Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Box Break & Review - 2018-19 Australian Baseball League Cards by Choice

Welcome to 2019! I thought I'd start it out with a review of the recently released 2018-19 Australian Baseball League cards from Choice.

I bought a box of the 2018-19 Australian Baseball League cards at Fort Narrabundah two weeks ago. This set is the first release of official ABL cards that can be bought since the 2013-14 team seats made by Dingo.  (NB: The Brisbane Bandits have apparently been releasing team sets each season but it's been difficult to find info on these. I've recently gotten some of these from this and last season  and will put up some checklists for those soon. There was also the promotional packs of ABL cards given away to kids at Stadiums for a round back in the 2017-18 season, but these are nigh on impossible to find.) These are the first ABL cards most collectors will have had a chance to collect since those 2013-14 releases.

Pack distribution:
The box of 2018-19 ABL cards contains 24 packs of cards, with 8 cards per pack. The packs sell individually for $5/pack or a box of 24 packs for $100. The total set contains 77 common cards, 2 checklists and 10 foil cards. The foil cards are inserted at the rate of 1 per 12 packs (usually 2 per box.)

The cards were available at ABL stadiums and online from the online Sydney Blue Sox shop. (Although, at the time of writing, both my local stadium and the online store were out of stock of the cards, so they seem to have sold well. The Sydney Blue Sox owner said that they did have an order in for more boxes.)

Set breakdown and Checklists:
The set contains a mixture of current players as well as ABL alumni. The foundation ABL clubs each have 11 cards except for Perth which has 12. Expansion team Auckland has 8 cards and Geelong-Korea has 2 cards. Those common cards are numbered 1-77. The two checklists are separately numbered as 1 of 2 and 2 of 2. The 10 foil cards are numbered as a part of the main set (78 through 87.) The checklist of below - I've highlighted players in red who have played MLB at some time during their careers.

01 Cards 01-44
02 Cards 45-87
01 Sam Holland
02 Tim Atherton
03 T.J. Bennett
04 Andrew CampbeIl
05 David Sutherland
06 Donald Lutz 
07 Justin Erasmus
08 Logan Wade
09 Matt Timms
10 Mitch Nilsson
11 Ryan Searle
12 Angus Roeger
13 Brandon Dixon
14 Curtis Mead
15 Greg Mosel
16 Jack O'Loughlin
17 Jeremy Cresswell
18 Ji-Man Choi
19 Jordan McArdle
20 Josh Cakebread
21 Morgan Coombs
22 Stefan Welch
23 Sarge
24 Keith Ward
25 Michael Collins
26 Boss Moanaroa
27 Kyle Perkins
28 David Kandilas
29 Robbie Perkins
30 Cam Warner
31 Frank Gailey
32 Steve Kent
33 Zach Lemond
34 Ronald Acuna
35 Jarryd Dale
36 Josh Davies
37 Allan de San Miguel
38 Darryl George
39 Brad Harman
40 James Beresford
41 Kellin Deglan
42 Peter Moylan
43 Sam Street
44 Delmon Young
45 Mychal Givens
46 Liam Hendriks
47 Tim Kennelly
48 Mike McClendon
49 Warwick Saupold
50 Joey Wong
51 Corey Adamson
52 Jake Fraley
53 Robbie Glendinning
54 Cameron Lamb
55 Scott Mitchinson
56 Daniel Schmidt
57 Jack Murphy
58 Gift Ngoepe
59 Dwayne Kemp
60 Alessandro Maestri
61 Jacob Younis
62 Trent D'Antonio
63 Luke Wilkins
64 Michael Campbell
65 Max Brennen
66 Shogo Nakashima
67 Tony Harris
68 Andrew Marek
69 Beau Bishop
70 Jimmy Boyce
71 John Holdzkom
72 Daniel Lamb-Hunt
73 Max Brown
74 Scott Cone
75 Kyle Glogoski
76 Koo Dae-Sung
77 Geelong Korea Team History
78 Darryl George
79 Luke Hughes
80 Didi Gregorius
81 Ronald Acuna
82 Travis Blackley
83 Rhys Hoskins
84 Dave Nilsson
85 Dae-Sung Koo
86 Lachlan Wells
87 Warwick Saupold

My box break:
Well, I broke open my box during the week and got the following:
Common Cards: 72 of 77 different cards - I was 5 cards short of a full set of commons. That was a bit disappointing seeing as you'd expect a full box, containing 182 common cards to be able to yield a full set.

