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Braille Trading Cards Score With Schoolchildren

SPORTS trading cards are a very visual medium. So why are sight-impaired children so crazy about cards manufactured by Action Packed, a small company in Itasca, Ill.?

It's because Action Packed's specialty is embossing, which means that even their regular sports cards offer a tactile experience to collectors. Special Braille cards go further by allowing blind people to read the backs of the cards as well.

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``You can feel the player on the front,'' says Laurie Goldberg, Action Packed's director of public relations. ``There's the football. The quarterback's throwing it. Kids think it's cool.''

Braille cards are mixed in among the regular football and auto-racing sets Action Packed sells, but 40,000 to 50,000 Braille cards are also set aside each year for free distribution to 400 schools for the blind in the United States and Canada. ``This is our way to give a little back,'' Goldberg says. ``We send automatically to anyone who has blind family members or friends, no questions asked.''

The Braille cards are not sold as a distinct product in their own packs, she adds, ``because collectors might just snap them up.''

Since the cards were introduced four years ago, Action Packed has learned that blind children want more information on the backs. The company is providing it this year by using Level 2, instead of Level 1, Braille. The embossing is done right over the regular card backs.

Some people have expressed disappointment that the company offers no Braille baseball cards, but licensing agreements prevent their manufacture. Goldberg says there is some possibility that Major League Baseball will give Action Packed a license just for Braille cards, but she says that the company couldn't afford to print just these specialty giveaway cards.

Action Packed began with a very limited number of Braille football cards. Demand has led to offering many more players and adding race-car drivers.

Some sports figures have made appearances at schools for the blind. None was a bigger hit, Goldberg says, than stock-car driver Richard Petty, who showed up last year at the Governor Morehead School in Raleigh, N.C., with his race car. ``Every inch of that car had fingerprints on it by the time he left,'' she recalls. No big news in baseball strike or study

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THE preliminary results of an ongoing economic study into major-league baseball brings a chuckle. The study is the work of a college professor who has reached such unstartling conclusions as: Fans follow winning teams; locating a team in a big city helps attendance; and promotions have a good effect in drawing crowds. Another obvious conclusion might be drawn, namely, that a labor strike with no end in sight is a great way to make people write off baseball. The work stoppage has reached 26 days, and if no settlement is reached by this Friday, acting major-league commissioner Bud Selig may cancel the rest of the season. The general public response: Who cares?

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