Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cards That Will Never See the Light of Day...EVER!!! 2003 Topps First Year Player Bonus Cards

In 2003, the Topps Company continued the now popular trend of including an exclusive insert set into their factory sets. There were two unique sets created in 2003, a ten-card First Player Bonus set, and a ten-card 2003 Topps Draft Picks set, both split into five-card packs. Each five-card pack was exclusive to one of the four factory sets, (Hobby, Sears/JC Penney's, Retail, and Holiday) meaning that the only place you could find a specific card from either the First Year Player or the Draft Pick sets was from these specific sets. On this edition of "Cards That Will Never See the Light of Day...EVER!!!", we look at the ten "First-Year Player" cards that could only be found in 2003 Topps Hobby and Sears/JC Penney exclusive factory sets.

All ten subjects included in this set were prospects at the time who, until 2003, did not have a Topps card made for them. As with the regular "First-Year Player" cards, each one included the #1 Stamp logo in place of their team's logo. As with the 2002 Topps Archives Future Rookies the year before, the first five cards were found in the Hobby factory sets, the last in the sets sold online at Sears or JC Penney (and if you didn't know that either store sold these sets, then you wouldn't even know that the last five cards even exist).

The players:

  • Ismael Castro, SS, Seattle Mariners
  • Branden Florence, OF, San Francisco Giants
  • Michael Garciaparra, SS, Seattle Mariners
  • Pete LaForest, C, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
  • Hanley Ramirez, SS, Boston Red Sox
The other five:

  • Rajai Davis, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Gary Schneidmiller, 3B, Oakland Athletics
  • Corey Shafer, OF, Baltimore Orioles
  • Thomari Story-Harden, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Bryan Grace, P, New York Yankees
It's been a little more than five years since these cards came out, let's play...


Ismael Castro made it all the way to the Mariner's AAA team in Tacoma in 2006, but never made it to the majors. For the last two years, he's been playing in independent leagues, first with Macon of the South Coast League in 2007, then with the Nashua Pride of the Can-Am League in 2008.

Branden Florence was released by the Giants in 2004, and signed with the Orioles a couple of months later. After toiling in the O's minor league system, he signed as a minor league free agent with the Phillies. He has yet to make it to the majors. In 2008, he played for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League.

Michael Garciaparra, aka Nomar's little brother, was trapped in the Mariner's farm system for a number of years, making it to Tacoma in 2006. He was placed on waivers at the end of the season and claimed by the Phillies. He played for all three levels of the Phil's minor league system before signing a minor league deal with the Brewers for the 2008 season.

Pete LaForest, already a 6-year minor league veteran prior to making his Topps Card debut, finally made his major league debut with the Devil Rays (yes, I can call them Devil Rays) in 2003, appearing in nineteen games. He stayed in Durham in 2004 and 2005, making it back to the DRay's for the second half of the season. Released by Tampa, he signed on with the Padres, and after another year in the Padres minor league system, played for the Padres sparingly in 2007 before waived again and signed by the Phillies. He did manage to stay with the Phil's for the rest of the '07 season. He is currently a free agent.

Hanley Ramirez made his major league debut with the Red Sox in 2005, and was traded to the Florida Marlins during the off-season. Since then, he was named 2006 NL Rookie of the Year, was voted the starting SS for the 2008 All-Star Game, and is now Florida's reigning superstar, hitting 79 home runs, 207 RBI's, and stealing 137 bases in his three years with the Fish.

Rajai Davis made his major league debut with the Pirates in 2006. Since then he was traded to the Giants in 2007 for Matt Morris. He was waived early in the 2008 season and claimed by the Athletics. He is currently on the A's 40-man roster and is looking to make the team for the 2009 season.

Gary Schneidmiller toiled in the Athletics' minor league system for six years, making it to AA Midland in 2003. In 2004, he signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox. He has spent the last three years playing for the Amarillo Dillas of the United Leauge.

Corey Shafer never made it to the majors. He last played in the minors in 2006.

Thomari Story-Harden also never made it to the majors, never making it past the Dodger's A team in Vero Beach in 2003. His last year in organized baseball was in 2006.

Bryan Grace never made it to the majors as well. He last played in the minors in 2003.

So there you have it. Your 2003 Topps First Year Bonus Players. Of the ten, only three made it to the majors. One of them is a superstar. The rest are still waiting for a chance, either in the minors or the independents. And a couple have left the game for good. But the one thing in common is that many of their cards are sealed forever in 2003 Topps factory sets, and may never see the light of day...EVER!!!


JayBee Anama


Grand Cards said...

Oh thank God, no impossible Tigers to chase! Love these posts, keep it up!

The Drizz said...

was just thinkin' the same thing! this is one of my favorite features on this blog, but i always start to sweat thinkin' "oh no, a tiger card i didn't have!!!" ;)

Corey said...

Always love the "where are they now reports."

Cool site, keep up the great work.


MMayes said...

I like these, too. I'm a weirdo among guys that buy factory sets because I open them and put them in sheets so I can see them. I think I had the package with LaForrest, Garciaparra, etc. That was definitely the better one of the bunch.