With the foils, there were 4 that I were interested in - the Aussie MLBers - Hughes, Blackley, Nilsson and Saupold. I had a 50% success rate, pulling the Rhys Hoskins foil (current Philadelphia Phillies player), which I wasn't interested in, but I did also score the Dave Nilsson foil.

My opinions of the Set:

First off, it's great to see official ABL cards back. I hope this turns into an annual release. However, there is definitely room for improvement in a number of areas.

Player selection: I'd give probably a 7.5/10. I like the fact that they've included a number of ABL alumni who have gone on to play in the majors as a part of the commons set. There are still a number more MLBers who didn't make it into the set. I'd probably prefer to almost see a split and see an ABL Alumni set of MLB players, and have the general ABL set as just photos of the current players.

Some of the MLB players who are ABL players/alumni that appear in the 2018-19 ABL set

Being a short season league, there is very little turn around time to produce a set with current photos though - the lack of any Geelong-Korea players is an obvious example of this. All of the Auckland players either use shots of them representing New Zealand in their Diamondblacks uniforms or in a minor league team uniform.

Photos: I'd give these probably a 6.5/10. I understand how difficult it can be to get decent photos. I easily shoot 1000+ photos per team at a game to try and end up with 20 decent shots of the players. Whilst some of the photos are good - generally crisp and clear, too many of them - maybe 25% - are not of a printable quality in my opinion. If they were my own shots I would reject a number of these as being too grainy, having too harsh shadows, having motion blur or simply not being able to see enough of a player's face. I don't know where they sourced their images, but I'm surprised at the quality of some that made it through.

Example of photo quality issues - hidden faces, shadows, and blurred movement

Card Design:  I'd score these a 6.5/10. I don't know if this is a standard design done by Choice this season, but the card design in my opinion isn't very good. I don't like the floating logo over the player photo and the rest of the design is fairly basic.

I do like the card backs, but wish they were more consistent as to which league's stats they were going to include - some show ABL, some show MLB, some show foreign leagues, but there doesn't seem to be a consistent theme.

Card backs from the 2018-19 ABl card set by Choice

There are also a number of content errors on various cards that should have been picked up in quality control - eg the David Nilsson foil card lists him on the back as being a member of the Melbourne Aces instead of the Brisbane Bandits. My Rhys Hoskins foil says that he played for the Sydney Blue Sox during the 2015-16 season ... and then lists his ABL stats as occurring in 2017. I'm presuming that all of these type of issues that are identified will remain as Uncorrected Errors.

The foil card design's are overtaken by the gold background. You can see in the scans of the foils that you can barely make out the players names in the scans. They're more legible in real life, but I would change this overall design if a follow up set is released next season.

Printing: I think this set is only about a 6.5/10 again. My biggest gripe is the poor centering of many of the cards in the release. I was most disappointed to see that the first Acuna card that I pulled was very poorly centered. Fortunately I was able to get a better centered one in a later pack, but I'd hate for this to have been the only card of his that I pulled.

Example of centring issues

An additional gripe is that the foil cards are relatively thin - they're a thinner stock than the common cards. Would like to see a standard card thickness across inserts and common cards.

 Overall: There's definitely some collectability in this set - official cards of a number of former and current MLB players as well as current players, many of whom are playing in the minors in the USA. There should interest from overseas collectors as well as the small Aussie market. I'm putting many of the issues down to being teething issues on a first attempt at trying to get out an initial product. Hopefully we'll get to another set next year and that some of the feedback on quality control etc is taken on board and we see an even better set next year. It's great to have some Aussie baseball cards being made again :)

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