.
How do you hang your hats up on the wall?Any tips for others who want to accomplish the same look?
I actually made a video for my You Tube account which shows collectors how to display their caps the same way I do How to display your New Era Caps. It’s a pretty simple and inexpensive procedure which I thought of while I was getting some tattoo work done in Eugene, Oregon. Like a lot of collectors, I had been trying to devise an easy method to show off the front of my caps, but also be able to fill in as much space as possible while keeping things tightly compacted and looking stylish. I knew that I could use nails for the hanger, but I was having difficulty coming up with some kind of a support system to keep the integrity of the cap, but also something that wasn’t that noticeable. During an especially painful session on my right rib cage I looked up on the wall and saw a paper bundle clip hanging down from a push pin, suddenly everything clicked. I tried it out when I got home and it worked perfectly. I just had to make sure that my measurements were spot on.
You have a dope collection of hats. What would you say your top three are?
Oh damn, that’s a tough call. I mean, I love each cap to some degree, but I have to say that my 1995-2000 Bakersfield Blaze game cap, the 2013 Australia World Baseball Classic cap and the classic 1969-1991 Montreal Expos cap are my three favorite caps. As far as why:
Bakersfield Blaze- I was a bat boy for the Blaze in 1999 and 2000, their last two years as an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants and my first years working in baseball. It’s not the best looking cap I own, but it certainly has the most sentimental value behind it.
Australia WBC- Back in 2012 I was one of nine people selected to inhabit the MLB Fan Cave. I went in as a representative of the Oakland Athletics and I was promptly kicked out on Memorial Day. It’s a long story; however, during my time there I made a lot of amazing friendships with a few players on different teams. Most notably with Travis Blackley, an Australian who was serving as a starter and a relief pitcher at the time. After my dismissal from the Fan Cave I traveled to country, hitting all but three Major League stadiums and on the road he and I met up a few times wherever the A’s were playing. We both have a huge affinity for tattoos and metal music, so it was a natural friendship that was forged. This cap always reminds me of his hard, long road to the Majors and how great of a person he’s been.
Montreal Expos- This was actually the first Major League cap I ever purchased. Besides being a dedicated A’s fan, I always had a soft spot for the Expos. Gary Carter was and will always be my favorite player of all time, and the 1994 season will always bring me sadness and frustration based on what could have been a great championship for the city of Montreal, especially when you see how bad things got afterward. It was a dark day when the team packed up and moved to Washington, D.C., but that’s the business of the game, isn’t it?
If we had to guess from your collection your an Oakland A’s fan?
I’ve been an A’s fan since May 23, 1987. Not only was that the first live game I ever attended, it was also the day that Mark McGwire hit his 15th home run of the season off of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Mike Boddicker. That season McGwire went on to crush a total of 49 home runs, a rookie record that will probably never be broken. But even with all of that, the atmosphere of the Coliseum has always taken me back. It was only natural that I would end up back in the city where it all began and now working for the team that I fell in love with when I was three-years-old.
We also noticed quite a bit of Jays onfields. What’s your connection to the team?
What’s interesting about my Blue Jays collection is that it’s one of a small handful of teams that I am one cap away from owning their entire catalog. I think I only have their 2003 alternate cap left to go, the red-billed cap with the hulked-out bird coming out of the “T” and holding a baseball. Of course, I say that knowing that I still need a few of their batting caps as well; however, I’m not much of a batting practice cap guy. I prefer the classic wools or current microfiber caps, the 5950s. But outside of just going after every teams’ caps, I don’t have too close of a connection with the Jays, unless you consider being forever pissed off at John Gibbons for giving She Hillenbrand’s career the shaft. I’ll forever be stewed about that one.
You obviously have a passion for baseball. Can you tell us what your weblog (http://hatsandtats.blogspot.com/) is all about?
