Topps Signs Japanese Star-MLB Rookie Shohei Ohtani To First National U.S. Deal
Monday, January 8, 2018 at 02:21PM in MLB, MLB, Shohei Ohtani, Topps, Topps NOW, collectibles, sports marketing

By Barry Janoff

January 8, 2018: Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani has yet to play a game in MLB, but he already has made quite an impact.

Claiming that Ohtani would have “some of the most highly coveted baseball cards and collectibles on the market in 2018,” Topps has signed the 23-year-old athlete to his first national deal in the U.S.

Financial terms of the exclusive trading card and long-term autograph deal with Topps were not shared.

Last month, when he signed with the Los Angeles Angels, his Topps NOW card in his new Angels uniform set a category record with 17,323 copies sold in a 24-hour period.

That bested the mark set during the 2017 season when a Topps NOW card of New York Yankees Aaron Judge setting the single-season rookie home run record (16,138 cards).

Topps said that Ohtani’s first pack-pulled trading card would appear in late spring to coincide with Spring Training. His cards, including exclusive autographed items, would then be featured in Topps products throughout the year.

“Getting a deal with Shohei Ohtani was a priority for us because we want the best for our Topps fans,” David Leiner, global general manager, sports & entertainment for Topps, said in a statement.

“Ohtani is a dynamic two-way player who has gained a lot of attention because of his incredible talent. We are thrilled to offer his trading cards and autographed cards to baseball fans,” said Leiner.

Ohtani was the focus of a MLB multi-term off-season quest, ultimately won by the Angels.

In Japan, with the Nippon Ham Fighters, he was known for his pitching — 624 strikeouts in 543 career innings in the Japan Pacific League — and hitting. Over the last two seasons in the JPPL, Ohtani hit .322 with 30 home runs and 98 RBI in 169 games.

When he was signed by the Angels in early December, they said, “We are honored Shohei Ohtani has decided to join the Angels Organization. We felt a unique connectivity with him throughout the process and are excited he will become an Angel.

“This is a special time for Angels fans, the Ohtani family, and Nez Balelo (his agent) and the team at Creative Artists Agency."

According the Leiner, “He’s an incredible talent that transcends baseball and we’re exciting for him to join a long list of great baseball players who have Topps rookie cards.”

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