Steve WInfree holds up the special card his wife had made to announce he would be receiving her kidney for a transplant operation.
Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
The anticipation of opening a pack of baseball cards remains exciting for collectors of all ages, but a Tennessee man pulled an extraordinary card last week, and it was an emotional, life-changing moment.
Steve Winfree of Knoxville began dialysis for kidney disease in November and needs a transplant. On Thursday, Winfree, an avid collector, opened a pack of Topps cards. A special insert revealed that his wife, Heather Winfree, would be donating a kidney to him.
As Heather filmed the event Winfree, 32, pulled cards of Angels outfielder Mike Trout, Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard and Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier. Then he found a special Topps card with his own likeness on the front. As he read the back of the card he began to choke up, because he learned his wife was a match and would be donating her kidney.
“Heather will be pitching a new kidney to him,” the card read. “They are sure to hit it out of the ballpark together!”
“She kept saying, ‘You have a special insert there,’” Winfree told MLB.com. “I knew something was up because she never films me.”
Winfree is an Atlanta Braves fan who collected cards as a youth. He said he stopped during high school but resumed his hobby “once I could afford it.”
Opening packs of cards has been therapeutic for Winfree, his wife said. “There were a lot of times where we would be in the hospital and I would grab a pack and we would open them,” Heather Winfree told MLB.com. “The low-key fun gets our minds off the everyday stresses.”
When he saw the special card, which resembles the 2016 Topps design, Winfree noticed the word “recipient” in place of where a player’s position was on the card.
“I saw it coming,” he said. “But I lost it and I asked her, ‘You want to save my life?’”
The emotional video of Steve Winfree reacting to the card has gone viral. He will receive the transplant at the Vanderbilt Transplant Center in Nashville.
Steve Winfree said the response to the video has been gratifying.
“Heather and I have been so overwhelmed with the kindness of people,” he said in a Twitter message Sunday night.