It didn't take long for Cole Hamels to establish himself as the ace of the Phillies pitching staff.

The lanky left-hander was terrific throughout 2007, especially down the stretch when the Phillies captured the National League East title and appeared in their first playoffs in 14 seasons.

Hamels carried that momentum into the 2008 season, earning MVP honors in both the National League Championship Series and the World Series.

Hamels recently took some time to discuss his baseball card collecting days:

MLBPLAYERS.com: When were you really passionate about collecting baseball cards?

Hamels: When I was a kid, up until about 1996, when it kind of faded out for me. I had boxes and boxes of cards. I was really into it and talked about it with my friends. We would trade cards with each other.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Who were your favorite players to collect?

Hamels: I really liked Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Gwynn and David Justice. Those were the players I watched closely, and I had a lot of their cards.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Do you know where those cards are located?

Hamels: I don't think they exist anymore. I used to have stacks of them, but I don't think I have them anymore. It's possible, but I'm not sure.

MLBPLAYERS.com: When did you first appear on a baseball card?

Hamels: It was 2002 in the Minor Leagues. I looked young on that card.

MLBPLAYERS.com: What does it signify to you when kids line up and ask you to autograph their baseball cards?

Hamels: It's really great. To think I was in their position as a kid makes it cool for me to sign for them. I like shaking their hands. They're so happy when you sign for them. You can see their happiness.

MLBPLAYERS.com: What was your absolute favorite part about collecting cards?

Hamels: The bubble gum. I can't say it was good gum, but as a kid, it was great.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Is it hard to believe how many different types of cards kids will save and ask you to sign?

Hamels: They'll bring some Minor League cards of mine that I didn't know existed. If they took the time to save them, I'm more than happy enough to sign them.

-- Red Line Editorial