Infinity, BBM's annual multi-sport set, was released this week. It's base set contains 94 cards featuring athletes in a number of sports, including baseball, track & field, boxing, swimming, gymnastics, volleyball, table tennis and fencing. Typically there are more baseball players in the set than any other sport and this year is no exception. 27 of the 94 cards feature baseball players while the next sport with the most cards is swimming with 11.
I've never picked up a complete Infinity set. I'm just not all that interested in any sports other than baseball so it's not that appealing a set. And usually the baseball players included in the set are ones that I already have many cards of. There have been some notable exceptions in the past, however. In 2017 BBM included three baseball players who were corporate league legends that never played in NPB. In 2018 they included a card of the JWBL's Yuki Kawabata. Because BBM does include some interesting players I do make a point of looking at the set each year to see who's in it.
Jambalaya had put all the cards from the set on-line yesterday and I took a look at them last night. I noticed that there were some reasonably big names in the set (Kenjiro Nomura, Kazuhiro Wada, Tadahito Iguchi, Yoshinobu Takahashi and Daisuke Matsuzaka) but there were a lot of lesser names. As I looked at the names though, it suddenly dawned on me that there was a connection between all 27 of them - they had all played for the Japan National Team in the Olympics.
I probably wouldn't have noticed this if I hadn't done a series of posts on the Olympic teams earlier this year. There are 9 players from the 1984 team (Yasuo Yoshida, Kozo Shoda, Katsumi Hirosawa, Shinji Hata, Akimitsu Itoh, Atsunori Itoh, Yoshiaki Nishikawa, Shinichi Furukawa and Yukio Arai), five players from the 1988 squad (Terushi Nakajima, Nomura, Kenji Tomoshino, Shuji Yoshida and Hirofumi Ogawa), four players from the 1992 team (Shinichi Satoh, Koichi Oshima, Masahito Kohiyama, and Takashi Miwa), four players from the 1996 team (Hideaki Okubo, Yoshitomo Tani, Makoto Imaoka and Iguchi), one player from 2000 (Matsuzaka) and six players from 2004 (Wada, Tani, Masahide Kobayashi, Takahashi, Hirotoshi Ishii and Matsuzaka). While Tani and Matsuzaka appeared in multiple Olympics they each only have one card in the set. Sadly, the cards all show the players in their NPB uniforms - I would have been much more interested in the cards if they had shown the players in their National Team uniforms.
I should mention that it's a kind of odd selection of players as there are some significant former Olympic players who are missing, starting with Hall Of Famers Atsuya Furuta and Hideo Nomo, from the 1988 team. OK, Nomo is not a surprise since he hasn't been on an NPB card since 1994 but Furuta appears in OB sets with some regularity. Hiroki Kokubo, Nobuhiko Matsunaka and Shinnosuke Abe all played in the Olympics as amateurs as well (Matsunaka and Abe also played in the Summer Games as professionals) but aren't included either.
I did some spot checking on the other 67 athletes in the set and it appears that everyone in the set has participated in the Olympics for Japan. This explains why this is the first Infinity set to not include any sumo wrestlers since sumo is not an Olympic sport. I think it's a shame that the set does not include judoka Ryoko Tani, five time Olympic medalist and wife of Yoshitomo Tani - how many card sets feature a married couple?