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Bob D’Angelo

Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia. He blogs for on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.

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Collect call: 2012 Topps Pro Debut

Posted Jun 19, 2012 by Bob D'Angelo

Updated Jun 19, 2012 at 01:28 AM

Collecting cards of minor-league players is like prospecting for gold. The difference is that sometimes hitting the mother lode is not apparent for several years. Or, a “can’t miss” prospect suffers an injury and his hyped rookie card is practically worthless after being a hot item (Brien Taylor is the classic example).


Topps’ Pro Debut allows a prospect/rookie collector to scratch his itch with a 220-card base set and 50 variation cards. The cards’ design mirrors that of Topps’ signature products, Series 1 and 2 baseball. That means the photography is crisp and the cards sport a clean look.
A hobby box contains 24 packs, with eight cards per pack. Topps promises two autographs and two relic cards in each hobby box, but this might have been the funkiest box I’ve ever opened.

For starters, there were 162 base cards (no variations) and 10 doubles. Topps promises on average eight all-star insert cards, but this box had 10. There was one gold parallel card of Rymer Liriano, numbered to 50. Other parallels that can be found are red, 1/1 cards. Other lucky collectors might pull a 1/1 printing plate card.

There were no autographs in the box I sampled, but there were two relics. The first was a game-used bat card of Tennessee Smokies shortstop Junior Lake. The second relic was definitely the best card in the box, as it was a Manny Banuelos minor-league baseball cap logo patch card. It’s a nice, thick card, with a large patch. These patches are manufactured specifically for the Pro Debut set. Does this card substitute for a pair of autographs and a relic? Probably not. One autograph would have been nice, but I don’t mind the cap logo patch.

Rays prospects I pulled from the hobby box I looked at included Jake Hager, Jamal Austin, Cameron Seitzer, Ryan Brett, Taylor Motter, Drew Vettleson of the Princeton Rays; Chris Archer of the Durham Bulls; and Hak-Ju Lee of the Florida State League’s Charlotte Stone Crabs.

The best description of a player on a card back is probably that of card No. 62, Tanner Peters of the Vermont Lake Monsters: “Undersized but with a huge arm …” is the description for the 6-foot, 150-pound pitcher. The photo of Tanner, by the way, is breathtaking, with a nice mountain view in the background.

Favorite name? Card No. 202: Michael Choice.

The nice thing about collecting minor-league cards is the diversity of team names. There are so many interesting ones dotted all over the country, like the Modesto Nuts, Inland Empire 66ers, Lansing Lugnuts, Orem Owlz, Kannapolis Intimidators, and Round Rock Express.

There are 50 card variations. How does one tell the difference between a base card and variation? Several sites have posted photos of both, but leave it to the folks at Sports Card Radio ( to take it a step further. They looked on card backs and determined there were two different codes listed for base (#81512101) and variation (#81512124). If you’re searching, it’s on the final line of type at the bottom of the card.

Now that’s commitment.

This set is an eye-pleaser, has some nice possibilities and will educate you about teams’ upcoming players.

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