For collectors who enjoy collecting players who might someday make a major-league roster, Topps Pro Debut baseball set is a good way to immerse yourself into the future.
The 2014 set draws its design from Topps flagship Series One and Two major-league baseball products, and a hobby box has 24 packs, with eight cards to a pack. The base set is 220 cards and there are parallels in silver and gold.
Topps promises two sticker autographs, a relic card and a manufactured patch card in every hobby box, and the patch relics can be especially colorful. As it is, the team names at the minor-league level are quite diverse.
Here are a few that can be found in Topps Pro Debut: Batavia Muckdogs, Great Lakes Loons, Savannah Sand Gnats, Visalia Rawhide, Fort Wayne Tincaps — and my two favorites from this set, the Vermont Lake Monsters and the Idaho Falls Chukars. And in case you were wondering, a chukar is a game bird found in the region near Idaho Falls.
There’s no real way of knowing how many of these players will ever make the majors, but if you read the cards carefully, there are some wonderful bits of information. For example, J.P. Crawford (Connecticut Tigers) is the cousin of former Rays outfielder Carl Crawford. In the hobby box I opened, three players were from the Orlando suburb of Oviedo: A.J. Cole, Zack Eflin and Tyler Marlette.
Logan Vick attended the same high school in Kerrville, Texas, that Johnny Manziel went to (Tivy). Tyler Danish, formerly of Durant High School, has a card featuring him with the Bristol White Sox. And former Jesuit star Lance McCullers Jr. is depicted with the Quad City River Bandits.
The best card description might have been the one belonging to pitcher Andrew Thurman (Tri-City ValleyCats of Troy, New York): “Thurman is known as ‘Dirty Thirty’ for the dancing movement of his pitches and the uniform number he wears in honor of Nolan Ryan.” That’s a great piece of information, but unfortunately, Thurman is wearing No. 10 on the picture shown on the front of the card.
Baseball has some good history in Troy, by the way. In addition to being the birthplace of Hall of Famer Johnny Evers, the city also had a major-league club in the National League from 1879 to 1882 (the Troy Trojans).
The hobby box of Pro Debut that I opened contained 179 base cards. There were two autograph cards — Derek Law (San Jose Giants) and Kyle Hunter (Jackson Generals). The relic card was a blue uniform swatch of pitcher Carlos Contreras (Bakersfield Blaze), and the manufactured patch was the colorful logo of the Beloit Snappers, with pitcher Daniel Robertson the featured player.
Casual baseball fans might find this set rather obscure, but for minor-league fans or hardcore baseball fans who like to look ahead, Topps Pro Debut offers an easy way to see into the future.