28 February 2010


In case my loyal readers care, yesterday I finished the 600-card base set of the 2010 Upper Deck Series 1 baseball cards that I have been putting together for about four weeks now. (If you remember, I did a preliminary post on 2010 UDS1 back on February 2nd....) Now I'm going to try to finish the major insert sets in the series: the Season Biography cards (200), Upper Deck Portraits (100), All-World die-cut cards (15), Pure Heat die-cut cards (15), Baseball Heroes cards (10 of DiMaggio, 10 of other players), and Celebrity Predictors cards (10), along with the retail-only Tape Measure Shots set (25). That makes for 385 insert cards, of which I have probably 200 or so right now.

After that, it's on to the 100-card game-used jersey card set, the 100-card patch card set, and the 100-card autograph set. Those will be the hard sets, as autographs come one per box, jersey cards come two per box, and patch cards (which are numbered to /25) come rarely. I have one patch card (Vladimir Guererro #05/25), five autographs, and 10 jersey cards already, but a long way to go. Nevertheless, it'll be fun trying to finish up the insert sets at least, and then picking up the jersey cards and autographs as opportunities present themselves.

I've also amassed a ton of duplicate cards, so many in fact that I'm considering putting together a second base card set and trying to sell it to another collector. I haven't yet counted, but I figure I'm probably at around 500 of 600 cards toward getting that second set done. It'll also let me keep hunting for the inserts while I finish that up.

On the job front, because I haven't blogged about that in a while, I remain vigilant in trying to make contacts and do some basic networking (limited in scale only by my ability to get around Phoenix since one of our cars is out of service for now). I'm still substitute teaching here and there for some pocket change, but those days are as always few and far between. I do have a phone conversation coming up tomorrow with someone whom I hope will be able to offer me some sage advice on where to go next, but I don't know if that person would appreciate me blogging about our conversation, so I'll keep that close to the vest until I hear otherwise.

Yesterday was also Customer Appreciation Day-slash-Spring Training Kickoff Day at Hot Corner Sports Cards, where owners and my friends Phil Rinella and his son little Phil hosted a packed house for their weekly noontime Saturday sports card auction. They had food catered in from a new restaurant called Sundowner BBQ (which was delicious, and if you're in the area, I recommend it), and cookies, fudge, sodas, and chips. The auctions are usually a lot of fun, with around 50 cards being auctioned off to the highest bidder each week, though yesterday saw 66 cards (a full case) being sold along with a few extra "mystery items" like a Stephen Drew autographed baseball, a Mark Reynolds auto'd baseball bat, a Drew Brees auto jersey, and a Bo Jackson signed football. There were even two 1933 Goudey original baseball cards in the auction, which sold for $100! Most of the time, though, aside from special occasions, a majority of the stuff in the auction sells for "below book" value - a few dollars at most. It's a good chance for a broke collector like me to pick up nice Diamondbacks cards relatively cheaply. Case in point: I picked up a 2009 Bowman Sterling Bobby Borchering prospect autographed card (yes, he's a DBacks prospect) for a mere $5 yesterday, my only purchase.

After the auctions, many of the regulars stick around to play Pack Wars. The rules are simple: the group decides on a product in the store (usually the cheapish $5-per-pack stuff) and everyone buys a pack and opens it. The closest person to a predetermined statistic found on the cards in that pack wins everyone's cards. For example, a popular starting point is whomever has the closest card to #77. If you have #77, you win every player's cards - including any autographs or jersey cards that were pulled. It can be fun if you win, and it can be really depressing when you lose. I've had my share of both outcomes. It's purely risk-reward. If you don't mind gambling $10-$20, you have the potential of winning a lot of good stuff!

