Hobby reality show, Ball Boys, coming to ABC

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By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

When you walk into a good card shop, it’s can be a place you might not want to leave because of what’s found inside, what walks in the door and the discussions that take place.

And that’s exactly what viewers will get with Ball Boys, a reality show revolving around a hobby shop set to premiere on ABC on March.

The scene for the show is Robbie’s First Base, a shop in Timonium, Md., a suburb of Baltimore, which has been in business since 1989. It’s owned by Robbie Davis Sr., who works with his 30-year-old son, Robbie Jr., along with employees Shaggy and Sweet Lou.  The first two episodes of the show, which is from the producers of Pawn Stars, will air beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern on March 24.

So, how did it all come about?

“One day, I was just sitting at my desk and the phone rang and the girl from Leftfield Pictures, the production company, asked me had I ever seen the show Pawn Stars,”  said Robbie Jr. on Monday. “And oddly enough I had just seen it for the first time the week before, and I told my dad about it. She asked if we would be interested in doing a reality show about sports memorabilia.

“[We were] amazed,” he said. “[It was a] very easy decision. Anytime a small business gets an opportunity like this, it’s a no-brainer.”

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Davis said filming began last August and ABC has ordered 12 half-hour episodes. Like Pawn Stars, it will revolve around finds that make their way into the shop, the drama that comes with considering purchases of said items, and the daily happenings that include plenty of sports chatter. Oh, and some special guests, too.

Any memorable arguments Davis wishes had been caught on film?

“Man, that’s tough because we argue about sports everyday!” he said. “From who’s the best baseball player of all time, to the best center in NBA history, best baseball starting nine to best multi-sport athlete, it goes on and on. Of course Senior always takes the side of his generations players and we like our guys!

“I think we’re a good fit [for TV] because we all have very different personalities but we all are passionate sports fans and have been collectors since we were kids. We all love to argue about sports and of course we always right in our own minds.”

Robbie Davis Sr. is the owner of Robbie's First Base.

In the teaser trailer for the show, former MLB star Pete Rose, NFL legend Jim Brown and MLB newcomer Logan Morrison, who used to work in a card shop himself, are among those seen visiting the store. In the trailer, Robbie Jr. touts his dad’s business ties and the people he knows.

“Senior owned a couple of car dealerships in the Baltimore area,” Davis said. “Which is where his relationships with many ballplayers developed.”

In fact, Robbie Jr. and his buddies lived in the shop as kids.

“We’re all very in touch with what’s going on in the industry,” he said. “Shaggy, Sweet Lou and myself pretty much grew up in the shop and around ballplayers.”

So, did Robbie Jr. ever have any idea that a hobby shop could become a reality show?

“The only thing I was worried about in 1989,” he said, “was how many Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck No. 1’s I had.”

Like other shops that sprouted up during the hobby’s national boom, Robbie’s has had its share of struggles, too. That has meant evolving into more than just a card shop.

“When we opened in 1989 we certainly specialized in cards. We had memorabilia but people weren’t really interested in collecting autographs as much as cards at that time,” Davis said. “Kids really did drive the market at that time. From busting open wax packs  to collecting the top singles that Beckett featured every month. That’s what fueled our business. Here locally, after the baseball strike and general disinterest in baseball as a whole made our card business take a nosedive. After that, football sort of took over and the memorabilia craze started for us.”

Robbie Davis Jr. grew up in his father's card shop.

So, are there any drawbacks to having the spotlight of national television shining on a shop? Any worries about authentication with so much attention — and potential items to be sold walking in the door?

“Not at all,” Davis said.

So, what kind of cool stuff has walked in the door besides the weird items caught in the trailer?

“The coolest item to me would have to be Babe Ruth signed baseballs,” Davis said. “We’ve had multiple, but to me they’re always the coolest.  To me the entire collecting world centers around baseball, which centers around the New York Yankees, which are centered around Babe Ruth. To me he is the undisputed king of all sports and the Yankees are the most recognizable team in American sports history.”

The production crews spent three months at the shop — so far — so there’s plenty caught on tape.

“We started filming in August and went for five or six days a week,” Davis said. “The production crew was in our store eight to 10 hours a day everyday, unless we shot off-site.”

Off-site filming included, among other things, a road trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

“The most memorable thing so far would probably be the Cooperstown trip where we had access to things in the Hall of Fame that the general public doesn’t,” said Davis of the highlights from filming. “I would elaborate, but I’d rather you just watch the show. It’s pretty cool stuff!”

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.


  1. Posted February 7, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Totally stoked!!! So good for our hobby. I believe this will bring some new people/Youngblood to our hobby. Can’t wait to tune in and watch. Hope those Pawn Star producers don’t wear out the premise to quickly. So stoked!!!!

    Long Beach, Ca

  2. David Johnson
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I will definitely watch it when it comes on. Sounds like a fun show.

