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Signing game remains same despite name change for Perfect Game All-American Classic

Tanner Rahier (left) and Jameis Winston sign their Bowman cards made by Topps for the Perfect Game All-American Classic during a signing session on Saturday in San Diego.

By Theo Chen | Special to Beckett Media

SAN DIEGO — If you’re looking for 2011 Bowman Aflac cards made by Topps, you won’t find any because after a five-year run, production has stopped.

Well, sort of.

The cards are still being produced, but longtime title sponsor Aflac was replaced in 2011 by Perfect Game USA, which bills itself as “Baseball’s Largest Scouting Service.”

Change, in fact, could be the theme for 2011 especially as it concerns baseball card collectors. The location of this afternoon’s Perfect Game All-American Classic – Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres and the 2009 and 2010 Aflac games — hasn’t changed, but almost everything else has.

First, the new sponsor obviously means that collectors will be advised to search the internet for “2011 Perfect Game Bowman cards” instead of “2011 Bowman Aflac cards.” That’s not all. Perfect Game USA expanded both East and West team rosters from 19 to 23, resulting in a 46-card set that will be almost impossible to complete for attendees of the game (who, as in 2009 and 2010, were given only a couple of cards per person as they entered Petco Park).

Finally, the larger rosters mean an even bigger task for Topps of getting from team rosters received a couple weeks in advance to player photo shoots at the hotel on Thursday — arrival day — to the late-afternoon signing session that took place Saturday. Nevertheless, Topps entrusted this project to someone new as Jim McKenna, who coordinated this event in previous years, left the company earlier this year. Filling his shoes was MLB Assistant Brand Manager Alex Novick. Topps brought three staffers to San Diego including Novick, plus a photographer.

“Things went pretty smoothly,” said Novick following his rookie session.

He noted that the biggest challenge was during the frenetic signing session at the hotel. While players finished signing their 250 cards at various times depending mainly on the speed of their penmanship and how much cell phone-checking they did, with nearly four-dozen guys wielding blue Staedlers there were times when Novick and his staff were confronted with keeping track of several players returning their signed card boxes simultaneously.

Topps has its hands full this time of year. The National Sports Collectors Convention was last week in Chicago and this weekend Topps is coordinating similar card production and signing events in conjunction with the 2011 Under Armour All-American Baseball Game in Chicago and the USA Baseball 16U (under 16) National Team Trials in Cary, N.C.

The Topps autograph assembly line at this event was complicated by the additional players, plus the team items. In addition to their card allotments, the players also were asked to sign several uncut card sheets in the same room, plus a number of baseballs, bats and posters in a room across the hall. These team-signed items will be “mostly used in contests and giveaways,” according to Novick, but only after Topps has secured the rights to use the signatures via individual player agreements negotiated after they’ve turned pro.

When that might be is another story, which adds to the charm of such early card sets.

Courtney Hawkins takes a second to read the back of his card.

Albert Almora, an outfielder from Florida who is considered one of the top position player prospects in the country, missed the signing session with kidney stones. If he is unable to sign his cards in San Diego, Novick said the company will try to get them signed via the mail.

“But there’s no guarantee we’ll get them back,” he said.

The reason Topps participates in events like this one and the Under Armour High School baseball and football events is pretty clear — added value to its products while helping the players feel like they’ve made it one step further by appearing on an official card made by Topps.

“They add value to our products when some of the players turn out to be top (pro) prospects,” Novick said, “and their signed cards get inserted in packs.”

While the signed cards won’t see the light of day for at least a year, the unsigned cards are still highly sought after at the games.

For those wondering about production volumes, each of the 46 players signed 250 of his cards for future distribution in packs. Each player also received 250 of his own cards plus five complete sets of cards for their own personal use. Meanwhile, Perfect Game USA gets 54 complete sets and each coach also received five complete sets.

Finally, 14,000 total cards (just over 300 sets total) are reserved for distribution at the game, which begins at 5:08 p.m. Pacific time and will air on the CBS Sports Network.

EAST checklist
AA    Albert Almora
KB    Keon Barnum
SB    Skye Bolt
TC    Taylore Cherry
CC    Carlos Correa
MC    Matthew Crownover
DD    David Dahl
CF    Carson Fulmer
CH    Chris Harvey
JH    Josh Henderson
LM    Lance McCullers
NR    Nelson Rodriguez
AR    Addison Russell
CS    Clate Schmidt
CSE    Corey Seager
TS    Tucker Simpson
LS    Lucas Sims
MS    Matthew Smoral
DU    Duane Underwood
WW    Walker Weickel
JW    Jesse Winker
JWI    Jameis Winston
RW    Rhett Wiseman

WEST checklist
AB    Alex Bregman
RB    Ryan Burr
AF    Austin Fairchild
MF    Max Fried
JG    Joey Gallo
LG    Lucas Giolito
SG    Steven Golden
JGO    Jason Goldstein
CHA    Courtney Hawkins
CJH    C.J. Hinojosa
RM    Ryan McNeil
CO    Corey Oswalt
KP    Kayden Porter
CP    Cody Poteet
AP    Andrew Pullin
TR    Tanner Rahier
DR    Daniel Robertson
RR    Rio Ruiz
CJS    C.J. Saylor
MT    Mitchell Traver
HV    Hunter Virant
NW    Nick Williams
TW    Trey Williams

3 Comments

Richard

From what I have seen, both the autographed and non-autographed cards have
the “Topps Certified Autograph Issue” and the space to be signed. Lots of them
on Ebay, unsigned. I have to wonder why they are so stupid to do such things.
Now anyone can take an unsigned cards, scrawl something on it, and act like
the player signed with the Seal Of Topps approval present. Doh!

Posted August 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Permalink
Dan Smith

From what I’ve heard the actual autograph cards will be sequentially numbered, so any autographed card without sequential numbering is a fake.

Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink
steve

yeah…..the serial numbering-thats what will stop the forgeries !! how about not making it so easy Topps ? It might require some hard thinking at a session to complete this….but, you guys think you could listen to the collectors ???)

Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

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