Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Green for Gypsy Queen

Quick rundown of the three packs of Gypsy Queen with a three card pack of green parallels I picked up from Target the other day.

Best of the base cards. When Kipnis is in the top three, it wasn't necessarily the strongest group of names. Kipnis is a fine player, though, of course. Just wasn't a star-filled set of packs. Glad to pull another Dansby. I've had pretty good luck pulling his cards so far in 2017.

Here are the three green parallels from the bonus pack. First Padres Margot card for me. Nice to see the former Greenville Drive outfielder having success in the majors. Also can't go wrong with a Bogaerts parallel.

I like these better than the retail parallels from years past. They don't have the raised border as in past years, which I am a fan of.

Here is the lone insert from the group of packs. Was excited to pull a Hand Drawn art (reproduction) card. Since it doesn't have his name on the card, this one is Rizzo.

I really like this year's design, and though this is usually one of my favorite releases each year, this set in particular looks like an improvement over the set from recent years.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Hokies in the Pros Part 2

Last time in the Hokies in the Pros series I talked about a player who has rookie cards in 2017 card sets, Chad Pinder of the Oakland Athletics. This time I'm checking on Ben Rowen, who's made major league appearances with the Rangers in 2014 and the Brewers in 2016. He's now in the Mets organization in AAA Las Vegas after being in contention for a big-league bullpen spot.

He led the Hokies bullpen in 2009 and 2010 with 68 combined appearances, posting a 9-4 career record with 97 strikeouts compared to 19 walks.

The first thing you'll notice about Ben is his submarine style delivery.  He dominated in the minors during his rise to making his Rangers debut in 2014. He made eight appearances for the Rangers but pitched in several organizations since then. He's had a few tough appearances around a string of three scoreless appearances in the Pacific Coast League in 2017. Last season he was a mid-season All-Star for the Buffalo Bisons in the International League.

These are the only two cards currently in my collection for Rowen. The beckett database lists a little over 50 cards, most of those being various parallels. His only true base card, at least from what I can tell, is his 2013 Bowman Prospects card, which is the design shown in the Chrome cards above. He also has a handful of minor league team issue cards, from his 2012 Myrtle Beach Pelicans card as his earliest card, to his International League All-star card in 2016. While I don't plan to try to pick up every parallel of the 2013 Bowman card, I do plan to try to track down the minor league cards.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Hitting the Gaps Part 2

Another round of hitting the gaps, where I try to track down cards I've missed from recent years and add them to my player collections. This round is for Mookie Betts.

Betts has three cards in The Future is Now set from 2014 Topps. I received the 3rd one in a recent trade but was missing the first two in the set. These are sharp looking cards, really like the glare effect in the bottom left, with the blurred background. 

These two from 2016 Allen & Ginter are the rare cards where the backs are more interesting to me than the fronts, although the fronts look sharp.

Really neat to see the list of Red Sox to wear #50 as well as other notable MLB players to wear the number.

Also neat to see 'The World's Champions Boston Red Sox' on the back. Others may disagree but I think it's a neat callout on the back of the card, regardless of which team is the champ in the current year.

I had the Topps Series 1 card, Opening Day, Opening Day blue, but had not picked up the Chrome, the mini version, or the card from Update. Still missing plenty of parallels of these cards.

Sweet group of cards from 2016. My favorite of the three is by far the Future Stars Topps Chrome insert. Love the stained glass look. This would be an insert set I would try to complete if I were to choose one. The card also scanned surprisingly well.

My second 2017 Betts card to appear on the blog, with many, many more to go. I have fond memories of the Gold Label brand from the 90s. Sadly the 2016 version doesn't stack up to those cards in look or feel but it's still nice that the brand saw a return.

The Rainbow parallel of the 2017 card above, and two other cards from 2017 Topps put me off to a solid start for picking up Betts cards from Series 1. I wouldn't really consider 2017 cards 'gaps' yet since they are pretty new but still glad to add them to the binder.

