Ronald Acuña Jr. was brought up to Atlanta April 25th, 2018 and only appeared in 29 games before hitting the disabled list with an ACL sprain and back contusion following a non-contact injury running to 1st base. Braves fans are anticipating the return of Ronald Acuña Jr. in the coming weeks. He is currently beginning his rehab assignment in Gwinnett for the Stripers.
Several weeks ago, I explored Acuña’s baseball card market from release to his projected upcoming MLB debut
Prices were increasing consistently with impressive performance and promotions, as expected. Another market of interest is game used memorabilia and autographed merchandise, which is highly desired among collectors.
I was privileged to meet and interview Phil Dahling, who holds the exclusive game-used memorabilia contract with Ronald Acuña Jr. Rarely do fans get a peek into the workings of these contracts, so I appreciate his time and generosity in sharing with us.
Stacy - Tell me a little bit about yourself, your company, and what kind of relationship you have with players, including Acuna. When did your exclusive deal with him begin?
Phil - My name is Phil Dahling and I own Player Direct LLC. The company was started in 2013, with Salvador Perez, and has grown ever since that time. I have held Exclusives of Ronald Acuna, Aaron Judge, Alex Bregman, Yordano Ventura, Joey Gallo, Mike Zunino, Evan White, Heliot Ramos, Kevin Maitan, etc.
I deal with my Exclusives on an Autograph and/or Game Used level. I always go through the agency for my contracts. I keep everything as a business relationship with my exclusives.
My Exclusive with Ronald originally started in July/August of 2017. Since then, I have recently signed an extension through the early part of Spring Training in 2022.
In regards to Acuña’s market, Phil confirmed what I found with his card values as well. Acuña’s market was already on the rise from the very beginning. He stated “As he approached getting called up to the MLB, his product went up even more. The biggest increase was when he was called up to the MLB”. When asked about the future projection of his items, Phil fully expects his prices to continue to rise.
S - Which game used items do you obtain, and what is most sought after among collectors?
P - I usually obtain items such as bats, batting gloves, cleats, hats, batting helmets, guards, fielding gloves, catchers gear, etc. For Ronald, he has given me batting gloves, cleats, a Braves shirt and a bat. When I get fielding gloves in, they are usually the most sought after. However, for the casual collector, game used bats are the most collected. Also, for basic autographed items, inscribed is what everyone seems to want first and foremost. The most popular autograph is his full name autograph.
When asked what his favorite item is that he has acquired, Phil said he has obtained both Ronald’s 2017 Future’s Game cleats and the cleats he was wearing during the injury. He stated that both sets of cleats are conversation starters, but the Future’s Game cleats are his favorite. Those have since been sold.
As someone who has only had limited interactions with Ronald Acuña Jr at spring training, I was curious what Phil’s personal experience has been.
P - Ronald speaks Spanish mainly and I know very little Spanish. Communicating can be tricky at times, due to this, but he has always been very responsive and willing to do whatever asked. There is always someone there who helps me effectively communicate with Ronald, also. He has always been very polite. He has never complained and has always asked if he was unsure on something. He has made my job easy with his willingness.
Recently Phil held a private signing in Atlanta with Ronald. One of the items to be signed was the 2nd base bag from his first official stolen base. He told me the story about how he gifted this base to Ronald.
P - Him and his team got me tickets to the Sunday Game in Philadelphia on April 29th. When Acuña got on first base in the 7th, he stole his first bag of his career. I immediately went down to the Phillies Authentics store and asked about that exact base. Next day, they give me a call and I immediately pay. I would have said yes on most reasonable prices. When I brought it to the signing, it was one of the last pieces we did. When the translator told Acuña exactly what it was, I could see him stop and he just looked at it. I asked him if he wanted it. I think he was slightly surprised by it. It was the right thing to do though. He seemed very happy to be able to obtain it. I am glad I was able to provide that for Ronald.
Again, I want to thank Phil very much for this interview. Information about his sales platforms and contact information is below.
P - I do have a website I am currently updating. I use a few different avenues to sell. Wholesaling to other companies is the primary avenue. However, I do sell on sites such as Ebay and I have a lot of success selling on Facebook in various groups.
Anyone can reach me at PlayerDirectP@gmail.com. I can also be found on Twitter, under @PlayerDirect and on Facebook under my exact name, Phil Dahling.