BOSTON (CBS) -- Like a lot of kids growing up, Red Sox beat writer Chris Cotillo found joy in collecting baseball cards and autographs. Now that he covers the team for MassLive, those cards and autographs were just sitting at his parent's house.
When he returned home in Northborough to lay low with his parents during the coronavirus pandemic, Cotillo decided to break out those cards and autographs once again. Going trough his massive collection, he came up with a great idea: Auction off some of his prized items on Twitter to help those in need during the pandemic.
Four weeks later, Cotillo had yelled "SOLD!" for over 250 of his own items and over 100 others donated by fellow reporters and sports figures, raising over $57,000 for a number of charities around the country. The money will mostly go to food banks to help feed those in need.
It all started with an Adrian Beltre autographed card that he listed on Easter Sunday.
"I thought maybe if I get $25, $30 for this it will be a good start. It ended up going for $75 and from there I started to realize that maybe the market was a little different than I thought," Cotillo explained to WBZ-TV's Steve Burton.
Cotillo monitored every auction himself and then made sure they were out in the mail the next day. So far, only one item has been lost in the mail, and a generous gentleman in Michigan will be receiving a replacement item for the Glen "Big Baby" Davis autograph that won't be arriving at his doorstep.
Cotillo said he couldn't have done this without his parents, who were happy to lend a helping hand.
"They were the ones who took me to get the autographs, so my dad and I looked at certain items and remembered the experience. A lot of them were guys he grew up liking -- Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Jim Rice. I tried to keep a few of those if I had duplicates because they had some sentimental value," he said. "We had an assembly line going. My mom would write out the addresses, my dad had a postage machine at work and he would ship them out of his office. ... It's been a team effort, something they deserve a lot of credit for too."
The team effort didn't end with the Cotillo family though. Along the way, several others donated some pretty sweet items, from 98.5 The Sports Hub's Marc Bertrand donating a Breaking Bad script signed by Bob Odenkirk (which raised $500), to sports packages from WEEI and NESN, to former Red Sox skipper Alex Cora getting in on the action.
"The fist night, [Cora] bid on a Jason Varitek autograph, which I was surprised to see. He text me to say that he hoped someone outbid him because he could get Varitek's autograph anytime he wants. But that helped people really see it on Twitter," explained Cotillo. "He donated a couple of shoes he wore as manager and signed them. They went for $550 each and he matched that, so that was over $2,000 for the Greater Boston Food Bank.
"At that point I didn't even consider that other people could donate items and help out, which was a huge surprise and a huge success once it got going," he said.
The biggest item that sold was a Mike Trout autographed card that Cotillo, 24, got signed at Fenway Park during the Angels superstar's rookie season.
"I was really holding off on taking that out of the binder and putting it up. But after a while I saw the bidding had got to a point where I had an idea what it could go for. I thought $750, but it ended up going for over $1,300 for the Orange County Food Bank," he said.
Cotillo is still amazed at the amount he was able to raise.
"I had no idea. It was just a side project," he said, explaining that it took roughly four minutes from coming up with the idea to listing the Beltre card. "It was just, 'let's see if this works.' I thought what if nobody bids and I just look like an idiot on Twitter. Obviously that wasn't the case.
"I would have never anticipated anything more than a couple thousand dollars. When I look at $57,000, I'm obviously proud of it, but I was just the middle man, really," he said humbly. "It was a lot of people who donated out of their pocket or items that really meant something to them. A lot of people had huge roles in this. I was just kind of the guy with a spreadsheet who had the idea and made sure every address was on the right envelope."
Cotillo has had to stop playing auctioneer now that he's out of items. He's now encouraging others to rummage through their old collections and try to help others.
"At this point I'm encouraging others to start their own auctions. It doesn't have to be sports memorabilia -- it can be anything," he said. "People are at home and they have a desire to help. They're willing to be super generous so I'm encouraging people to do the same.
"My binders may be empty but I'll retweet and promote anyone else who does it," he said. "There's a market for it and it really goes to a great cause if you're willing to do a little bit of work."
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