So the Hats and Tats blog sort of happened by accident. I should first point out that #HatsandTats became a hashtag I started using on Twitter during my campaign for the MLB Fan Cave. A fellow Detroit Tigers competitor, Brad Jeffers, was actually the first to come up with it and encouraged me to use it. From the point on I did, mostly as a way to put my stamp on a joke, observation or even breaking news. After I got kicked out of the Fan Cave it took on a whole new life form as my brand. Throughout the rest of the 2012 season anywhere I went and anything I did had that stamped on it.
But as far as the blog is concerned, I truly have to give all of the credit to my girlfriend Angie. She and I met during my cross-country post-Fan Cave trip in 2012 while she was going to school in Florida. Due to me taking the job at MLB I had to put my graduation from the University of Oregon off until the following winter. So, as I finished my final term in the winter of 2013 to finally obtain the two degrees in journalism plus one in English, I needed something to write about. Until that point I had made a terrible habit of not writing about anything despite the fact that I was a so-called writer trying to finish my schooling in writing. When I visited Angie for New Year’s at the end of 2012 she had suggested that I write about my caps and all the numbers (jersey numbers, stats, historical dates) that I write on my caps to keep me busy. I thought it was a wonderful idea.
From the start until my last post I went from just talking about history to adding my own life experiences in with each cap. As the year progressed my posts became more true and raw, the kind of writing that I have always felt best suits my talent. As a result, I put together 225 posts comprised of roughly 1300 pages of material dealing with an array of topics like: success, failure, bad relationships, suicide, drugs and tattoos, but all with a specific purpose. Some posts are funny, some are sad, but they’re all honest. I’m hoping to restructure things a bit and get some new posts up soon. Writing the equivalent of four solid novels really takes it out of a person.
What would you say your all time favorite MLB moment was?
It’s a tie. Prior to the end of the 2013 season my #1 favorite moment took place on October 3, 2012 when the Oakland A’s won the American League Western Division title. That whole season was a roller coaster ranging from being the A’s fan kicked out of the Fan Cave to every analyst saying that the A’s were going to lose 100 games. To be honest, as I look back on how everything has shaken out, getting kicked out of the Fan Cave was the greatest thing to happen because it gave me the opportunity to be in the right field bleachers when the A’s recorded the final out and shocked the baseball world. That feeling will never be duplicated. I still get the chills when I think about it.
The other moment also came on the final day of the season in 2013. On September 29th Miami Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez tossed a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers. A few days prior Angie and I had debated which one of the their three-game series we were going to attend and Angie is the one who made the call to go to the Sunday game (the 29th) despite my request. Like everything else in our life, she was right. It was the only time either of us had been present for a no-hitter.
In your opinion what are the best team logos the MLB have to offer?
To me, nothing beats out the classic Montreal Expos “M” logo and the Milwaukee Brewers mit logo from 1978-1993. In fact, I’ll be so bold to say that the classic Brewers logo is one of the best logos in advertising history. It’s truly a work of art.
What was your experience with Crew Era 13 like? Did you enjoy yourself?
The trip to New Era in June of 2013 will go down as one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Everyone at New Era was fantastic and they’ve truly done a great job of representing to brand well. But more importantly the friendship that I developed with the guys, which we eventually took the name Crew Era 13, will last a lifetime. We all come from different walks of life, but every single one of us was receptive to each others’ collections, backgrounds and who we are as people. New Era couldn’t have brought a better group of collectors together. I’ll forever be grateful for that.
What would you like to see the hat community develop into?
That’s a tough question to answer. I’m not really sure actually. I think the social media forums have truly brought cap collectors of all styles and backgrounds together to swap stories and possibly even trade hats, so I’m not really sure it can go from there. I don’t mean any of that negatively. I think cap collecting and the cap community is peaking and will stay pretty strong for years to come.
Any final words?
Ha! I haven’t written enough? I think the one thing that needs to be said is that there is no such thing as too small or too weak of a collection. Every collector has a different story. You don’t need to have 300 caps or even try to claim the throne as the king of New Era. Your collection is what you make it. Stay true to you.