Friday, August 30, 2013

Inaugural COMC Motherload - Part 3 - Luke Hughes

Here's Part 3 of my recent package from COMC. This post features the cards of Perth boy Luke Hughes who made it to the Majors with the Minnesota Twins (and a brief cameo with the Oakland Athletics). There's nothing overtly remarkable in this lot, with the Card of the Buy™ being a fairly straight forward pick of choosing the 2010 Topps Chrome Rookie Autograph card from an otherwise rather ordinary set of cards.

Luke Hughes 2007 Eastern League All Stars Grandstand 23

Luke Hughes 2009 Topps Chrome World Baseball Classic W63

Luke Hughes 2009 Topps WBC Star BCS18

Luke Hughes 2010 Bowman Chrome Draft Refractor BDP65 

Luke Hughes 2010 Bowman Draft BDP65

Luke Hughes 2010 Topps Chrome 187

Luke Hughes 2010 Topps Chrome Orange Refractor 187

Luke Hughes 2010 Topps Chrome Rookie Autographs 187

Luke Hughes 2010 Topps Update US109

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Australian Baseball League Explained

I thought that I'd provide a bit of an introduction for my non-Australian readers about the Australian Baseball League, as well as a series of articles on "Choosing a team to follow in the ABL". So, here are some quick and dirty facts about the Australian Baseball League to get you started.

  • Played: The Australian Baseball League (ABL) is played during the Australian summer, usually commencing in late October / early November, and finishing in late January / early February.
  • Background: The league is being bank-rolled by Major League Baseball for 5 years as an alternative "winter ball" destination, and expanding consumer market.
  • Started: The first season of the current ABL was the 2010-11 season, making the upcoming 2013-14 season its fourth year of operation.
  • Teams: The ABL consists of six teams: Adelaide Bite, Brisbane Bandits, Canberra Cavalry, Melbourne Aces, Perth Heat and the Sydney Blue Sox.

  • Players: Each team has an active roster of 22 players, with an additional dozen or so players in reserve for use throughout the season. The focus of the league is on developing Australian players, however each team is allowed a limited number of "imports" (ie non-Australian players) on their roster. All of the teams except Canberra are allowed eight imports (non-Australians) on their roster with a maximum of four position players - including the designated hitter.). Canberra because of it's much smaller player base is allowed twice as many imports (16 imports, of which eight can be position players - including the designated hitter.) Although they can have up to 8 position players on the roster, Canberra must have at least two Australians playing positions during each game.
  • MLB Affiliations: The ABL states that during the 2012-13 ABL season, 28 of the 30 MLB teams had affiliated players in the ABL. I'll take their word for it so that I don't have to bother trying to count them. The ABL also has partnerships with Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and the Korean Baseball Organisation, with several teams regularly fielding players from those organisations in addition to MLB affiliated players.
  • Attendances: Are not very high by Australian sporting standards. Average attendance per game is about 1300. By comparison, the domestic Twenty20 Cricket competition has an average attendance of nearly 15,000 per game, whilst the major football code - the Australia Football League - averages nearly 36,000 per game.
  • Championship Series: The first two seasons had finals series consisting of the top 4 teams. The 2012-13 season consisted of a finals series featuring only the top three teams (2nd vs 3rd play off to challenge 1st for the Championship Series). The championship team win "The Claxton Shield" - a trophy that has been the pinnacle of Australian baseball since 1934.

  • Quality: The general feedback I've seen in player interviews is that the ABL is roughly equivalent to about high-A level baseball, but it's not an easy correlation as there are a broad range of players. Four import players have reached the Majors after playing in the ABL (Brandon Barnes, Didi Gregorius, Donald Lutz and Cody Clark), whilst there were 10 players with MLB experience playing in the ABL during the 2012-13 season.
  • All Star Game: The last two seasons the ABL has held an All Star game during the mid season break near Christmas time. The format is Australia vs The World, with the World team featuring the best of the import players in the league for that season.

