Good: Comprehensive checklist of prospect autographs, tons of hits in every box, sleek design.
Bad: No Stephen Strasburg, lack of refractors, hefty price tag.
The Bottom Line: After the train wreck that was last year's set, 2009 Bowman Sterling Baseball is a breath of fresh air that puts the Bowman Sterling Baseball brand back on track.
The design of 2009 Bowman Sterling Baseball is reminiscent of that featured in the 2005 baseball set. Its clean, modern, and lends itself well to the set's refractor parallels.
Talent wise the checklist of prospects in 2009 Bowman Sterling Baseball is a considerable step up from 2008 Bowman Sterling, when Razor's prospect signing frenzy prevented Topps from including autographs of many of the top 2008 MLB Draft picks in the set. There is a strong contingent of 1st rounders with autographs in the set, including Tony Sanchez, Tim Wheeler, Matthew Hobgood, Jared Mitchell, Donovan Tate, and more.
There is however a glaring omission present in this years release in the form of mega pitching prospect Stephen Strasburg. Topps recently signed an exclusive autograph contract with Strasburg, so it is all but guaranteed that his autographs will be a big part of 2010 Bowman Sterling Baseball. In the mean time, those on the hunt for Strasburg cards should check out soon to be released 2010 Topps Pro Debut Series 1, which will feature Strasburgs first Topps rookie cards and certified autographs.
The autograph checklist goes a long way in justifying the $230 per box price tag. However, its the WBC game used relic cards that provide the added boost necessary to walk away feeling like you got what you paid for from buying a box of 2009 Bowman Sterling Baseball.
I was critical of Topps' (over)use of the WBC license in 2009, as the WBC cards that appeared in products like 2009 Bowman Chrome Baseball, 2009 Bowman Draft Baseball, and to a lesser extent 2009 Topps Chrome Baseball, felt more like space fillers then logical additions that enhanced the overall quality of the sets.
The WBC relics in 2009 Bowman Sterling Baseball work much better then these previous applications of the WBC license by Topps, but their appeal lies just as much in what they are as it does in what they are not. The addition of WBC game used relic cards to Bowman Sterling replaces what has traditionally been standard, run of the mill game used memorabilia cards of active MLB players. I don't think its a stretch to say that we as sports card collectors are sick of the unrelenting wave of cookie cutter game used memorabilia "hits" that we are bombarded with from virtually every sports card release, regardless of the sport, manufacturer, or price point. Despite the fact that the vast majority (or in my case all) of the WBC jersey relics are standard one color swatches, the varied checklist and designs make them nice additions to one's baseball card collection.
This is a very fun product to break. With so many hits to be had, the excitement of the box break lasts until the last mini-box is opened.
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The highlights of my box break: