1994 Action Packed Minors
Wow, something I didn’t know about Mac Suzuki from BR’s Bullpen:
Mac Suzuki was expelled from high school in the 11th grade for fighting. Suzuki’s father contacted Don Nomura, owner of the Salinas Spurs, as Nomura had previously expressed an interest in Suzuki at a baseball clinic run by Tony Gwynn and Katsuya Nomura. Suzuki became the Spurs’ clubhouse boy. Among his tasks were concessions, batting practice pitching and janitorial work. Mac pitched one inning for Salinas in 1992.
Nomura sold Salinas, ending his ownership career, and signed Suzuki as the first of many star clients to begin his time as an agent. With the 17/18-year old Suzuki throwing 95 mph, he became a hot property for the team, now called the San Bernardino Spirit. He went 4-4 with 12 saves and a 3.68 ERA, striking out 87 and allowing 59 hits in 81 innings. He did walk 56 batters but was voted the 6th-best prospect in the California League by managers there.
I don’t remember hearing any of that when Suzuki was a hot prospect for the Mariners back in the day. I do remember the big hoopla about him possibly being the first Japanese-born pitcher to pitch in the majors since the 60s. It’s kind of hard to think in those terms, the pre-Ichiro days, but there was a lot of excitement around the idea. I lost interest in the game during the years when Suzuki struggled, and I didn’t know it had taken him until 1999 to finally stick for a bit, at the age of 24. And he was pretty awful, offering a combined 74 ERA+ that year. Ick. He lasted in the majors until 2002 with a career ERA+ of 86. He never lived up to that potential, sadly. Weird to think he was once ranked just behind ARod as Seattle’s top prospect.
As for the card itself, well, his name was “Makoto”, not “Makato”. I like the shot, but it’s ruined by the whole Action Packed gimmick, unfortunately. Alas, it was the only Mac Suzuki card I had.
1994 Action Packed 24K Gold Diamond
I thought Charles Johnson was going to be a huge superstar. At least I’m not the only one; he was consistently ranked as a top prospect and seen as a smart draft by the fledgling Florida Marlins. To be fair, he was an All-Star and a Gold Glover and produced well for a good long while, but unfortunately he fell off a cliff around the time he turned 30. Wow, did he look like a worldbeater in the minors, though. He had a killer (for a catcher) .828 OPS in 1993 at Single-A Kane County, then jumped to an .895 OPS in AA the following year (29 homers for a catching prospect – wow). For awhile in the majors he had a pattern of on-again off-again years – 100 OPS+, 73 OPS+, 113 OPS+, 79 OPS+…see the pattern? It’s a shame his production didn’t keep up because he might have been a longterm HOF candidate.
I pulled this card from a box of Action Packed that I bought in Minnesota in 1995. It’s apparently a fairly valuable card? Though I have to admit I’m not crazy about it. I don’t even know the story – is that actual gold leaf on the card? Either way, I’m not a big fan of Action Packed.
I’ll be honest: I wasn’t sure Johnny Damon was going to stick. Sure, he was a speedy outfielder with a good glove (how things change), but I wasn’t sure he had enough of a bat to hang around. I thought the Damon cards I got were kind of cool back in the day, especially this one, but I didn’t think he was going to hang around long enough to really make a mark. Obviously I was wrong, but the odd thing is that this is not a recent acquisiton; this is the original card I got in 1994. I think I may have even traded for this. So I guess in some corner of my mind I had some questions. I’m still not a big Damon fan, but I have to admit this card is pretty cool. I think of this parallel as a predecessor to the later sets like refractors and x-fractors. I may try to track down more of these as I have an opportunity to.