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Topps Takes Another Step In Brand Expansion

Curtis-PrideFrom digital to the throwback, Topps keeps trying to reinvent itself, and give fans a little extra to bring them back to the brand. They are also trying to advance the audience through new partnerships, and this week rolled out the latest: cards with MLB’s approval of players who have overcome disabilities and made it to MLB.

Now there is no Bo Jackson here; after all his degenerative hips were caused by another sport, but there is an Anthony Rizzo and a John Lester, and of course there is Jim Abbott. The set is tied to the 70th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month and honor 25 years of the Americans with Disabilities legislation.

“As a game for all, Baseball is proud to be the sport of Jim Abbott, Curtis Pride and many world-class athletes who have overcome obstacles en route to success in the Major Leagues,” said Wendy Lewis, MLB Senior Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion & Strategic Alliances said in a statement. “This special set from Topps is a terrific way not only to honor all individuals who have faced challenges and reached the highest level of their chosen sport, but also to inspire anyone who dreams of one day being a part of the National Pastime. We commend Topps, a longtime valued partner, for this extraordinary tribute to players who have made an enduring impact on our game.”

In 2014, the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) proposed a special card series, featuring players with disabilities, within Topps’ 2015 set. Throughout Baseball history, these players have enhanced the game with their skill and encourages all with their pride and perseverance.

“People with disabilities are often looked at for what they can’t do instead of being appreciated for what they can do. We hope these cards will help people take a closer look at the potential of people with disabilities,” said Mark O’Neal, PBATS President and Chicago Cubs Director of Medical Administration. “Imagine if a child or the parent of a child with a disability, by simply opening a pack of baseball cards, discovers that one of their heroes was legally blind or deaf or has battled cancer? They would truly feel empowered and encouraged.”

The set features San Francisco Giants pitcher Jake Peavy, who is legally blind without his corrective lenses, Houston Astros outfielder George Springer, who has overcome stuttering, New York Mets reliever Buddy Carlyle, who was diagnosed with diabetes in 2009, and Oakland Athletics outfielder Sam Fuld, who has dealt with Type 1 Diabetes in addition to Abbott, former Royals outfielder Jim Eisenreich and many others.

The set was the brainchild of the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS)  who brought it to Topps in 2014 as a way to tell the stories of so many that they have worked with.

“People with disabilities are often looked at for what they can’t do instead of being appreciated for what they can do. We hope these cards will help people take a closer look at the potential of people with disabilities,” added Mark O’Neal, PBATS President and Chicago Cubs Director of Medical Administration. “Imagine if a child or the parent of a child with a disability, by simply opening a pack of baseball cards, discovers that one of their heroes was legally blind or deaf or has battled cancer? They would truly feel empowered and encouraged.”

Will it be a big seller? Probably not. However for an add-on and a buzz generator, “Pride and Perseverance” should have its own hot parade for Topps as they continue brand reinventions.

About Jerry Milani

Jerry Milani is a freelance writer and public relations executive living in Bloomfield, N.J. He has worked in P.R. for more than 25 years in college and conference sports media relations, two agencies and for the International Fight League, a team-based mixed martial arts league, and now is the PR manager for Wizard World, which runs pop culture and celebrity conventions across North America. Milani is also the play-by-play announcer for Caldwell University basketball broadcasts. He is a proud graduate of Fordham University and when not attending a Yankees, Rams or Cougars game can be reached at Jerry (at) JerryMilani (dot) com.

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