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.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

It's Been so Long Since I Received This Trade Package, His Blog Has a New Name

You can probably guess who this trade package is from. The 'Waiting Till Next Year' blog is now 'Eamus Catuli!'. I reached out to Tom about a Freddie Freeman card from National Baseball card day last Fall. I received a package that had much more than the one Freeman a short time later. This post is much more delayed than it should be, but I'm still glad to be able to recap Tom's package and to congratulate him on the Cubs World Series win!

Here is the card that started the conversation. Glad to have this one in my binder. It have to say it actually resembles a past Upper Deck base set. I hope Topps continues with this promotion. Even though I don't have a local card shop close by, the generosity of collectors is what brought this one to my collection.

Not just one Freeman, but two, showed up in this package. I'm starting to go back and fill in cards from previous years for Freddie and this is one less card I need to track down. 

Believe it or not I have a decent sized Randall Simon collection. I enjoyed seeing him play at AAA Richmond in my childhood, a common theme for former Braves in my collection. It kind of tailed off when he was involved in this sausage incident.

Maybe Randall has been in my collector doghouse long enough. I think this one is my first rookie card of his.

I once got an in-person autograph from Scott Thorman at a AAA game. He never achieved much success at the big league level, though he displayed good power in the minors while manning first base. This is the first card outside of that autographed card that goes into my collection.

What an awesome card of the two-time Braves all-star shortstop on what looks like attempting to turn a double-play, could be wrong. Any Flair card of a team I collect is a good one. Really enjoyed opening mid-90s Flair packs. In fact a few years ago I opened a box of 1994-95 Flair basketball and broke it down here. Blauser's last year with the Braves was Atlanta's first season playing at Turner Field.

Also included in this package were a number of prospect cards, the best of which was this refractor of third-baseman Austin Riley.  The 19 year-old hit .271 with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs for class-A Rome this past season. He's rated the 13th best prospect in the loaded Braves farm system. Last year he was in the top 10.

What would a trade package full of Braves be without a few Chippers? These are the first Braves in my collection from both of these brands, 1999 Upper Deck Century Legends and 1999 SP Authentic.

And what's one Jones without the other? The card on the right, an insert from 1999 Upper Deck Series 2, reminds me of graph paper. Unique insert set and cool design.

I have the box set for 1993 Upper Deck, but my 6 year-old self took the cards out and I'm sure it's no longer a complete set. 

Two more cards to add to the Klesko collection, which is still my largest of any baseball player collection. These two were new to me, and the Metal Universe brand ranks among my favorites.

Awesome card of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's home run record. A gold moment indeed.

So many cards in this package that I had to pick my favorites to share. Thank you again Tom! I'm setting aside Cubs to form a new stack to send your way at some point down the road.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

First Pack of Hockey Cards

I picked up NHL 16 for the playstation on clearance last week and managed to get a few games in. What fun that is. It flashed me back to playing on the original playstation. For NHL 97 my team of choice was the Flyers, scoring goals at will with Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg, the 'Legion of Doom'. But I was only 11 years old then. I've never gotten into following hockey over the years for whatever reason, but that's changing.

So my first hockey pack ever ends up being 2016-17 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey. It's been awhile since I've opened an Upper Deck pack at all, with Panini having the exclusive basketball license and Topps for baseball.

The first game I played on the PS4 was while waiting for the rest of the game to download. It was a matchup between the two league finalists from the year prior, the Blackhawks and Lightning. Guess what two of the first few cards in my first pack of hockey cards were?

Glad to pull two guys I know right off the bat. Filppula it appears has been traded to the Flyers for Mark Streit who is on an expiring contract. Stamkos has been on the Lightning his entire NHL career. My kind of player! 

A few goalies from the pack. I always enjoy seeing the designs on the masks these guys wear. Looking forward to finding some insert sets that feature these. Craig Anderson is 2nd in the NHL in save percentage. 

Speaking of inserts and goalies, the lone parallel/insert in this pack. Apparently the Young Guns are the chase cards in these packs and I didn't pull any of those, but I have a feeling I'll have more opportunities. Again, awesome mask with Jets for the Winnipeg goaltender.

Here's the allocation by team for my 32 card pack:

Boston Bruins (3) - 266 Torey Krug, 267 David Backes, 268 Dominic Moore
Calgary Flames (2) - 279 Sean Monahan, 283 Michael Ferland
Carolina Hurricanes (1) - 285 Victor Rask
Chicago Blackhawks (1) - 293 Richard Panik
Colorado Avalanche (1) - 296 Joe Colborne
Detroit Red Wings (1) - 315 Petr Mrazek
Florida Panthers (3) - 333 Nick Bjugstad, 334 James Reimer, 335 Keith Yandle
Montreal Canadians (1) - 349 Carey Price
New Jersey Devils (1) - 364 John Moore
New York Rangers (1) - 376 Oscar Lindberg
Ottawa Senators (2) - 385 Craig Anderson, 386 Zack Smith
Philadelphia Flyers (3) - 390 Michael Raffl, 391 Scott Laughton, 392 Matt Read
Pittsburgh Penguins (2) - 393 Chris Kunitz, 397 Olli Maatta
Phoenix Coyotes (3) - 259 Alex Goligoski, 260 Radim Vrbata, 263 Luke Schenn
San Jose Sharks (1) - 404 Joonas Donskoi
St. Louis Blues (2) - 410 Colton Parayko, 413 Neil Yakupov
Tampa Bay Lightning (2) - 416 Steven Stamkos, 418 Valtteri Filppula
Winnipeg Jets (1) - Canvas C209 Connor Hellebuyck

I left one card out. I've always been a team collector and player collector. I've picked a team to follow and a team to collect. I've taken a few trips here over the last couple years and enjoyed the city. There's reason #1. Reason #2 is I think the logo, team name, and where the logo comes from is just too cool. And lastly the color scheme closely resembles my favorite NBA team, the Indiana Pacers. 

I pulled one card for this team.

I'm collecting the Nashville Predators. They have a relatively short NHL history which I actually like. Their team logo is based on a saber-toothed cat that's been extinct for 10,000 years. The idea came from a partial skeleton found in downtown Nashville in 1971 during construction of a bank building, per Wikipedia.

I'm trying not to get too ahead of myself, but I'm looking forward to adding cards of the Preds to my wantlist and starting a hockey collection, following the NHL season and a Predator playoff run, and most of all interacting with hockey card bloggers and collectors. I watched the Predators beat the Edmonton Oilers the other night and had a blast. Hopefully more to come soon!