Front Runner appears to be relatively new as a card maker. Their first set was the Hiroshima Athlete Magazine Starting Lineup set in 2012. Last year they released seven sets in all. They did another set with Hiroshima Athlete Magazine entitled Carp Stars And Legends, three sets with the Lions, Baystars and Buffaloes entitled (somewhat misleadingly) Rookie And Young Stars and three sets with the Buffaloes, Baystars and Carp titled Season Summary. Jason has speculated that Front Runner acts kind of like Multi-Ad does with minor league team sets in the US - they are contacted directly by teams to get their card sets produced.
All the sets done by Front Runner so far have been boxed sets containing 25-27 base cards and one autographed card. As a result, the face value of the sets are generally 8400 yen (roughly $84). As usual, the ones Ryan picked up for me were opened and the autographed cards removed so he was able to get them for 500 yen or less.
The only two sets that I do not have (yet) are the Lions and Buffaloes Rookie And Young Stars sets (Ryan did a post on the Buffaloes set). Here some details about the other five sets:
The Carp Stars And Legends set contained 27 cards in the base set. These were broken into a couple subsets - 19 "regular" cards featuring members of the 2013 Carp, 7 "Legends" cards featuring famous OB Carp and a "Carp Heritage" card featuring Shota Dobayashi and Kenjiro Nomura. The oddest thing to me about this set is that if you're going to have "Legend" Carp players, I would expect to see Koji Yamamoto and Sachio Kinugasa. Neither of them are included in the set. The OB players are Manabu Kitabeppu, Takeshi Koba, Kenjiro Nomura, Koichi Ogata, Yutaka Ohno, Shinji Sasaoka and Mitsuo Tatsukawa. This set was the second set that Front Runner and the Carp did with Hiroshima Athlete Magazine.
I have to say that I'd been stumped by the symbol on the "Rookie And Young Stars" set for much longer than I should have been. It was hard to tell if the symbol was "14 Stars", "RL Stars", "RY Stars" or something else. I think both Jason and Ryan kind of independently realized that it was "RY Stars" as in "Rookie and Young Stars". D'oh!
The set name is a little misleading as there are players included in each of the three sets that are not rookies or young stars. The Baystars set, for example, includes Daisuke Miura, Norihiro Nakamura and Alex Ramirez, all of whom started last season at an age of 38 or more.
There are 26 base cards in the Baystars set, spread out in seven(!) subsets, an amazing number for such a small set. There is a 1 card subset for manager Kiyoshi Nakahara, a three card "Stars" subset, a five card "Hometown Stars" subset, a three card "Young Stars" subset, a two card "Legendary Stars" subset, a five card "World Stars" subset and a seven card "Rookies" subset. The cards for each subset except the Nakahata and the "Rookies" subset feature the player picture superimposed over different (for each subset) backgrounds. For example, the "Hometown Stars" cards use a picture of Yokohama as the background while the "World Stars" use the flag of the country that the player is from as a background. The "World Stars" are Tony Blanco (Mexican flag), Nyjer Morgan (USA), Alex Ramirez (Venezuela), Jorge Sosa (Mexico) and Enyelbert Soto (Venezuela). The two "Legendary Stars" (I suppose they suppressed the urge to label this subset "Old Stars") were Daisuke Yamashita and Yutaka Takagi, who played for the team back when it was called the Yokohama Taiyo Whales.
The three Season Summary sets are apparently attempts to chronicle the season for each team. Almost all the player cards have a date on the back that indicates when whatever accomplishment by the player is being commemorated. Not being able to read Japanese (still), I don't know what many of the events are, although I know that one of the Norihiro Nakamura cards from the Baystars set is for him getting his 2000th hit on May 5 last year. The front of each card shows a close up picture of the player while the back shows the full picture.
|Baystars #16 back|
|Carp #18 back|
The Carp and Buffaloes sets have 25 cards each while the Baystars set has 27. There are multiple cards for several players in each set - for example, Norihiro Nakamura has three cards in the Baystars set, Yoshio Itoi has three cards in the Buffaloes set and Kenta Maeda has four cards in the Carp set. The biggest omission that I can see is the Alex Ramirez is not in the Baystars set despite the fact that his 2000th hit last April was one of the highlights of the season (and I think that Alex Ramirez has an autographed card in the set although I can't find where I saw that online again). The Buffaloes set includes a card of Alessandro Maestri who only appeared on an Owners League card and the BBM Buffaloes set last year. It also includes several players wearing Orix Blue Wave uniforms from some "Turn-Back-The-Clock" games last year. The Baystars set includes three cards of players from the 1998 Championship team (Daisuke Miura, Takeo Kawamura and Takanori Suzuki) which I'm guessing is for the 15th Anniversary of the team's sole Nippon Series championship in Yokohama. The Carp set includes five cards that are not associated with any particular date - I'm not sure what the deal is with them. There's also two cards of pitchers (Kenta Maeda and Yusuke Nomura) batting in the Carp set (and a card of pitcher Hikaru Itoh in the Buffaloes set wearing a batting helmet).
Front Runner is releasing card in 2014 as well. The Lions Rookies And Young Stars set was just released last week and I think that the Carp and Buffaloes versions will be out next week with a Baystars set coming out in April.