I'm now caught up on getting new Betts additions in my binder and up on my player collection page.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Two Donruss 30 card packs

I've enjoyed opening packs of Donruss in recent years, and this year is no exception. I like the number of inserts and parallels in these packs, which is usually five or more in a 30 card pack. There's also the slim chance of opening a variation card. I've yet to pull a variation from a pack but I'm still hopeful, whether or not it's warranted. Here's what I opened from my two packs.

Obligatory Lindor and Buster Posey. I'm getting these guys out of every product this year. Who wants cards of these guys? I've got some to send you!

Highlights of the base cards. Won't be upset pulling any of these guys.

I pulled 12 of these 1983 Retro Variations. I guess I did pull some variations after all, right? It's what these are called! Right?

In Heritage I pulled a Chris Sale SP. Here I pulled part of the other side of the deal, the new White Sox #1 prospect Moncada. The local Greenville Drive practically had a parade when he joined the team two years ago. Interested to see how he does when he reaches the majors this year.

I did pull a Diamond King. I guess this one technically isn't an insert, but I'm going to list it as one since I only opened one out of 60 cards. I still need the Markakis from last year, and the Optic version of it!

Rounding out the inserts, the two numbered cards in the break. I like the look of the Dominator insert but it's hard for me to get excited about the player. The Rose is fine. The grey border looks nice, I think.

List of Retro variations I opened:

Paul Goldschmidt RV-1
Freddie Freeman RV-2
Mookie Betts RV-4
Kyle Hendricks RV-6
Corey Kluber RV-9
Justin Verlander RV-12
Mike Trout RV-15
Albert Pujols RV-16
Ryan Braun RV-20
Khris Davis RV-24
Kyle Seager RV-30
Matt Carpenter RV-34

Saving the guys who fit into my collection for last!

The base cards- Machado and there's a Markakis base card. Markakis is batting cleanup right now in the absence of Matt Kemp. Come back soon Matt!

Spoiled my favorite two cards in the break from the list of Retro cards above, but I opened my top player collection guys, which is always welcomed.  I think I'm done opening packs of Donruss this year unless there's a series two.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Topps Heritage Blaster Highlights

Heritage is always one of the releases I get the most excited about every year. This year is no different.

My favorites from the base cards, including my first 2017 Heritage Brave. Colon has already made a positive impact with a solid start and win over the Padres. Nice to have a pitcher you can count on to pitch 6+ innings a game.

Here's one from the Rookie Stars subset, including Wimmers who I happened to see pitch seven scoreless innings in AA Chattanooga on a summer trip in Tennessee in 2015. That game also featured Miguel Sano. Here's a link to the Box Score from that game.

Two of the games young stars. Nice card.

I pulled two SPs from my blaster. They aren't 'special' variations, but they are SPs. Nice to see Sale in his new Red Sox gear.

Pulled a Chrome parallel of Posey. He along with Lindor seem to be the guys I am pulling out of about every product this year. Could be worse players to show up regularly.

I can't say I'd heard of Aledmys Diaz before pulling this card. I had to look up the card to find out who was featured on this card. 

And my first Benintendi. Hard to believe how fast he's moved up in the system, now batting second for the Red Sox big league club.

Speaking of Lindor... I'm a fan of this insert set. I know there's a Mookie out there I will look to pick up.

Johnny Bench I've also pulled in several products already this year. Pretty cool card here. The back of this card talks about Bench hitting a go-ahead RBI single and scoring as well due to two errors in left field.

And lastly I pulled six of these Topps News cards. While they look like inserts they are actually a part of the base set. The others I pulled not pictured here are Scherzer, Altuve, Kluber, and Syndergaard. Was pleased to see Machado and Kershaw. Another two cards added to player collections.

No luck once again on the variations, but it's fun to break hoping to pull them. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Top Nine Cards from my 24 Card Pack of Opening Day

It's been hard for me to hold off buying at least a single pack of any new baseball product that shows up at the local target. Topps Opening Day was no exception. Even though the photo variations are rare, the chance to pull one makes opening packs fun. I'll go ahead and ruin the suspense. My 24 card pack did not have one. So instead of showing off a variation, I'll settle for sharing my favorite nine cards from the pack.

