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Group Break entries are now closed, the boxes have been ordered and secondary teams have been randomized. Follow THIS LINK for final team assignments.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

2017 Diamond Kings Box Break

Lastly on the trip to my LCS last week, was a box of 2017 Panini Diamond Kings. I've always liked this release, whether as the first few cards in a Donruss base set, or a stand-alone set itself. The idea of art cards have always appealed to me, so I was excited to discover what this box would bring.

I knew no specifics going in, so the results would be a complete surprise. Each box of Diamond Kings contains 12 packs of 8 cards. There will also be, apparently, 12 inserts, 4 framed parallels, and two autograph or memorabilia cards.

Here's how my box turned out.

Base Cubs: Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Schwarber, Billy Herman, Gabby Hartnett, Kiki Cuyler, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams. First of all, I really love this design.They all have the look of a painting, but unlike similar "artistic" releases of the pact, there isn't a frame or border around it. They let the image speak for itself and use a limited amount of text to give the player's name and team.

I also pulled an Artist's Proof parallel of Jose Abreu, numbered 19/25. It's just like the base card, but with a foil stamp and a serial number. I know there have been various "proof" parallels in various sets in the past, like Artist's Proof, and Press Proof, and I'm not quite sure what they mean, but either way, I'm always happy to have a low-numbered card like this.

Parallels also come in a framed variety. I pulled four of the grey paper framed parallels, Bryce Harper, Harry Walker, Yoenis Cespedes, and Gabriel Ynoa. I also pulled a brown paper framed parallel of JaCoby Jones, numbered 37/49

Now for the inserts. I pulled three Originals cards of Jose Altuve, Wade Boggs, and Daniel Murphy. I'm not sure what the focal point of the insert set is, but the cards look amazing. They actually do remind me of the of the original Diamond Kings cards that had a large image of a player's face with a smaller, full-body action shot. Maybe that's the theme of these.

My two Memorable Moment cards were of Babe Ruth, Roberto Clemente. This set is much easier to figure out, as they focus on one particular moment of the player's career. For Babe Ruth, it was when he hit his 60th home run of the 1927 season, and for Roberto Clemente, it was a walk-off inside-the-park grand slam.

My four Aurora cards are of Clayton Kershaw, Brian Dozier, Edwin Encarnacion, and Mookie Betts. I'm not sure what the subject of this set is, other than bright colors. They do look nice, though, although I'm sure it might be too much for some people.

I really love these Heritage Collections cards. They feature retired players from various eras and are entirely in black and white, except for the gold frame. My three were Mike Piazza, Juan Marichal, and Phil Hiekro.

As promised, I got two hits in my box, and all things considered, they were both pretty good.

The first one is a jersey/patch card of Cleveland Indians prospect Bradley Zimmer, numbered 45/49. The left side features a plain grey jersey swatch, and the right side has a white jersey piece with a thin blue patch down the middle. I'm not sure of exactly where this comes from, but I believe it's from the piping of the home jersey sleeve.

My last one was a pretty good one: a dual jersey autographed Rookie Signatures card of Chicago White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada, numbered 7/99. Moncada left Cuba in 2015 to pursue his Major League career, and ended up on the White Sox as part of the deal that sent Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox. He is rated as one of baseball's top prospects, and is having a great year in AAA, waiting for the call to Chicago.

I must say, this set is absolutely beautiful. Apart from the parallels, inserts, and hits, the base cards look amazing, Not only that, but there really is a great mix of rookies, veterans,and retired players, and there is a significant amount of those retired players who don't get a whole lot of cardboard attention from other products. I will definitely be going for this set, and I'll probably put a want list together after I buy another box or two.

Monday, April 24, 2017

2017 Donruss Box Break

In addition to the two packs of WWE Undisputed that I picked up at my LCS last week, I also grabbed a box of 2017 Donruss. I really went there in the mood to buy some baseball cards, especially considering that I need to build up my recent stock in order to send out some TTM requests. Donruss definitely gave me that.

Each box of Donruss contains 24 packs of 8 cards, and LOADS of inserts. Each pack will have at least 2 inserts or parallels, which can be a lot for set-builders who would rather just have the base cards. In addition to those, each box is guaranteed to contain three autograph or memorabilia cards, which isn't bad for the price point.

Anyway: here's how I did:

Base Cubs: I got a total of nine Cubbies from the base set, including my childhood favorite, Ryne Sandberg. The cards are meant to emulate the 1990 design, with a few alterations, like the logo, the color, and the use of stripes instead of paint splotches. Still, it's a design I have always liked, and one that I don't mind seeing modified for a current release.

Of course, like any respectable Donruss release, cards 1-30 are set aside for each team to have their Diamond King card, which has one featured player from the team in some sort of artistic interpretation. I got six, but unfortunately not the Cub, Anthony Rizzo

After the Diamond Kings, the next 15 cards in the set are Rated Rookies, which is a tradition carried over from many years of Donruss baseball cards. I did ok with these three, but I LOVE how the Rated Rookie logo has remained the same.

