For Vance Worley, accumulating sneakers is about finding that rare pair other collectors crave.
By TYLER MASONFS North
MINNEAPOLIS — Now that the baseball season is nearly two months old, Vance Worley has settled into his surroundings as a member of the Twins. But when the right-hander moved to Minnesota this offseason, he had one item of business he had to adjust to.
Where to put all of his shoes?
Since he was a teenager, Worley has made a hobby out of collecting sneakers. A former basketball player during his childhood in Sacramento, Worley always had to have the coolest sneakers from the biggest NBA stars. Michael Jordan, Gary Payton, Penny Hardaway — Worley had all of their shoes.
The favorites were a pair of oxidized green Air Jordan XIVs. It was the first pair of Jordans that Worley ever bought, but his family's house was broken into when he was 12 and the shoes were stolen before he ever got the chance to wear them during basketball season.
As he got older, the collection started to grow. Once he started collecting paychecks as a professional baseball player, Worley had more money to buy more shoes — including six pairs of those same Jordan XIVs that were once stolen from him.
Soon, Worley's collection took over his house in Philadelphia.
"I probably had 500 pairs, easy," he said.
Worley kept each pair of sneakers (either a size 12 or 13, depending on the brand) in their original box and stacked them in piles. They took up two and a half rooms at his place in Philadelphia — enough to open his own shoe store if he really wanted to.
For collectors, or "sneakerheads," the shoes are about several things. Making a fashion statement is a part of it, but it's also about obtaining that rare shoe that everyone else is trying to get. And for those who opt to sell their shoes, it can be a profitable hobby.
The shoes that Worley buys — some new, some gently used — typically range anywhere from $80 to $220 retail. In many cases, he'll have multiple pairs of the same shoe. Sneakerheads use the saying, "one to rock, one to stock," meaning they'll sell a pair and wear the other. As for the value, that price is in the eye of the beholder. Worley says the shoes in his collection range anywhere from $150 to upwards of $4,000.
"It's all about certain colorways and certain models," Worley said. "If you get them, they're worth a lot more to another sneakerhead. It started out as a hobby and it became, ‘How much can I make off of this pair if I get multiple pairs?' … The one you sell — the one you stock — is going to pay for that pair and the pair you're wearing, so ultimately you're getting a pair for free."
The Twins traded for Worley this past offseason, sending outfielder Ben Revere to the Phillies in exchange for Worley and minor league pitcher Trevor May. That meant that Worley and his 500 pairs of sneakers had to relocate. Not wanting to bring them all with him to Minnesota, though, Worley wound up parting with more than half of his collection. He had just shipped most of the shoes from his parents' place in California to Philadelphia and didn't want to deal with the hassle of moving them once again.
So Worley talked to his main shoe contact in the Philadelphia area to help him sell them online.
"I held onto all the stuff I knew I wanted and I sold the other half, got engaged, got a condo, making a lot of adult decisions right now because I don't have the fat contract that some of these other guys have," Worley said. "It's about growing up."
Most of those few hundred pairs have been sold on eBay, Worley said, but about 20 pairs still remain. The ones he held onto made the trip with him and his fiancé, but the collection now stands at
only about 150 pairs.
Not all of his Twins teammates know how extensive Worley's shoe collection is — even if it's pared down compared to what it was just a few months ago.
"All I know is that it's big," reliever Brian Duensing said of Worley's stash of sneakers. "I'm not much of a shoe guy. I don't have that much fashion sense in the first place. I know I have a pair of white Nike's and a pair of gray Nike's tennis shoe wise, and a pair of flip flops. That's all I really need in my fashion world, but to each his own."
Said Worley of his teammates: "They don't appreciate it the same way I do."
With a collection that once reached 500 pairs, it's safe to say there aren't many people that appreciate shoes as much as Worley does. While he still values the downsized collection that he has, Worley said he hasn't added to it much lately. He's now in a new city where he doesn't have the same sneaker connections that he did in Philadelphia.
And, as he said, he's growing up. At 25, filling his rooms with sneakers isn't as important as it was as a 14-year-old in Sacramento.
"I haven't even been buying and selling. It's been too tough," Worley said. "If you don't know anybody, what are they really trying to do for me? Are they trying to get something out of me and then cut me short on money on a shoe? Are they going to try to sell me something real? Are they going to sell me something that's beat? Are they using it just to meet you? It's tough. You've got to know who you trust — in everything you do in life, really."