Fanatics Collectibles and Topps have announced, with Major League Baseball, the first memorabilia uniform patch made specifically for sports trading cards: the MLB Debut Patch. All players making their MLB debut in 2023 will wear the one-of-a-kind patch, which will subsequently be authenticated by the MLB Authentication Program at the site of their game and placed in a rookie card in a future Topps set.
Tentative release date for the to-be-named Topps product is "later this year or early 2024," according to a Fanatics representative.
"A Major League player's debut day is a cause for great celebration and the culmination of many years of hard work," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "Topps has been a great partner to baseball for decades, and [this] particular initiative is crucial to the development of deeper fan engagement."
While hyped American phenoms like New York Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe, 21, and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jordan Walker, 20, will debut on Opening Day, players such as 30-year-old New York Mets pitcher Kodai Senga, who played for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in Japan from 2012-2022, will also wear the patches.
Read more: Anthony Volpe is the talk of New York
"For a player, there is no bigger moment than the first time they step onto a field for their Major League debut," MLBPA executive director Tony Clark also said in a statement. "The Debut Patch is one way to capture the timeless nature of this moment ..."
Noah Garden, MLB's chief revenue officer, holds up a Corn Stalk relic from a Topps Now set from the 2022 Field of Dreams game. It includes an actual piece of corn stalk from the game, embedded into the card.
"I happened to be there -- fortunate with my job -- and now I have something that means more to me, frankly, than a picture of me being on the field," Garden says. "It's that feeling that we're trying to recreate in a way fans can access it, make it accessible."
Over the last few years, a trend that's emerged, much to the chagrin of collectors, is pulling memorabilia cards that have either only been player-worn ... or even less. Often, memorabilia cards have included some semblance of this language: "The enclosed officially licensed material is not associated with any specific player, game, or event" or "The relic contained in this card is not from any specific match, event or season." This kind of patch reemphasizes a level of authenticity that consumers have demanded.
"We think that bringing the collector closer to the athlete and the first time he ever steps on a Major League field, having that moment live forever in a trading card is a big deal," says Michael Mahan, the CEO of Fanatics Collectibles.
"There will be Hall of Fame players that emerge wearing this patch ... and that moment will live on [for] eternity."
The notion of getting a piece of someone's MLB debut could be a dream-come-true for lifelong fans.
"Expanding the amount of people that can get closer to the game, there's something special about being part of that moment," Garden says. "I remember in 2004 with the Red Sox and in 2016 with the Cubs -- we were selling dirt from the stadium. It was basically holy water."
"That's the beautiful thing about baseball: You just don't know how it evolves."