Like I said earlier, there are PLENTY of parallels, and I got quite a few:

Pink Back: Edwin Encarnacion, Zack Greinke

Black & White: Kris Bryant

Nickname: Josh Donaldson "Bringer of Rain," Jose Altuve "Gigante"

Jose Altuve Press Proof 37/99, Odubel Herrera 185/199, Kyle Seager Career Stat Line 363/437, Dustin Pedroia Season Stat Line 40/201

Donruss has also brought back "The Rookies" as an insert set. I got four total, including a blue-back parallel of Tyler Glasnow.

There were also four cards from The Prospects insert set, including a gray-bordered parallel of Victor Robles, numbered 6/199 and a base insert of Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez.

Donruss also went back to their 1983 design with the Retro Variations. I'm assuming that every base card has one of these, but I'm not sure. I pulled 37 of these in total, including 2 Cubs (Kris Bryant & Kyle Hendricks) and a pink-back parallel of Eddie Murray.

There were also a few serial-numbered foil cards, including this American Pride card. These feature players from the Collegiate National team and I pulled a T.J Friedl numbered 190/349.

There's also this Jose Altuve All Stars card, numbered 955/999. There isn't much of anything on the card to let you know it has anything to do with All-Stars, but apparently that's what it is.

There was also this Dominator card of Rick Porcello, numbered 30/249.

The last of the inserts was this Elite Series card of Kris Bryant, numbered 67/349. I really like how much Donruss has brought back from its history, and Elite was a big part of it. It was the first big insert set (I think) and cards from the early '90s still hold their value, so it's nice to see them keep these around.

Now, each box is guaranteed three autograph or memorabilia cards, but I was pretty lucky in that I got four. The first is a Diamond Collection bat card of Mike Napoli. Even though the Cleveland Indians came so close to breaking my heart last October, I really like Napoli as a player, dating back to his first of three (so far) stints with the Texas Rangers, and love that the memorabilia piece for this slugger is a bat.

There was also this card from the same memorabilia set of Jacoby Ellsbury. It features a fantastic jersey swatch with a Yankees pinstripe. It's always interesting when a player switches teams to a rival. Ellsbury goes from the Red Sox to the Yankees as a free agent a couple of years ago, and I'm sure the Red Sox faithful were not very happy at all to see him in pinstripes.

There were two relics and two autographs, including this autographed card of St. Louis cardinals pitcher Luke Weaver from the Signature Series insert set. It is a red parallel, and is numbered 92/99. As far as I know, he isn't related to the other pitching Weavers, Jeff & Jered.

Lastly, the big hit of the box for me was this Signature Series Gold card of Alex Bregman, numbered 30/49. Bregman was the 2nd overall pick of the 2015 amateur draft, and has already made it up to the Major League roster. The big draw for Bregman was his discipline at the plate, which has led him to being named USA Today's 2016 Minor League Player of the Year.

That's it for this box. Despite the lack of MLB licensing, which has taken away all logos and team names with these cards, I really like what Panini did with this Donruss set. Of course, I got a great hit with the Bregman card, but even still, it's an affordable box of cards, with the potential for some great cards to be pulled. It's definitely a risk worth taking.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

2 Packs of 2016 WWE Undisputed

Well, I went into my LCS a few days ago, fully expecting to purchase a couple boxes of the new Gypsy Queen release, but unfortunately, they were all sold out. I was still in a buying mood, though, and found a Plan B, which ended up being a different two boxes of baseball (2017 Donruss & 2017 Diamond Kings), and I even had enough left over for a couple packs of 2016 WWE Undisputed.

Undisputed is about as high-end as Topps gets when it comes to its WWE products, but is still pretty affordable. A full box contains 10 packs of 5 cards at around $260, and when you factor in that each of those packs contain a hit, and 8/10 are autographs, it's an incredible value.

I figured it was a good shot to take for two packs, so I went for it. Of the five cards in each pack, one is the hit, one is a serial-numbered parallel, and three are base cards. Here's a pack-by-pack breakdown of what I got:

Pack 1
Base: Seth Rollins, Junkyard Dog, Two-Man Power Trip

Parallel: Ultimate Warrior Blue 6/25

Hit: Natalya Autograph 132/299

Pack 2
Base: The Miz, Eddie Guerrero, Sami Zayn

Parallel: Michael P.S. Hayes Silver 15/50

Hit: Braun Strowman Autograph 18/50

For two packs at $25 each, I would say I did amazingly well. The cards look great, and are on a thick cardstock. The wretler's image on the front is glossy on front of the matte background, which really makes them stand out, and it has just the right amount of foil.

The hits were both great, too. Of course, the quality of wrestler varies, but I got two good ones. Natalya is the daughter of Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, and part of the Hart family. She has been wrestling for WWE for nearly a decade, and is a former Divas Champion. Strowman is a rising star with the company, and in his short time on the main roster has catapulted himself to one of the top spots on Monday night Raw. Since departing the Wyatt Family, he is in the mix with the very best on Monday night, including Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, Goldberg, and the Big Show, and is likely a future champion.