And to close out this post of randomness, I have to relate a quick story of my fighting some plants and losing on Friday. I went out for a short hike (a couple miles) north of the valley, and didn't have my best day on the trails ever. First, upon arriving at a place known as Sycamore Creek, which is well-known for having beautiful waterfalls and a flowing stream this time of year thanks to the snowmelt off the mountains, I hiked down one side of the creek for a while snapping pictures before realizing I couldn't go any further to the waterfalls because of a blocked path. By the time I turned around, it was fast approaching noon, and I had to be back in town to pick people up from school by 2pm. I decided to go for it anyway, and crossed a really shallow part of the creek to the other side. Or what I THOUGHT was a shallow part. Yeah, I got my shoes completely soaked.

Since I was already in the hole, I wrung out my socks, squeezed out the liquid from my shoes, and found the trail. I'd never been down this particular trail before, but I did watch another guy and his dog travel that way about 20 minutes prior. So I just followed their tracks in the dirt and sand. Half an hour later, I made it to the falls, took some more photos and started back. I decided to follow the creek back, instead of hiking my way back up to the trail I came in on. Big mistake. There are these plants out there that I had not seen before with little spindly branches and razor-sharp, hooked thorns that I can only describe as "cat's claws." And when they hook you, they do not let go. You end up tearing your own skin away from them and cutting up your shirts. And I lost in epic proportions. Next time, I'm staying on the trail! Lesson learned.

That's it for this update/recap. I'll put up my photos later on from spring training and the waterfalls and such.

24 February 2010

Spring Training 2010

Continuing this post with more baseball info, last week Friday spring training for the Chicago Cubs started at Fitch Park here in Mesa. Thankfully for me, I only live about 13 minutes drive time from the fields, and I can pretty much go there whenever I want to after I drop my sister off at school in the mornings. Thus far, I have been out there three times, and done pretty good for myself.

Now, for my money, I'm a baseball hound, not an autograph hound. Most people I know go to spring training games solely to watch the players and put themselves in position to get autographs from them. Truth be told, it IS a lot easier to try to obtain signatures from players and coaches like Ryne Sandberg, Aramis Ramirez, Geovany Soto, and Lou Pinella at a complex like Fitch Park or Hohokam Park than it is at, say, Wrigley Field. So I understand it. I just don't typically go nuts over trying to get an autograph. I like to use spring training as an opportunity to get free (used) baseballs to have players sign at Chase Field later in the year, or when the D-Backs come up from Tucson to play here in the valley.

Now let's not kid ourselves: these free baseballs, while they are actual major league balls (as opposed to "training" balls or non-game usable baseballs), they're not the best quality. They get hit, thrown, smudged, wet, smashed into dirt and grass, and whacked multiple times before they leave the park and I get the chance to grab them. The ones I've got are no different: they're brown and green stained from grass and dirt, they're smudged from the ink on the logos running due to water on the grass or streets, and they sometimes get run over leaving nice tire marks on the leather. But they're free, and as long as they're presentable, I don't mind using them for autographs.

Anyway, Friday was wet and cold. It rained the night prior, and it was raining at 8am when I got to Fitch Park. Fortunately, I brought a fleece sweater with me, and wore that while I walked around. When I first drove up, I immediately spotted a baseball lying in the middle of a commercial driveway. So of course, I immediately turned in, parked in their parking lot, and grabbed the ball, which was actually in good shape - one little grass stain and a bat mark. Peering across Center Street, I saw another ball lying on the street up against the curb. So what did I do? Ran across and snagged it! After that, the players were still practicing on the field in the sprinkling rain, so I stayed and chatted with a fellow die-hard braving the rain. Sadly, no more baseballs came out of the stadium, and when it started to rain harder, the players called it a day. Upon walking back to my car, I found a third ball back across the street in a flowerbed. Considering I was the only one out there searching, I think I did decently - and in the rain no less; I was SOAKED when I was done!

Tuesday was the first day of full spring training for the Cubs, when every player was supposed to be in attendance doing drills and getting set for the season. So of course, I was there too to watch. My goal for the day was, if possible, to get Ryne Sandberg's autograph. When I was about 7 or 8, I remember going to a card show at the mall and my folks letting me get ONE baseball card. I chose a '92 Fleer Ultra Sandberg card, worth all of about $0.40 today, but I still have it as my very first baseball card. So I kind of wanted his auto to go with it in my display.

It was cold when I got to Fitch Park. And I do mean C O L D. About 38 degrees, which, when you're not expecting it feels colder than it is (and yes, I know you DC folks are thinking "38 degrees? That was the high temp for all of January!") and I was wearing a nice warm jacket. I got there about 8:10am, long before anyone else showed up, and sat in the bleachers (after checking around the stadium for baseballs - I got two more in really ugly shape after sitting in puddles all night). Around 8:40, more people started to filter in slowly, expecting a 9-9:30am start time for the players to show up. I sat and talked with a guy named Charlie, who was telling me stories about playing golf with former Detroit Tigers players, and considering buying a house here in Mesa. (And Charlie, if you happen to read this, I still have your Sharpie!)

Unfortunately for me, Cubs' practice started late - or, rather, later than in past years - at 10:30am. I did stay and watch drills for about an hour, but I also wanted to meet up with Scott for lunch, so I left to do that at noon. We went to this cool little sports bar place called the Diamond Grille (I think) off of Centennial and Main St. near the Marriott Hotel. Good sandwiches!

Upon my return to Fitch Park, I was slightly saddened to see that batting practice was in full swing, and I had missed some good opportunities to snag some balls. Three other guys were also out there with their sweater pockets stuffed full of round white spheres that they'd caught. I was only able to catch about 15 minutes of BP before they ended for the day, but I still managed to get two baseballs. The first bounced on the street and nearly smashed the hood of a white minivan before a second car kicked it back across the road. I ran over and got it, but it had a big black tire mark on it, so it's not too good for signatures any more. While I was standing there examining my prize, another ball plopped down on the grass about one foot from my head. Yes, I jumped about out of my skin from nearly being beaned, but I did recover my wits and caught the ball on the first bounce. Lesson learned... watch the sky, not the ground!

That brought my ball total to seven so far this spring. This morning, I went back out there, but sadly, I couldn't find a single ball. I imagine either none were hit yesterday, or that there were others out this morning before I got there who got them first. Either way, Sandberg and some of the players were on the practice infield doing fielding drills, so I watched them for a while. I got some good advice (by eavesdropping on the coaches) on how to field grounders, so maybe someday if I join a softball league I can use that.

Afterwards, I headed over to the sports card shop, where I like to hang out when I am bored, since sitting at home watching TV isn't doing me any good. I got the opportunity to help out around the shop with reorganizing their single card boxes and changing some fixtures on the roof of the building with the shop owner, Phil. Before leaving, I picked up a couple more packs of 2010 Upper Deck Series 1 baseball cards, and got 18 more cards for my set. I only need 6 more of the 600 card base set to complete it (though I do still need plenty of the insert cards)! Oh, and I got a Burke Badenhop autographed card, so that was a nice bonus.

I will be heading back to Fitch Park tomorrow with glove in hand, and camera in pocket, so I will hopefully be posting some pictures of spring training to go along with the tales I'm spinning. If you are so inclined, come out for a little while and join me! I'll be the only one there (most likely) in a Diamondbacks cap watching the Cubs!

19 February 2010


So this past Saturday my sister Sarah and I went to the Arizona Diamondbacks FanFest. I had never been before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew there'd be autograph sessions with some of the players and coaches, photo ops, and a card/memorabilia show, but I was really excited to just be able to get back to the ballpark for a kick-start to baseball season!

In order to save some money (and trust me, I was WAY more frugal than I usually would be for an event like this), Sarah and I took the light rail to the stadium from one of the park-and-ride locations in Phoenix. Thanks to the guys at Hot Corner Sports Cards in Mesa, we both had a few items to get signed in the autograph sessions. I had a ball and a nice Big Stick black baseball bat and Sarah had some mini helmets in the old DBacks purple.

