A Closer Look at This Year’s Bowman Baseball Design
Bowman is a forward-thinking brand. It’s all about the prospects, showcasing each season’s promising minor league stars — many of whom are still years away from donning their parent club’s threads.
For the past few years, Bowman Baseball cards have taken that idea to an extreme. From 2016 to 2022, Bowman Baseball cards had partial bordering, sharp and distinct edges, and a vibe that could almost be described as robotic. Topps Brand Manager Aaron Abrams said that was part of a push to establish Bowman as a youthful, tech-focused brand.
2023 Bowman Baseball is here, and while it remains on the cutting edge, the set also turns back the clock in a few key ways. Here, we speak to Abrams and Topps Senior Designer Adam Schwartz to learn more about the look.
Peeling Back the Curtain
While Bowman will never get as traditional as Topps Series 1, its 2023 set takes a step toward that classic direction.
“With Bowman, we have a lot more free rein to go for a cool, edgy, 2020s-focused design,” Abrams said. “But this year, we wanted to see what a flagship version of Bowman would look like while still maintaining that metallic look.”
The first part of that shift is a full-bordered base card template, a hallmark of classic card sets and something Bowman hasn’t used since 2015. Abrams said the design primarily nods to 2013 Bowman Baseball, now 10 years old. That edition has a few notable cards featuring some of today’s best players, like New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge and Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson.
2013 Bowman Baseball
“We play into things that we love from our past, and 2013 was a big reference point for this year’s set,” Abrams said. (He and Schwartz also said it was entirely coincidental that the shape of the frame resembles the National Baseball Hall of Fame plaque.)
Another new element for 2023 is a center-focused team logo, something that Schwartz really wanted to try. He loved that the centered logo, coupled with the outer design elements, helps to draw the viewer’s eye toward what really matters – the player. “The white border at the top edge and the two bottom elements frame the whole card and bring your attention towards the prospect at the center, which is the most important thing,” Schwartz said.
While it’s never their primary focus, Abrams and Schwartz do think about what happens with these cards after they’re printed: Many collectors take their cards to games and try to get them signed, while others submit their rarest finds for grading. Abrams thinks the center alignment and the full-frame look work well for autos and slabbing. “If you get a perfectly-slabbed card, I think this design is gonna look really cool in the holder,” he said.
And since trading cards are all about the details, Schwartz highlighted some added texture on the name bar as an ingredient that might get overlooked but that he was proud of. That element had been kept pretty clean the past few years, so he enjoyed the opportunity to rethink it for 2023.
2023 Bowman Baseball
Inserts & Parallels
In 2023 Bowman Baseball, collectors can look forward to a set of cards printed on paper and Chrome, with tons of parallels for every card.
On paper, those parallels range from a sky blue border as the most common find (numbered to 499) all the way to a platinum border, each of which is one-of-one. In Chrome, Schwartz is particularly excited about the Green Grass Refractor parallel, numbered to 99.
In terms of inserts, meanwhile, Abrams is looking forward to collectors getting their hands on “Bowman Spotlights.” It’s one of the rarer inserts in this year’s collection, with one card coming in every 18 packs, and the idea behind it runs counter to the strategy used for a lot of inserts across products. They’re usually zany, and Abrams says card creators typically take pride in coming up with crazy ideas they can use. “Bowman Spotlights” lacks many design elements seen on inserts; cards in the subset have a plain black background, a bright spotlight, and the player’s likeness … and that’s just about it. Abrams says for player collectors, this insert could be a favorite.
“It’s very straightforward. The design is beautiful, elegant, and clean,” he said. “We give the prospect center stage and let the light shine on them.”
On the other hand, “Sights on September” is a bit more whimsical. This subset, for which there’s one card in every eight packs, features 20 players that the Bowman team deemed likely candidates for a call-up when Major League rosters expand at the end of the season. The design prominently features a promising, bright blue sky, with a pair of binoculars that displays the prospect’s future MLB team. (Funny enough, a few prospects in the set beat Bowman’s projections by about six months — Cardinals outfielder Jordan Walker and Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe made their respective Opening Day rosters.)
Finally, “Modern Prospect” spoofs the monthly magazines with titles like Modern Drummer, creating a cover that imagines what a mag for baseball prospects would look like. It’s a quintessential insert, the product of the team thinking bigger and drawing inspiration from outside baseball for a clever card.
Blending classic elements with futuristic design, Bowman Baseball pays respect to its predecessors while continuing to push the hobby forward.
“I just love how people love it,” Schwartz said. “Bowman always makes noise, and we just tried to do it justice this year.”