Sunday, April 5, 2015

Opening Day is Here!

As I begin this post, the first pitch of the 2015 season is imminent! The Cubs are hosting the Cardinals at a recently renovated Wrigley Field in an NL Central showdown. In fact, the pennant race could be beginning already, if the buzz about the Cubs holds true this year.

As spring training was getting underway a few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the 2013 Opening Day set, so the first game of the regular season is the perfect occasion to show off some cards from a $10 blaster of 2015 Opening Day that I picked up at Target just 24 hours ago.

2015 Topps Opening Day #25 Jorge Soler (RC)
One of the Cubs' most promising young stars is Jorge Soler, who also happens to be a member of my fantasy baseball team, the Lucky Numbers. I got a look at Soler last August when the Cubbies visited Denver, and he is an exciting player to watch, especially at the plate. If this finally is the year, Soler is certain to be a reason for it.

2015 Topps Opening Day #66 Andrew McCutchen
The Cubs won't be the only team in the hunt for first place in the NL Central. McCutchen, one of baseball's elite hitters, will seek to lead the Pirates to another playoff spot. As the anchor hitter of my fantasy team, I'll be hoping for another MVP year like he had in 2013.

2015 Topps has earned much praise, and the same ripple and stucco design carries over to Opening Day, along with a good deal of interesting photography. The only differences are a printed Topps logo instead of foil, plus the patriotic-looking Opening Day banner. Most of the photos are the same as in the base set, although I have seen a few cards with different images, or at least different crops.

I haven't seen much of the 2015 base set in person this year other than the value pack I bought during release week, so lots of these photographs are new to me. I did recognize Tulowitzki's card in this blaster, as well as Hunter Pence's, and a few others from the blogs.

2015 Topps Opening Day #35 Travis d'Arnaud
2015 Topps Opening Day #2 Curtis Granderson
These two Mets were back-to-back in one of the eleven packs. I don't know how often the Mets wear these desert digital camo uniforms, but they appear to be in different stadiums, so these must be from different games. d'Arnaud had a pretty good rookie year last season, and he was awarded the Topps Rookie Cup on his 2015 card, a logo which has been a mainstay of Topps sets for decades with only brief gaps.

2015 Topps Opening Day Blue Foil #23 Greg Holland
I did pull a few Blue Foil parallels, which are a bit different this year. First of all, they aren't serial numbered anymore, which is a bit of a disappointment, and the actual date of Opening Day isn't listed in silver foil. That's too bad, as it would be cool to have a few cards with my dad's birthday printed on them. Holland's base card also made an appearance in this blaster, so other than the /1 parallels, I have the rainbow of Greg Holland's 2015 Opening Day cards!

That's a relief.

Pun not intended.

As I've stated many times, my favorite aspect of the Opening Day brand is the inserts, and this year's crop did not disappoint. Many of my longtime favorites made a reappearance, and Topps gave us a few pretty solid new insert sets.

2015 Topps Opening Day Stars #ODS-20 Joe Mauer
"Opening Day Stars" returns with the 3D effect from its lenticular printing, and this Joe Mauer card was the only one in the 77-card stack (including an undifferentiated bonus pack!). I've kept an eye on Mauer in recent years, as the Rockies seem to have an interest in Aging Twins Stars. They've brought over Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau, so it seems like Mauer can't be far behind.

2015 Topps Opening Day Superstar Celebrations #SC-07 Jordan Zimmermann
"Superstar Celebrations" makes a comeback in 2015 as well. Commemorating Zimmermann's no-hitter at the end of the 2014 season, this card wouldn't be out of place in the "Ballpark Fun" insert set of 2013. There were lots of post-game antics in that one.

2015 Topps Opening Day Hit the Dirt #HTD-03 Billy Hamilton
In addition to the old veteran sets, there are plenty of new ones this year, such as "Hit The Dirt", which features lots of gutsy baserunning. It's a lot like the "Sliding Stars" set from Gypsy Queen, and is a good showcase of speed, which again has become a more important aspect of baseball now that the steroid era has passed. A guy like Dee Gordon can be a lot more valuable if all the guys surrounding him in the lineup aren't hitting 40+ home runs per season.

2015 Topps Opening Day Stadium Scenes #STA-CP Cameron Payne
Topps has been embracing social media quite a bit recently. and that's reflected in the "Stadium Scenes" set. All its photos were shot by fans and then submitted online to Topps. This allows a real fan's perspective to appear on cards, which is unusual. I like the concept; it's a chance for a fan to be immortalized on cardboard, and documents how a fan actually sees the game, rather than someone with a press pass.

Angel Stadium of Anaheim, home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, is the only Major League park I've been to outside of Denver. You can't see them on this card, but flanking this entrance are two giant metal baseball caps. I snapped a picture or two myself when I was there to see the Angels host the Yankees (in Anaheim, yes), and here's what those caps look like.

2015 Topps Opening Day Franchise Flashbacks #FF-08 Julio Teheran
"Franchise Flashbacks" might be the best new insert set for 2015, especially if you're a fan of throwback uniforms. There aren't many Rockies to be found in any of these sets, but the Rockies have done minimal changes to their logo and uniforms in their 22-year history (has it really been that long?).

Braves pitcher Julio Teheran appears on this card in an Atlanta Black Crackers uniform, a team that played in various Negro Leagues for a few decades in the first half of the 20th century. Nick at Dime Boxes is such a fan of this 20-card set that he bought the whole thing in one fell swoop, dubbing it the "Insert Set of the Year". I am not at all surprised that such an appellation would be awarded to an Opening Day release.

I've written this whole post without a single mention of my favorite insert set from Opening Day, which means that it's time for...

2015 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M-02 Atlanta Braves

I think the Braves could do way better than this. Their unnamed mascot is a blatant rip-off of Mr. Met, as the back of this card fully acknowledges. Short of calling him "Mr. Brave," I'm not sure what else can be done with a mascot wearing a Braves uniform and a baseball for a head. It's Georgia; at least make it a peach or something.

2015 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M-12 Billy the Marlin
Miami does a better job, as their mascot is simply a marlin. It's a type of billfish, which is where Billy the Marlin gets its name. With those wild eyes and gaping mouth, this mascot looks really excited to be cheering for the Marlins. I can't quite tell for sure, but that might be a Rockies catcher behind the plate in that photo. Colorado visited Miami for their first four games last year, so if this was actually taken on Opening Day, then that's Wilin Rosario with a cameo appearance in the Mascots set.

It seems like the Rockies begin most of their seasons on the road, and that'll hold true this year as well. At noon tomorrow (mountain time), they'll send a man to the plate in Miller Park, home of the Brewers. By then, the Brewers will know who they're chasing for the division lead. Unless the Cubs step it way up tonight (they're down 3-0 as I write this), then St. Louis will be the first team to 1-0 atop the NL Central.


  1. Joe's staying, for better or for worse, for the rest of his career in Minnesota.

  2. I did the outside of Angels stadium picture myself when we were there in 2007. I thought the two hats, and everything was so impressive I walked way back, and got the stadium, and both hats in the picture.