We arrived with our goodies around 8:00am only to discover that we should have gotten there at 7:15am - the line was already 50-60 people deep for obtaining vouchers for player autographs. But I figured that we'd be okay and able to get a few signatures anyway. We stood in line for about 2 hours before getting our turn to buy vouchers, only to find out that most of them had been taken by season ticket holders (really nice of you guys... leave some for the poor among us next time!). Players like Brandon Webb, Justin Upton, Adam Laroche, and Augie Ojeda were completely sold out by the time we got to the ticket window! So I changed my game plan and bought vouchers for Jay Bell and Matt Williams (for Sarah) and Chris Young, Ryan Roberts, and Mark Reynolds (how was he not sold out?!) for myself.

As soon as we entered the stadium, we made our way down to the field (all the activities of the day happened on the field itself!!!) and immediately got in an autograph line. This is where I saw my first big mistake of being a fan at FanFest: you cannot possibly do everything. For autographs, season ticket holders get a "Fast Pass" like at Disneyland and get to go first. We stood in the Jay Bell/Matt Williams autograph line for almost an hour waiting our turn, while at the same time the Chris Young line was moving at the same pace. The reason I chose Bell/Williams first was so Sarah could get her autographs, which I think are more important for her to have than me getting Chris Young (which I can do easily at Spring Training or at the ballpark later on). So sadly, my $5 voucher was wasted for Chris Young, but we did get both Jay Bell and Matt Williams for Sarah on the mini helmets:

After that, I wasn't too keen on standing in another line, so we went over to the DBacks Yard Sale in left field. The Yard Sale was full of stuff at "clearance prices" from prior seasons of players that we don't have anymore, like Micah Owings, Bob Brenly, and Max Scherzer. There were signed balls, used bats, Diamondbacks Foundation polo shirts, old logo dishes, posters, banners, and lineup cards from years gone by. Now frankly, I have always wanted a lineup card for my collection, so I was really keen to pick one up when I saw them. So I did! From the 5/2/2009 game at Miller Park between the D-Backs and the Brewers (we won 4-1):
 The reason I chose that one was pretty simple: it has Dan Haren pitching, all my favorite DBacks players, and even Craig Counsell on the Brewers team. Signed by Bob Melvin, it's a nice piece. I'm planning on saving up some money and someday framing it nicely with the scorecard I have from that game. Also on May 2, 2009, Justin Upton hit a monster 442' blast on Miller Park, one of the longer ones in that stadium's history (behind anything by Prince Fielder and Adam Dunn).

After picking that up, we wandered over to the card show and looked at the stuff over there. Nothing uber-special, except for one table, where a consignment gentleman had scorebooks and scorecards from the 1880s! I'd never seen one so old before, and they were BEAUTIFUL! I think I should write a book on scoring baseball games and the history of scoring. It's really becoming a lost art, and it should definitely be revived!

Then, another line, but this time for Mark Reynolds and Bo Porter. Porter is our new third base coach, if you didn't know. I didn't until I was in the line and asked some guy standing next to me about him. Anyway, after another hour in line, I got Mark's signature on my bat, which I'd been waiting for ALL DAY!
 After we finished in line, Sarah and I were both starving, hot, and kind of tired of standing in line. We decided to get some hot dogs from Doubleheaders out off the first base dugout, and sat in the stands and ate for a half hour or so. It was really nice to relax and watch all the people mill about down below. And the hot dogs were, of course, DELICIOUS!

A short while later, when we had rested up a bit and had our lunch, we heard an announcement that stuff was being "discounted" at the yard sale, so we went back to take another look. That's when I was able to pick up a Micah Owings signed baseball for $5. Owings is probably my third favorite player right now, behind Damien Miller and Mark Reynolds, so that was cool for me!
After we finished up, I really didn't feel like waiting around for an hour to get Ryan Roberts' autograph, when I am pretty sure I can get that one at Spring Training or at the ballpark without too much difficulty, so we went around and saw some of the other sights. We watched little kids in the training center areas hitting balls being pitched by Clay Zavada (wiffle balls and plastic bats, if you're wondering), fielding practice, and fly ball practice. We stopped by a few sponsorship tables and I filled out raffle forms for prizes and things, and we wandered around to listen to the live broadcasts being conducted on the field by 620 AM KTAR and 98.7 The Peak radio stations. This is where Sarah got her big wish.

