Digging Into the Design
Like sneakers and fashion, high-end collaborations have become increasingly prominent in the Hobby. This year, Topps rolled out the red carpet, inviting two-time MLB All-Star and prominent face of the game, Julio Rodriguez, to curate his very own set – the exuberant and vibrant 2023 Topps X J-Rod: The Show Out Collection. Why the name “Show Out”? According to J-Rod, it’s all about “showing out a lot of talent and a lot of personalities from our sport.”
Building a Legacy
Describing the partnership, Topps.com director of product and creative Michael Linkens said, “Topps and Fanatics have such a great relationship with Julio, and he’s a dream collaborator for his very own Topps product.” And indeed, Julio’s passion for the project was unmistakable. Right from the start, he knew his colors, integrated elements from the Dominican Republic flag, and, in a delightful twist, pitched the idea for an Anime Art insert. It wasn’t just about fancy aesthetics for J-Rod. His perspective was profound: “My whole collection has to show the true emotion of the players.” This resonates in the selections, encapsulating his tastes and “the type of players that I like to follow and my point of view on things that I like.”
Rodriguez’s love for anime isn’t just for show; it’s deeply personal. Reflecting on his favorite anime, Naruto, Julio said, “He [Naruto] was basically a nobody, and he became the most important person. He worked his way to prove to everybody that he was worth something. I want to be able to project that. If you have a dream, go chase it.” This heartfelt sentiment is immortalized in an insert.
Linkens said, “The most unique component in this collection is the Anime Art insert. It’s Julio’s favorite part of the collection, and I think many fans will agree. Falling 1:50 packs, these rare inserts are extra special for a couple of reasons – the particular style and the illustration.” Julio worked with Topps content creator and anime-enthusiast Brandon Vigliatura to align on the exact anime inspiration he wanted. Then, Topps designer Albert Collado brought the ideas to life with incredible hand-drawn illustrations for each. The result is striking hand-drawn illustrations featuring Julio and other baseball legends like Ichiro, Aaron Judge, and Mike Trout.
But it’s not just about star power for Rodriguez. He wanted to include legendary and budding Dominican stars like Albert Pujols and David Ortiz. His humility shone brightly when he insisted on a card featuring his Seattle Mariners family: “I wouldn’t be here without my whole team.” Reflecting on the journey, Julio remarked, “Before, I never really thought I’d be on a baseball card. To build my set now is a real moment.”
When you flick through the Show Out Collection, you’re not just seeing cards; you’re journeying through Julio Rodriguez’s world, his dreams, his passions, and his heartfelt gratitude. It’s a set bound to captivate fans, not just of J-Rod or baseball, but of dreams and aspirations.