The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball is a league of second chances.
Minor League Baseball teams are affiliated with Major League Baseball teams. New Jersey’s Trenton Thunder are a New York Yankees’ farm team, while the Lakewood Blue Claws are affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies. These major league clubs supply the players and coaches to staff the minor league teams. If you go to see them, you’ll be able to watch a handful of players the big league squads consider as prospects as well as a larger number of “organization guys” that are needed to complete the roster.
Each year, some of the “prospects” lose their shine and some of the “organization guys” get pushed out by someone younger or more talented. Independent baseball teams like the ones in the Atlantic League give these displaced players another shot to prove their worth to one of the 30 big league team. Sometimes, it works out — before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he pitched in the playoffs in 2016, Rich Hill spent a summer with the Long Island Ducks. More often, guys just get to keep playing for an extra season or two.
I picked up this card in a trade with Sportsgraphing.com member williemays24. Rich Hill is a 28-year-old lefty who’s spent exactly one full season in the majors, so I think Upper Deck may have been a smidge optimistic when they included him in their 2006 Clear Path To Greatness insert set.
Then again, I’m not sure what the designer at Upper Deck was thinking about when this design was pitched. Like the 2008 Stadium Club Beam Team cards, these are printed on clear plastic. Unlike the Beam Team cards — which look extremely nice in person — I’d argue that the Clear Path to Greatness card looks slightly better in the scan. At least my scanner lid keeps you from looking right through the large image of Hill on the right side of the card.
This is really one of those designs that’s so ugly, I had to get one for my collection. Hill is a nice choice — he’s been extremely friendly to the Mets in his brief career. Twice he’s pitched against New York, and twice he’s lost. Met fans can’t ask for much more from the opposition. 😉