Her only goal beyond following me around during FanFest was to get Luis Gonzalez's autograph. We were a little disappointed when he wasn't in the autograph sessions, but we were at the right place at the right time to watch him as a guest on the 98.7 broadcast. We got there just in time to see him finish up when a couple field crew people magically conjured up a table and people ran to form something resembling a line (though fans near a celebrity don't have any idea what a line looks like, I think) to get his autograph! I told Sarah to get in line QUICK! before it was too long, and I stood off to the side getting the third mini helmet out of our duffle bag. Suffice it to say, Sarah got her souvenier, and was ecstatic the rest of the day:
As I mentioned before, next year for FanFest, I know what I will do differently. Rather than trying to get every autograph, I think I will just try to get one, maybe two that I really want, and worry about the rest during Spring Training and the season. Thankfully, the event is free to get into, and all the activities except the autograph sessions are free. If I'm going to stand in more lines, I'd be just as happy doing it for a free photo with the players as I would with a $5 autograph!

We did have a great time, despite coming home absolutely exhausted (I think that's kind of the point, though... right?). I saw some friends there from Hot Corner, like a fellow sports card enthusiast Patrick with his wife and son, and the two biggest D-Backs fans I know - Anya and April (who are always fun to sit near during the games!). I think perhaps the only downside to the day was that by the end of it all, there was so much dust and dried grass flying around the air from the field, it was really starting to make Sarah's allergies unpleasant, and it got a little tougher to breathe the more we stayed. Note to self: bring Claritin next time!

Well done, Diamondbacks! Can't wait for April 5th. We'll see you at the ballpark!

16 February 2010

1998 Japan Ball Photos

All right, guys! I promised photos, and I've got photos of that 1998 Japan All-Star Series Team Signed baseball I picked up from a garage sale last weekend! Here's what I'm arbitrarily calling side 1, with an unknown sig above the logo and Sammy Sosa, unknown #2, Carlos Delgado (it looks like "Kirby"), and Rick Helling:
Side #2, with Trevor Hoffman above the "Rawlings," unknown #3, Greg Vaughn, Dan Plesac, Javy Lopez, and Tom Gordon:
Side #3 with Kevin Millwood, BJ Surhoff, Billy Wagner, Jason Kendall, Garret Anderson, Nomar Garciaparra (#5), and unknown #4:
And finally, side 4, with Jason Giambi at the very top, Devon White (the former Diamondback), Curt Schilling, Brett Tomko, Damion Easley, Al Leiter, Jamie Moyer, and Andruw Jones at the very bottom (it looks like "S - S -"):
The "sweet spot" of the ball, with Mike Hargrove's autograph:
And the side opposite the sweet spot, with the "Official Ball / Japan All-Star Tour" logo:
A couple of my readers also asked me to put up close-up pics of the four signatures I could not figure out (YET...!) myself, so here they are in no particular order. This first one appears above Sammy Sosa's autograph on "side 1" of the ball:
Unknown #2, between Sammy Sosa and Carlos Delgado. This one looks like "Lee Myjer" to me, but I don't think that's a real name. Problem is, it's squeezed in so tight right there, that it's hard to identify correctly:
Unknown #3, which is between the Rawlings logo and Greg Vaughn's autograph. I thought at first it might be Manny Ramirez (from his Indians days), but the auto doesn't seem to match up to 1998 stock photos of his autographs on various items:
And finally, unknown #4, which appears below Nomar Garciaparra's signature. "Rellaus"?
Any help anyone can give me on these four signatures would be much appreciated! Either way, it's a really nice piece of American baseball memorabilia!

15 February 2010

1998 Japan All-Star Series

Last week, I went out garage saling to see if I could find anything interesting and sports-related. I had spotted an ad in the paper that said a property near me had a bunch of "sports memorabilia" for sale last Saturday, and I wanted to check it out.