9, Nice shot of Dee Gordon avoiding a slide. One of the better action shots in the pack.

8. A card of a young star is tough to beat.

7. Mascot cards don't do a ton for me but it is one of the few inserts in this product, even though it blends in as if part of the base set.

6. A nice 'play at the plate' shot. 

5. One of my favorites because of the stone and ballpark name in the background. 

4. Lots of excitement going on in this card.

3. I really enjoy cards that show pitches from this angle. That in combination with a card of the former Cy Young winner gets this one high on the list.

2. This would be a sweet card to own for your respective favorite team, and/or if you attended that season opener.  At least this insert has a slightly different look from the base set.

1. Cotton candy at my favorite ballpark. No, I don't actually eat cotton candy and I haven't eaten it at Fenway so I can't speak to how 'Incredible' it is. But taking a closer look, is this actually cotton candy?? I'm not so sure. Looks like it could be bags of popcorn. So this slots at #1 due to the potential laugh it provides.

I do have a coupon for a free pack of this, although it will be a normal pack rather than a 24 card pack. So although I don't plan to spend more money on packs of this product, I will at least have another shot at the variations, even if it's a remote one.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hitting the Gaps Part 1

Part of being a player and team collector is that as hard as you try to keep up with the latest releases, you fall behind, and in most cases WAY behind. I'm starting a series here called 'Hitting the Gaps', where I will share a collection of cards that fills in some gaps in a player or team collection of cards. The first covers a handful of Freddie Freeman cards from 2015 and 2016 that I'd missed to this point.

Sometimes the Topps base set cards are the ones that get overlooked. I didn't have a copy of 2015 Topps Freeman from Series 1 so I picked it up. Next to it is a Topps Chrome refractor version. I already had the base chrome version so all three of these are now sitting in a row in my player collection binder. The last card here is an insert from 2015 Allen & Ginter. The back of this one documents Freeman's MLB debut on September 1st, 2010.

What's interesting about this card is it not only hits on Freeman's debut but other notable MLB firsts on that day.

The 2016 Bowman's Best refractor scanned really well. Beautiful card. The plain Chrome versions of cards never scan very well, but at least Freeman shows up well here. I had the Bowman base version from the 2015 set, but now the Chrome version is sitting next to it in the binder. Topps Bunt was a product I was excited about but never saw any packs in stores. They might seem plain to some but I am a fan of these navy uniforms.

I had Opening Day, base Topps, and Topps Gold. Now I've got over half a page of this design with the Chrome base card and the Topps mini version to add to them. Still room for more parallels!

Great design on this 2015 Topps insert. Freddie is finally getting some help in the Braves lineup which started producing pretty well towards the end of last season. Freeman is still the heart of the order, though.

This Inspired Play insert pairs two of my all-time favorite first basemen on the same card. Add Klesko and we'd have the top three.

2017 Topps doesn't qualify as a gap yet, but it's just as satisfying to add it to the binder. My favorite insert set from 2017 Topps by far, and really the only one I was excited to see show up in my blaster box. 

I pretty much stick to base cards, inserts and affordable parallels as far as cards I go after for player collections, and while there's still plenty left to pick up from the last few years, this stack makes a good dent.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Second Pack of Hockey Cards

Well, I'm in on hockey. On watching games, on collecting Nashville Predators, I'm in.

I went into another trip to Target over the weekend with the intent of purchasing a few packs of new Topps Heritage baseball. When that wasn't there I gladly chose another 32 card pack of Upper Deck Series 2 instead. I think the hobby is trying to hook me on hockey based on the contents.

A few of the notable base cards based on name recognition for me, being a new hockey fan. Weber stands out as the former Predators Captain who was traded for current defenseman P.K. Subban.

Speaking of...

What a great card to pull. I've gotta say I really like the Nashville guitar pick logo on the jersey sleeve. Subban has quickly become one of my favorite Predators but I'm sure if I had followed the team over the years Weber would have been a favorite too.

