11 USA Baseball Alumni Autographs We’d Love to See from Panini
Big news came out of the 2012 Industry Summit in Las Vegas when Panini announced they'd acquired exclusive rights to produce USA Baseball cards of past and present players. While the current collegiate, 18U and 15U players and recent grads like Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg are no-brainers, here are 11 USA Baseball alumni Panini can reach out to and get autograph collectors excited.
Anyone who collected baseball cards in the mid-90s knows about Jim Abbott, the inspirational left-handed pitcher who is missing his right hand. What collectors may not know is that Abbott is in the College Baseball Hall of Fame for his accomplishments with the University of Michigan. On September 4, 1993 he pitched a no-hitter for the New York Yankees. Abbott's 1988 Topps Traded rookie card pictures him as a member the American Olympic squad.
The LSU baseball stud was the first player in Major League history to hit 50 home runs and 50 doubles in a single season. Along with his baseball talent, Belle was also known for his temper and general disdain for the media. Belle was a member of the American team that won silver at the 1984 Junior Olympics where he not only played outfield, but pitched as well.
It's hard for collectors to hear his name and not think of performance enhancing drugs or obstruction of justice. However, before his professional career, Bonds was a standout at Arizona State where he graduated with a degree in criminology. Barry Bonds wore the USA logo in 1984 at the World Cup.
Like Bonds, Clemens is also forever connected with baseball's Steroid Era. The seven-time Cy Young winner had a stellar collegiate career, helping the Texas Longhorns win the College World Series in 1983. In 2006, The Rocket wore the red, white and blue at the World Baseball Classic.
Best known for his days with the Boston Red Sox, Nomar Garciaparra was also a college standout for Georgia Tech, where he played with Jason Varitek. Garciaparra played for the USA Collegiate team in 1992 and was pictured in his national team uniform on his 1992 Topps Traded rookie card. For soccer fans, Garciaparra is married to Mia Hamm.
Possessing a sweet swing and a glove that harkens back to Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. was one of the greatest to play the game. The 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card is also has one of the most iconic baseball cards of all-time. The 13-time All-Star donned the USA logo for the 2006 World Baseball Classic. Griffey is slated to have a prominent role in 2012 products from both Topps and Panini.
A two-sport athlete, Todd Helton played both football and baseball for the University of Tennessee. Playing quarterback for the Vols in 1994, Helton suffered a knee injury while playing against Mississippi State. He was replaced by a young man who would also go on to bigger things. You may have heard of him--Peyton Manning. Helton was a member of the 1993 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.
The 1985 Topps Mark McGwire rookie card is probably the most iconic USA Baseball card ever produced. Despite his connection with steroids and abysmal showings thus far on the Hall of Fame ballot, the slugger's signature still commands plenty of attention in the hobby.
A member of one of the most feared starting rotations in MLB history, John Smoltz also pitched for the 18U National Team. Smoltz was the 16th member of the 3,000 Strikeout Club.
Like Helton, Frank Thomas was also two-sport athlete, playing both football and baseball for the Auburn Tigers. In 1987, the Big Hurt put on the stars and stripes, playing for the Collegiate National Team.
The new manager for the Chicago White Sox, Robin Ventura played for Team USA at the 1988 Olympics. Like Abbott, he was pictured in his national team uniform for his 1988 Topps Traded rookie card.