Sadly, the memorabilia in question was some cheap plastic stuff from early last decade, and the owner wanted $75 for a big box of it... I wouldn't have bought it if it were $10! On the way home, I got the urge to check out another garage sale off a side street near the highway. The homes around there were pretty junky, so I didn't expect to find anything - although you never know. The homeowner was an older guy in his 50's or 60's and had a garage packed with junk all over the place: seat cushions from a bingo hall, tools, really old electronics stuff, beat-up furniture, crappy trinkets, etc. I didn't stay very long... just a cursory look. But as I was leaving, the guy asked me if there was anything I was looking for in particular. I told him I was always on the lookout for baseball stuff, and he went digging in a drawer. First, he pulled out a framed football card from the '90s... worth about ten cents, and a couple binders of cards that I wasn't interested in.

But then, he dredged up two baseballs: one a "photoball" from the Diamondbacks' 2000 season commemorating Randy Johnson's 4000th strikeout, and the other a 1998 Japan All-Star Series MLB team-signed ball. He wanted $3.00 for both, and I happily obliged. At first, I didn't recognize any of the signatures, but after bringing it to Hot Corner Sports Cards, a couple of guys did recognize about five of the signatures: Sammy Sosa, Greg Vaughn, Al Leiter, Curt Schilling, and Damion Easley.

Unfortunately, there's almost no record of which players were involved in the '98 exhibition series between the Major League Baseball all-stars and the Japanese league all-stars, so finding a list of players has been really hard. Until today. I finally found a page in Japanese that had at least a partial list of the American players, and I started comparing the signatures on my ball to stock photos of those players' signatures. There are 27 autographs on the ball I've got, and I was able to identify 23 of them, leaving just four unknown. Here's my list thus far:

On the "sweet spot": Mike Hargrove (manager) AKA "The Human Rain Delay"
Side 1 with the Series logo: Unknown #1, Sammy Sosa, Unknown #2, Carlos Delgado, Rick Helling
Side 2 with Rawlings logo: Trevor Hoffman, Unknown #3, Greg Vaughn, Dan Plesac, Javier Lopez, Tom Gordon
Side 3: Kevin Millwood, BJ Surhoff, Billy Wagner, Jason Kendall, Garret Anderson, Nomar Garciaparra, Unknown #4
Side 4: Jason Giambi, Devon White, Curt Schilling, Brett Tomko, Damion Easley, Al Leiter, Jamie Moyer, Andruw Jones

Not exactly a bad list of players! Indeed, my $2 investment for this ball should certainly pay off. Another 1998 Japan All-Star team signed ball (albeit with better-quality signatures) surfaced eight days ago on Ebay, and it sold this morning for $147.50!!!! That seller didn't list any of the players' signatures, so if I can find out the remaining few on my ball, I would imagine it could go for a similar price should I ever decide to sell it.

As soon as I get my camera working, I'll post a couple photos. 'Til then, my next post will be on DBacks FanFest from this Saturday in just a little while.

02 February 2010

Upper Deck 2010 Series 1 Baseball

Those of you who know me know about my love of baseball. But what you may not know is that I don't just enjoy watching and scoring the games or collecting autographs. I also collect baseball cards, and my collection is getting to be pretty decent now. My main collection includes a LOT of Arizona Diamondbacks autographed and game-used cards from players like Randy Johnson, Matt Williams, Justin Upton, Chris Young, Matt Kata, Conor Jackson, Brandon Webb, Dustin Nippert, and others. I also do a little bit of set-building (trying to get one of every card in the set of cards) for 2009 Topps Allen and Ginter, Upper Deck 2008 and 2009 A Piece of History, Topps Mayo Football, 2001 Pacific Baseball, and 2009 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions. I'm actually very close to having complete base sets for most of these products, and all I need are the inserts and hard-to-find cards.