My first Young Guns pull. I was so excited to see the words Young Guns, it didn't even matter that I didn't pull one of the 'chase' rookies. I feel like a real hockey collector now.

The other notable base card. I've been seeing this guy's name a lot. The Wild look to be a tough out and are leading the Central Division and the Western Conference.

Three more Predators to add to the Subban checklist above, and just like that I only need two more cards for the Series 2 team set of base cards.

Here's a full breakdown:

Arizona Coyotes (2) - 257 Tobias Rieder, 258 Max Domi
Boston Bruins (1) - 265 Tuuka Rask
Buffalo Sabres (2) - 271 Zamgus Girgensons, 272 Brian Gionta
Chicago Blackhawks (1) - 295 Ryan Hartman
Colorado Avalanche (1) - 301 Semyon Varlamov
Detroit Red Wings (1) - 316 Riley Sheahan
Minnesota Wild (2) - 343 Charlie Coyle, 344 Mikael Granlund
Montreal Canadians (2) - 351 Shea Weber, 352 Alexei Emelin
Nashville Predators (4) - 355 P.K. Subban, 357 Roman Josi, 358 Colin Wilson, 450 P.K. Subban/Shea Weber Checklist
New Jersey Devils (4) - 360 Taylor Hall, 362 Travis Zajac, 363 Devante Smith-Pelly, 456 Yohann Auvitu Young Guns
New York Islanders (1) - 369 Johnny Boychuk
New York Rangers (1) - 375 Henrik Lundqvist
Philadelphia Flyers (1) - 388 Jakub Voracek
Pittsburgh Penguins (1) - 398 Nick Bonino
San Jose Sharks (2) - 403 Joe Thornton, 407 Matt Nieto
St. Louis Blues (3) - 409 Jaden Schwartz, 411 Jay Bouwmeester, 412 Kevin Shattenkirk
Tampa Bay Lightning (1) - 420 Jonathan Drouin
Winnipeg Jets (2) - 444 Blake Wheeler, 448 Connor Hellebuyck

First off, I want to say that received no duplicates from the first 32 card pack I opened. Gold star! And with four Predators I can say I don't think I've ever pulled that many cards of a team I collect out of a single pack before. Certainly off to a good start!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Hokies in the Pros Part 1

Three former Virginia Tech Hokie baseball players appeared in the major leagues in 2016. I've talked about Jesse Hahn on this blog in multiple posts, but not the other two, Chad Pinder of the Athletics and Ben Rowen of the Mets. This is the start of an official series that I am calling 'Hokies in the Pros'.

Side note, the 2017 Hokies were ranked after winning a series against a highly regarded Nevada squad, but promptly lost four straight to Binghampton and I'm assuming dropped out of any and all polls. It was great while it lasted!

I picked up my first cards of Chad Pinder recently.

Can't say enough how glad I am that products like these exist. So awesome to see cards of minor league players in those uniforms. Pinder steadily made his way through Oakland's minor league system after being drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft. I've got these cards scanned out of order, as he hit .317 with 15 home runs and 86 RBIs for AA Midland in 2015. He started last season in AAA Nashville, where he played 107 games.

Pinder earned an August call up to the major league squad, where he played in 22 games, mainly at second base but also at shortstop and as a pinch hitter. He is fighting for a utility spot on the big league roster in spring training but it seems most likely he will start this season in AAA Nashville. He's hitting 2 for 8 so far with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored. He also hit a home run yesterday in his only at-bat against the Italian World Baseball Classic team, but I guess that at-bat does not count for his spring training total.

I opened a blaster of 2017 Topps Series 1 shortly after its release and I was glad to see Pinder show up in one of the packs. Somehow Pinder has 203 cards already in this early part of his career. How does the player/team collector keep up with this madness? Honestly I choose to go after the base cards, inserts, and more affordable parallels and not stress about the rest unless they show up in a trade opportunity. Nothing better than a card from a player collection showing up in a pack break.