  • Asia Series Participation: The ABL Champion (usually crowned in early February) is invited to compete in the Asia series the following November in a round robin format with the champion teams from Japan (NPB)  Korea (KBO), Taiwan (CPBL) and China (CBL). Of the two Asian Series competed in so far (Perth Heat in 2011 and 2012), the ABL Champion team has yet to win a game. [Update 28th Feb 2014: Since this article was originally posted, the Canberra Cavalry succeeded in not only winning a game, but winning the 2013 Asia Series.]
  • The "original" ABL: There was a previous incarnation of the Australian Baseball League that started in 1989 by the Australian Baseball Federation before folding in 1999. MLB and the Australian Baseball Federation have drawn upon the lessons learnt from the previous ABL to try and ensure that this incarnation is self sufficient financially before the end of MLB's backing.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Aaron Bonomi - "Metal" Concept Card

I'm currently playing around with designs for my set of ABL cards for the upcoming 2013-14 season. One idea I'm playing with is using a "metal" background for the card designs. I was thinking of a fine mesh originally but came across this metal image and thought I'd give it a try. The design is very rough - just trying out ideas in Photoshop. The card features a photo of Aaron Bonomi I took during the 2012-13 ABL season that I used for his card that season.

The metal colouring fits in well with the away uniform but the holes in the metal background make the text too hard to read I think. I also tried the design on a Brisbane Bandits player, and the holes were definitely too much of a distraction for the text and logo in the Bandits colour scheme, so this is a definite no in the end. I might try and find some better metal backgrounds though that might be suitable.

Aaron Bonomi "Metal" Concept card - © 2013 Adam East

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cody Clark Graduates to the Majors - "MLB Debut" Concept Card

Cody Clark is an American import who played for the Brisbane Bandits during the 2012-13 ABL season. He has just been called up by the Houston Astros to the Majors and made his Major League debut against  the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday 25th August (US Time).

I thought I'd try and make a subset for my 2012-13 set of cards featuring players who have graduated from the Australian Baseball League through to Major League Baseball. This is my concept design for those cards. The bottom of the card is meant to look like it's a wooden base of a trophy ... I'm not overtly sure it does, but I liked the look of the card anyway :).

2012-13 MLB Debut Concept Card - Cody Clark - card front - © 2013 Adam East

Monday, August 26, 2013

Designs for the 2012-13 card backs

I'm currently working on the designs for the card backs for my 2012-13 set of Australian Baseball League cards. I thought I'd show you what they look like for each team. From memory, the background image is from a shot of one of the Sydney Blue Sox catchers that I took.

2012-13 Adelaide Giants Angus Roeger card back - © 2013 Adam East
2012-13 Brisbane Bandits Brad Dutton card back - © 2013 Adam East

2012-13 Canberra Cavalry Marcus Knecht card back - © 2013 Adam East
2012-13 Melbourne Aces Aaron Sayers card back - © 2013 Adam East

2012-13 Perth Heat Aaron Bonomi card back - © 2013 Adam East
2012-13 Sydney Blue Sox Timothy Cox card back © 2013 Adam East

Friday, August 23, 2013

Knecht 4 Redux - Marcus Knecht - 2012-13 Canberra Cavalry

Marcus Knecht was a popular Canadian import from the Toronto Blue Jays organisation who played with the Canberra Cavalry in 2012-13. I'd already produced a card design for Knecht, but it featured him in his number 51 jersey that he wore when he first arrived. I decided that I needed to update his card design to reflect his latter designation and fan designation as "Knecht 4".

2012-13 Canberra Cavalry Marcus Knecht alternate card front - © 2013 Adam East 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Inaugural COMC Motherload - Part 2 - Brad Harman

Part 1 of these posts showed the Grant Balfour cards I picked up from my recent bulk purchase from COMC. This post will feature the cards of Aussie Infielder Brad Harman who had a short stint in the Majors with the Phillies in 2008.

All up, there were ten Harman cards in the shipment, and they range from the downright crappy, to some really nice cards. Some of these cards like the Bowman Chrome WBC cards are just downright nasty - boring player shot, unimaginative design - if it weren't for the fact the cards featured an Aussie MLB player, I wouldn't go anywhere near them.

