Matt Thornton was busy this past season establishing himself as a reliable left-hander in the White Sox bullpen. But when things quiet down, Thornton likes to return home to a collection of thousands of baseball cards gathered through the decades. The Three Rivers, Mich., native recalls how his stash came to be.

MLBPLAYERS.com: What were your favorite players to collect when you were growing up?

Thornton: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammel and Jack Morris.

MLBPLAYERS.com: What was your all-time favorite card?

Thornton: Darrell Evans. My family went to Lakeland (the Tigers' Spring Training base) a long time ago. I got it signed by him there. It was an '87 wood-grained card signed by him. Eric King signed a card, too.

MLBPLAYERS.com: How old were you when you began collecting?

Thornton: First series I had was buying packages of 1987 Topps at age 10 with the wood-grain around the outside. After that, I'd buy the whole boxed sets. I'd do different things with them. I'd do them in numeric order, order by team, order by pitchers, whatever to spend time with.

MLBPLAYERS.com: How big is the collection now?

Thornton: There are probably over 5,000 cards. I told my mother, "Don't throw any of them away, I'd be mad." I would never sell them ever. Hopefully I'd pass them down someday to my son, if I have one. It is value to the history of the game and the history of what I did.

MLBPLAYERS.com: On which card did you first appear?

Thornton: Everett Aqua Sox in 1998. Terrible card. I hate it. It's an absolutely brutal card. I don't know when I took the picture. I have my hands crossed in front of me. They pop up once in awhile and people try to get them autographed. I hope I sign enough of them, get them all out of the way and they'll never come around again.

-- Red Line Editorial