Every year, when the new sets come out, I like to buy a few packs of the ones I can afford and see if I like the designs enough to try to collect the set. Today, my local card shop, Hot Corner Sports Cards in Mesa, AZ got in boxes of 2010 Upper Deck Series 1 cards. This poses an interesting tangent. You see, Major League Baseball, in its infinite wisdom, last year awarded Topps, Inc. the exclusive rights to produce baseball cards using the MLB insignia and trademarks, thereby granting them basically a monopoly on baseball cards. Upper Deck, the only other major company in opposition to Topps, retains a contract with the MLB Players Association to allow players to be featured on Upper Deck cards, but without making mention of teams and using those trademarks.

Well, within the last couple of weeks, Upper Deck released sample photos of the 2010 baseball cards, which MLB Properties alleged were in violation of anti-trademark infringement policies because the cards show the photos of MLB logos in the photos of the players playing baseball. Apparently MLB wanted Upper Deck to airbrush/photoshop out all the MLB logos from the photos (such as the Athletics "A," the Indians "red man," or the MLB patch logos on players' sleeves). And thus, MLB sent a letter to a bunch of retailers asking them to not sell the 2010 Upper Deck cards (two or three different products) until the issue could be resolved. Upper Deck replied saying that retailers could sell their cards, since there's no law on the books regarding their claims. And thus, the MLBP sued Upper Deck.

So, as I was saying, these boxes of UD 2010 Series 1 cards came in today, and since my shop had the product, was never told by anyone to NOT sell it, and since it was supposed to be for sale starting today, I got my hands on 5 packs of the product. And to be honest, I can't see what MLBP is complaining about. I have pulled several cards below from my five packs to give my fellow readers a taste of what 2010 UDS1 looks like, and YOU be the judge regarding logos and trademark infringement!

First up, the base cards. I pulled three Diamondbacks from my five packs (Doug Davis, P; Max Scherzer, P; and Brandon Allen, rookie 1B). The design is clean, crisp, and looks nice enough for what would be classified among collectors as a low-end product, meant more for set-builders and kids than some of the more hardcore $300-per-box products. Allen's base card:
If you notice, the picture has been strategically picked to show as little of the "DBacks" logo on his jersey, although for his, it is still visible. I noticed this with almost every one of the 72 base player cards in my five packs. There was always a glove/bat/arm "strategically placed" over the player's chest logo when his back wasn't turned completely (showing his number, but no logos). For catchers, they are all in their gear, so they have chest protectors and shoulder pads, and pitchers aren't viewed from any sort of angle where their logos are prominent and obviously infringing on anything.

Even the backs are devoid of any identifying marks: no team names, just a city (including Chicago's Cubs and White Sox, Los Angeles' Angels and Dodgers, and New York's Mets and Yankees... each card doesn't say a team name, leaving it to you to figure out whether the player belongs in pinstripes or halos).
That brings me to where the rookie cards differ from the veterans. The backs of the rookies tell a little about them, while the vets have just their prior years' statistics. Also, rookies are marked with a "2010 Star Rookie" logo at the bottom while veterans have their photo in black-and-white next to their position and city of origin.
For comparison's sake, here are Davis' and Scherzer's base cards, card backs, and b&w photos:
Okay, so the first 540 cards are of players (on average, 18 players from each of the 30 major league teams). I believe there are 600 cards in the base set, with cards 571-600 being team checklist cards. But I REALLY like cards #541-570! They're STADIUM cards, featuring each of the thirty teams' home stadiums! And of course, I pulled Chase Field, the home of the 2001 World Series Champion Diamondbacks as one of my cards today (along with AT&T Park - Giants, Comerica Park - Tigers, and Yankee Stadium - Yankees)!
Ah, now THAT'S a pretty piece of architecture! The back of the Chase Field card says,
Phoenix, Arizona
401 East Jefferson Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004
First Game: March 31, 1998  Seating Capacity: 48,652
Postseason Titles: Division Titles 4, League Pennants 1, World Series Championships 1
With a retractable roof to keep the rain as well as the scorching desert heat out, Chase Field also showcases a swimming pool in right-center field where fans can cool off as they take in a contest. During a break in the action, the Cox Clubhouse is also a popular attraction as it contains memorabilia from the Baseball Hall of Fame. The first Major League stadium to pair natural grass with a retractable roof, the turf of choice in Arizona is Bull's Eye Bermuda.