  3. Shad
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Love the preview but kind of a weird time at 4 pm in the afternoon. Hopefully they will stick with it and not pull the plug if it doesn’t get the initial ratings because of the time slot.

  4. steve-o
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    congratulations on the show and like many people would agree-this could give the hobby a shot in the arm it so badly needs (or so I read about)…….In the small area in southern Oregon ( Medford ) I reside in-we havent had a card shop, ok….full time card shop, in over two years. There is a part time one, up the road in Grants Pass……but the owner even admits that he is lucky to still be able to keep his doors open & almost 100% of that can be attributed to the internet

  5. Randall Roberson
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I hope it is rerun during late-night hours when I am sorting cards and trading and making drunken purchases on the bay.

  6. Law
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Why do you keep calling it a “card shop?” It’s not a card shop. No wax and mostly balls and jerseys.

  7. Card Opinionator
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    4PM? That’s an Oprah time slot. Not good. Needs to be on cable at night.

  8. Robert
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    show’s going to bomb, huh? Admit it, who watches ABC on a Saturday afternoon with no live sports events and taped crud when there is live sports on NBC, CBS or pay tv? ESPN should show their sister some love and put a few college sports games or bowling on there so ABC has something to watch on a Saturday afternoon.

    I’ll set my DVR for the show (if I can remember) because I”m not used to watching or even thinking about ABC on Saturdays when it isn’t college football with a BIG XII game on.

  9. chrisolds
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Law: While the interior shots were selective in the trailer — and some not at that shop — please read the windows of the store in the still photo above.

  10. Jason Taylor
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    I remember when that store used to sell postal supplied, too, back in the late 80’s when I was living in Timonium. I always preferred the card store down the street, Jay’s Sports Connection. They always had a much better selection. But Jay’s is long gone while Robbie’s continues on; so congratulations to them! I may have to stop in next time I’m visiting my mom :)

  11. ryan
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    looks like it could be good but such a bad time slot

  12. Mark Larson
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Wow! Can’t wait to see it.It’s about time the networks put a sports card/memorabilia show on the air. All you have to do is see the sheer amount of sales on ebay everyday to see how many people are in to our hobby so the audience is there. But I have to agree the bone head that picked the 4pm time slot will sink the show. It absolutely needs to be on cable at night like all the other shows that resemble the reality theme. This would be great for the shops and card shows. I used to love just hanging out at shops and spending an afternoon at a card show but ebay has taken over and not many shops have survived. This will be great for the hobby. Best of luck.

  13. CNR
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Seriously, who watches shows live anymore these days. Stop wasting your money on wax that brings you a 10% return and join the rest of us in the 21st century with a DVR…

    It’s obvious they aren’t going for ratings with this show.

  14. Mark Larson
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Every show is about ratings. Bad ratings equals no advertising which equals no profits which equals no show.

  15. Law
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    chrisolds: I see that but look at their website. It’s all balls. http://www.robbiesfirstbase.com/

    I mean they might have some cards but it’s not a card shop. They don’t sell any wax.

  16. Robbie J
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Man this show looks like its going to Rock Da House, cant wait. These guys look so real.

  17. chrisolds
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Law: Clearly the website has a very limited storefront.

    Everyone: Be sure to note that the show is at 3 p.m. — not 4 as previously stated.

  18. Ross
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    They better get their website fixed before the show airs. That thing is atrocious.

  19. Anything but Panini
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Can’t wait until someone pulls a redemption on the show. And the veiwers are left thinking that’s B.S. And even better will be when they break a Panini case and see half the boxes delivering them. Then they can see the stuff Panini doing to us.

  20. Anything but Panini
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    Lame. Never mind they don’t sell wax.

  21. tom
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    this show is going to be awesome!!! who wants to watch a show on cards?? not me.. this is going to be a very special show…

  22. Babe Ruth
    Posted February 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Man I cant wait to see this Show, Pete Rose Jim Brown, these guys are the REAL DEAL…

  23. jose t
    Posted February 10, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    wow i never would have thought that there would be reality shows about sports memorbila/cards and comic books on tv around the same time.
    (the comic book reality show i am talking about is comicbook men which is on amc and starts this sunday. It is about the jay and silent bob’s secret stash store in new jersey which the director kevin smith setup a while back)
    from what i have seen from the trailers both are kind of the same like how people coming in with stuff that amazes the store owners and the store owners arguing with each other except the ball boys have celebrity athletes

  24. First Base Sports Cards And Memorabilia in Wlfd.ct
    Posted February 13, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    So glad to see the other First Base on TV just wish it was on later the kids aren’t out of school yet….. We will be watching…….

  25. First Base Sports Cards And Memorabilia in Wlfd.ct
    Posted February 13, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    OPPS !!! I didn’t note March 24 is a Saturday Everyone will be at their local card store watching Ball Boys……

  26. Richard
    Posted February 14, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I am glad that they weren’t showing it the 1 st weekend in May, They would lose by a Nose to the Kentucky Derby

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