Brad Harman 2008 Bowman Chrome Prospects X-fractors BCP99  #d/275

Brad Harman 2008 Bowman Prospects BP99
Brad Harman 2008 Bowman Chrome 196

Brad Harman 2008 Bowman Prospects Gold BP99

Brad Harman 2009 Bowman Chrome WBC Prospects BCW60

Brad Harman 2009 Bowman Chrome WBC Prospects Blue Refractors BCW60

Brad Harman 2009 Topps Chrome World Baseball Classic W50

In contrast, the SP Authentic, the SPx Authentic WBC and Sweet Spot cards are all classy looking cards. The Brad Harman Card of the Buy™ though ends up going to the 2008 Sweet Spot card. It's a nice colourful photo, embossed, serial numbered and autographed rookie card - it ticks all the right boxes. The fact that it's the last numbered card of the serial run just puts the icing on the cake.

Brad Harman 2006 SPx WBC All-World Team AWT-2

Brad Harman 2008 SP Authentic 163 #d/999 

Brad Harman 2008 Sweet Spot 105 #d/699

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Aaron Thompson - 2011-12 Brisbane Bandits

Originally from the Gold Coast, Thompson played the in the first two seasons of the ABL with the Brisbane Bandits. Thompson had previously been signed by the Texas Rangers, but only played a single year of Rookie level ball in 2010 before being released.

2011-12 Brisbane Bandits Aaron Thompson card front - © 2012

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

2013-14 Official ABL Cards by Dingo Cards? Here's Hoping

Saw a post on Facebook last night by Very Graphic Designs promoting designs for 2013-14 Australian Baseball League cards. Appears to be promotional work for a company called Dingo Swap cards - I've not heard of them before, but I have to say that the preview cards look very nice. There are some great player shots on these cards - love the Hightower card especially.  I'm presuming that they're done by Very Graphic Designs - the same gent who designed the Brisbane Bandits team issued sets last year.

Here's the promotional ad:

And here are the card previews put up onto Facebook (Just to reiterate, these aren't my card designs):

Dingo Swapcards Promotional card design for 2013-14 ABL cards (from Facebook)

Dingo Swapcards Promotional card design for 2013-14 ABL cards (from Facebook)

Dingo Swapcards Promotional card design for 2013-14 ABL cards (from Facebook)

Dingo Swapcards Promotional card design for 2013-14 ABL cards (from Facebook)

Dingo Swapcards Promotional card design for 2013-14 ABL cards (from Facebook)

Dingo Swapcards Promotional card design for 2013-14 ABL cards (from Facebook)

Dingo Swapcards Promotional card design for 2013-14 ABL cards (from Facebook)

It's a great idea - I hope they get traction. The Select cards last year were a step in the right direction, but were let down by poor quality control and average photography choices. One of the gimmicks Dingo are trying to use is the concept of producing a card for every player from every team. I'm not sure exactly what that means - the rosters do change over the season, so it would be a reasonably large set - probably 210+ cards, maybe closer to 250, and there were several players who only made extremely brief appearances fro single games.Still, it would be nice if they can get the licencing.

Monday, August 19, 2013

2011-12 ABL Season Checklist Card

To go with the Header Card for my 2011-12 season card designs, I also made a Checklist card. All up I had card designs for 125 different players from the 2011-12 ABL season.

2011-12 Checklist card CL02 - card front - © 2012 Adam East

2011-12 Checklist card CL02 - card back - © 2012 Adam East

Friday, August 16, 2013

Inaugural COMC Motherload - Part 1 - Grant Balfour

As posted last week, I received my first ever shipment from COMC recently. I'll be posting up over the next couple of weeks the goodies that I got in my package - ranging from the common through to the awesome.

First up are 9 cards of Oakland's Aussie reliever (and Australia's second ever MLB All Star) Grant Balfour. Nothing overly exciting in this lot, but still, all cards that I needed. My Pick of the Buy™ for Balfour's cards would be the 2001 SPx card, given it's a numbered rookie card of Balfour's.

Grant Balfour 2001 SPx 103 #d/2000

Grant Balfour 2008 Topps Update Gold Border UH48 #d/2008

Grant Balfour 2011 Topps Update US135

Grant Balfour 2011 Topps Update Wal Mart Blue Border US135

Grant Balfour 2012 Topps Gold 652 #d/2012

Grant Balfour 2012 Topps Gold Mini 652

Grant Balfour 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen 345

Grant Balfour 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Mini 345

Grant Balfour 2013 Topps Heritage 303