C'mon, how cool is that?! And I love the little touches, like the address and the postseason titles counts for each team.

Okay, anyway. That's the base set. 600 cards, each one with a legal statement on the back that they are NOT authorized by Major League Baseball or its member teams. On to the inserts! The inserts are much like other UD products of the past, featuring the big names and big events in baseball history for 2009. In just five packs, I received 7 different types of insert cards. Biography cards, such as the Clayton Kershaw card below came two to a pack, and feature a particular player and a particular accomplishment (Kershaw's fifth consecutive win depicted below on July 18, 2009 set a record for left-handed starters with three or fewer hits and one or fewer earned runs on four consecutive games).
Other cards from this insert set included Ken Griffey, Jr.'s return to Seattle, Jason Kendall's 2,000th career hit, Ichiro's 2,000th career hit, and Jim Thome's 550th career home run.

This next insert I got is a little wierd. In 5 packs, I only got the one, called "Celebrity Predictors" - two cards joined by a perforation in the center (presumably you can separate them into two different mini cards). While there are no celebrity names on either half of the card, I'm pretty sure it's a cartoon-ized version of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart from the teen vampire flick "New Moon" that came out in '09. Um... okay then. Not really my thing, but if Megan Fox from "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is also in the checklist somewhere, I'm okay with it.
Next up, the "Baseball Heroes" inserts. Like the last one, I only got one of each of these in five packs, and they're reminiscent of the 1990's-era cards that I used to collect (hoard?) back when I was a little kid and had my collection in a really, really old shoebox. Here's the regular Baseball Heroes card of Joe DiMaggio...
And the comparable Baseball Heroes 20th Anniversary artists' card of Chipper Jones:
The fifth insert of the seven, of which I got two, are these Upper Deck Portraits cards of Chone Figgins (shown) and Scott Feldman. The backs of these inserts have an old-timey tobacco card feel to them, saying simply in stylized lettering "Upper Deck Portraits / One in a series of 100 subjects." I like them. Simple. Classy. Old school. My kind of cards.
Then you go from classy and old school to retro, as the die-cut cards are back in these packs. Most people I've talked to like die cuts; I'm not a huge fan. The first one is a "Pure Heat" Troy Tulowitzki card, which isn't really bad. I like the flames, and the caption on the back is talking about how the Rockies (powered by Tulowitzki) had a 17-of-18 game win streak in June, 2009. I would have thought that "high heat" was reserved for power pitchers, but I kind of admire using a card like this for similar power performances.
The final insert, and also a die cut, is this nifty "All World" Carlos Beltran card. The All-World set of inserts, I assume (although I only got one of them today) features non-US-born players who've made an impact on the game. For example, the caption on Beltran's card here is about how though he couldn't speak English when he arrived in the Minor Leagues, he let his game "speak for itself" and earned the 1999 Rookie of the Year honors. How do you not like a card featuring planet Earth so prominently, I ask you?
Finally, although I didn't take a photo of it, I also received a game-used jersey card of pitcher Randy Wells, whom I've never heard of, but that's okay. The jersey card is standard stuff, and if I get the chance, I'll post a pic of it in a separate blog post later on.

All in all, to recap, I got 72 base player cards, four stadium base cards, and four team checklist cards (for the Orioles, Astros, Cardinals, and Nationals), 10 Biography inserts, 2 UD Portraits inserts, two different Baseball Heroes inserts, and one each of the Celebrity Predictors, All World, and Pure Heat inserts.

I really like the way this product turned out despite the company not being able to use MLB trademarks. It's actually a really nice low-end collector-friendly product, although I think if you're only crazy about getting the "hits" (autographs or game-used cards) you're probably better off sticking with the more expensive stuff. I could easily see myself being very happy opening a few boxes of this stuff (in my dreams, since I'm still watching my dollars while I look for work) and finding the nice inserts and obtaining all 600 base cards.

Good job, Upper Deck. This is a nice product.