That's it for these two packs. I haven't fully immersed myself into this product yet, but based on what I'm seeing here, I might just have to go all-in when 2017 Undisputed gets released in June.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Blaster Box of 2017 Topps Heritage

I haven't quite picked up a hobby box of 2017 Heritage quite yet, but I plan on it. As a TTM collector, these are great for getting signed, and look great with some ink on them. Anyway, no hobby box quite yet, but I did decide to pick up a blaster box of Heritage, just to check it out.

This year's heritage takes after the 1968 Design, with the burlap border, and circle for the team name. As always, there are plenty of inserts and parallels. Here's a quick look at how I did.

After tehir 2016 World Series win, I'm expecting for this year's products to be flooded with Cubs cards, and as a Cubs fan, I'm absolutely ok with that. However, there were only three in my box:
Jason Heyward, John Lester & Jake Arrieta "Chicago Aces," and a chrome Kris Bryant.

In addition to the three current Cubs, I also got three former Cubs with Jorge Soler, Starlin Castro, and Darwin Barney.

Out of the whole blaster, I only got one short print: Andrew McCutchen. It can make it really difficult to build the set this way, as 100 out of 500 are SPs.

Foil cards fell at a rate of one-per-pack. I'm not sure if that's the official odds, but that's how it worked out for me. Kris Bryant was the big one out of these for me, of course.

The last of the parallels is a mini of Carlos Beltran, numbered 87/100. Same as the regular cards, but, you know. smaller.

I got two Topps Game cards of Clayton Kershaw and Yoan Moncada. I know this is based off of the 1968 insert set, but I wonder if there are any official rules for an actual game that these cards can be used for.

I also got one card from the Bazooka Mini set of Buster Posey. I know nothing about these cards, but I would guess that they came with Bazooka Bubble Gum.

Lastly, is a News Flashbacks cards featuring the Vietnam War. I like this insert set, as it gives you an idea of what was going on when this original 1968 set was released.

That's it for this one. I hope to get more in the future. I don't like all of the classic designs, but this is a great design that I don't mind seeing recreated.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Pack of Cards from a Former MLB Player

A couple of weeks ago, I was vacationing with my family in Arizona, and my wife & I went to a couple Chicago Cubs games. At each game, Cubs great Fergie Jenkins hosts an autograph signing featuring a group of 6 or 7 retired Major Leaguers. One of those was former Chicago Cub Byron Browne.

In addition to signing autographs, he was also handing out packs of baseball cards to kids who came by, after asking them a baseball trivia question. It was something nice, that he was doing on his own, to connect with the younger baseball fans.

Well, after having him sign a baseball and take a photo, he handed me a pack for myself as a bonus. So, here's what I got from my pack of 2016 Topps Opening Day, that was given to me by a former MLB player.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Bucket List Item Complete: On-the-Glass Seats at an NHL Game

My wife and I had a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the Arizona Coyotes game Sunday night.

We are visiting from Minnesota, on our annual week-long vacation from Minnesota, and always like to go to a couple hockey games while we are here. We paid just $8 a piece for our tickets on StubHub for the game between the Coyotes and the Carolina Hurricanes. Seeing as though they are two of the worst teams in the NHL, the plan was to buy cheap tickets to get in, and then move closer to the ice in what should be a sparsely populated arena.

We were running late, because I misread the start time, and we could hear the radio commentary as we were walking around the arena to the front gate. As we were getting close to the doors, and passing the box office, someone asked us if we already had tickets. Thinking he was a scalper, I told him we already did. He told me he could get us closer, to which I informed him that while we had some seats up high, we were planning on moving closer anyway. Again, I thought he was a scalper. He then replied with, "You don't understand. We want to upgrade your seats. To the front row." I looked closer and saw that he had an Arizona Coyotes nametag on his sportscoat, and knew that this was for real, and we were getting on-the-glass seats!

We went through security, found our section, and were in our seats with 6 minutes left in the first period. The score was still 0-0, so we hadn't missed too much action, which was good. I had never sat that close to the ice before, and had always wondered if the seats were too close to really catch all of the action that happens during a hockey game.

Our seats were just a little bit off of the offensive zone faceoff circle, toward center ice, in the direction the Coyotes would shoot twice. Of course, your visibility is somewhat limited when the action is on the other side of the arena, but it is never obstructed. When it gets to your side, however, it's a completely different story. You can see the plays develop in a different way. You can see players' reactions. The players are so close, you can almost touch them. You can actually see the faces of the players, up close and personal. It's a completely different experience, and a whole new way to watch a hockey game.

The Coyotes ended up losing the game 2-1, but we both still had an amazing time. Being a hockey fan on a budget, I don't know if this is an experience we will ever have again, and we were absolutely sure to enjoy every second of this.

Here's a few photos of the evening:

(I also got a few autographs after the game, but I'll be posting those on my memorabilia blog, Not Pulled From Packs, when we get back home).