Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016 Card of the Year

This has been a rough year.

With all the celebrities passing away before their time, including Carrie Fisher earlier today, as well as an election that most of us would rather forget, it seems like the ball can't drop soon enough. Personally, it's been up and down for me. My dad moved to another state in the spring, and even though he's happy, I do miss him. There have been some other challenges and disappointments, too. But the new car is fun, at least. And I will be an uncle by the time May rolls around!

Still, baseball and its related card industry have carried on regardless. The Cubs, of course, finally snapped their century-long Championship drought. Ichiro hit a pretty cool milestone. David Ortiz did his farewell tour. And another season is in the books, one in which my Rockies did better than usual. They finished just six games under .500, and the youth of the team looks better than ever.

To wrap up this year on the baseball card front, Tom at Eamus Catuli!, formerly known as Waiting 'Til Next Year, is running a "Best of 2016" contest. Topps released another Stadium Club set in 2016, and it's been a bright spot in the hobby ever since the brand was resurrected for 2014. Naturally, my favorite card from 2016 is from none other than Stadium Club.

2016 Stadium Club #251 Jon Gray
I'm not trying to curry favor over here, but this Jon Gray card was sent by none other than Tom himself. Mike Trout's card from 2016 Topps is a strong contender, and Jose Bautista's bat flip card is a close second, but Jon Gray is the winner at Infield Fly Rule.

We didn't get snow for Christmas Day, but the wind was cold and biting. It's a bit sunny out right now, and not terribly wintry. But it's still far from a comfortable Colorado evening, one that's clearly pictured on this card. And that's what I'm longing for right about now.

It's usually a good day for the Rockies when Jon Gray is on the hill, assuming he's gotten his first inning jitters out of the way. And all those fans help set the tone of this card. There are a handful of empty seats about 20 rows up, but there is lots of purple out there, a lemonade vendor climbing the stairs, and some ghostly-looking fans silhouetted against the setting sun.

That little glimmer of sunlight is what truly puts this card on top. Gray in sharp focus with that background would be good enough, but tilting the camera up just a little bit gives it a lot more atmosphere. It's a bit of an allegory for the Rockies themselves, a statement that young players like Gray, Trevor Story, David Dahl, Raimel Tapia, Brendan Rodgers, and possibly Jeff Hoffman could be a light at the end of a dark tunnel the Rockies have been in for a while. I've never known the Rockies' farm system as well as I do right now, and hopefully that means there are good things to come.

But maybe I'm getting too philosophical about it.

Maybe it's just because I can picture myself so well in this scene. I'd be sitting in that general area (maybe a deck or two higher, depending on how much I felt like spending on a ticket), wearing my Nolan Arenado jersey. I'm guessing this is the second or third inning, meaning I'd probably have finished a bratwurst already, and be about halfway through a beer. Maybe I'd be thinking about another snack, perhaps some popcorn, a Tornadough pretzel available below the left field scoreboard, or even some Rocky Mountain oysters, which are only sold near where those fans are standing.

I'd have already checked in on social media, perhaps snapped a photo or two. For a night game, the temperature would have dropped a bit, but it would still be nice sitting in the shade. It's likely that a run or two would have scored by then. And this side of the stadium is perfect when a righty is on the hill. After the game, I'd head into Downtown just beyond, perhaps grabbing a late happy hour snack at one of the bars, ideally having just witnessed a Rockies win.

It's almost like one of those chalk drawings in Mary Poppins. I feel like I can just jump right in.

Not only is this card my favorite of 2016. This card is my happy place.


  1. The sunlight through the ballpark there reminds me of the scene in The Natural when Glenn Close stands up. Great post!

  2. "Rocky Mountain oysters"? Um... yeah.
    I bet if you polled the blogs, the scene you described would be the happy place for 90% of us.
    Great choice and thanks for entering.

  3. Great pick, Great card. I have had the Rocky Mountain Oysters, they are surprising good.

  4. Great choice. Actually... you could probably pick ten to twenty cards from Stadium Club this year and make a case for it being someone's favorite card. Such amazing photography. As for them Rocky Mountain oysters... my buddy from Montana always raves about them. I'd give it a try... but I'm thinking the Tornadough pretzel is more my style.

    1. The pretzels are great. I recommend parmesan. And there are at least three places in the ballpark you can get them.

      And the Rocky Mountain Oysters are actually quite good. The way they're prepared, they taste a bit like butterfly shrimp.