Thursday, May 16, 2024

2001 Royal Rookies memories

 I was close to my collecting peak in 2002. I was 19, didn’t have a girlfriend, had a 20-25 hour per week job, and still lived at home. While I didn’t realize it at the time, I should’ve taken advantage of it. 

I was just starting to get autographs of players at games and with the job, I blew just about all of my money on packs. With that, and the reasons mentioned in the last paragraph, it led to the perfect storm of finding use for an odd baseball card set. I’m talking about 2001 Royal Rookies. 

I’m not sure if anyone remembers them. I know I vaguely remember the cards. They issued a set in 2000, and I guess had enough people buy their stuff to make them want to issue another one in 2001. I’m not sure if they made a set past that year or not. A Pack to be named Later actually did a post on a pack in 2009. I somehow ended up with a ton of cards from the set and many fond memories as well. 

They basically made cards of minor leaguers with no logos, trying to cash in on rookie hype. The problem was that they had to have only had a license for certain leagues or classes, because most of the guys in the 2001 set were nobodies. I would even venture to say that they only had a license for single-A ball, because in 2002 when I started getting autographs on cards, I only went to low-A Florida State League games, and I got a few Royal Rookies cards signed at those games, and when I went to some double-A games in 2003, I got more Royal Rookie cards signed. 

I don’t really remember opening any packs of the 2001 product, although when I did an eBay search, the pack looked familiar. I’m almost 100% positive that I never saw them in packs at Wal-Mart or Target. It’s kind of a mystery on how I obtained the cards, because the 2001 ‘Futures’ set which I remember the most, has 40 cards, and I believe I have all but 2 or 3 of them. The only way I think I probably got the cards are from repacks. I just don’t remember getting that many repacks in 2002 or 2003. Sure, I got a few of those ones that promised a jersey card or autograph, but those only had like 1 or 2 packs in them. I must’ve purchased a whole bunch more than I thought. I feel like the Royal Rookies cards are the Triple Play of todays repacks. The packs everyone gets a few of in a repack but that nobody wants. Not that they didn’t try to be a good product. They had parallels, inserts, and even autographs. It’s just that very few of the guys in the set turned out to even get to the majors, let alone become a household name. Miguel Cabrera was the only exception to the rule, but you can get lucky every once in a while. 

The parallel set was just a copy of the regular card with ‘Limited Edition’ stamped on it in a kind of foil like Topps would use on its Gold parallel borders from 2002-2014. The autographs were a little different, and you’ll see that a little later. 

However crappy the set may seem, I have some fond memories of getting autographs on cards in the set. 

Bryan Schmack was in spring training with Detroit in 2003, and he signed his card for me, and as he signed it, he mentioned the photo wasn’t him. 

Lee Gardner was another guy I got during spring training for the Tigers. He mentioned that he grew his goatee specifically for the card, which gives me the impression that the guys in the set knew they were going to be in it beforehand. 

Simons Pond is the one I remember most. He was playing low-A ball with the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2002. They played the Lakeland Tigers, and I attended a game in Lakeland. Normally, Lakeland would play in Joker Marchand Stadium, a Major League sized stadium, which was spring training home of the Detroit Tigers. In 2002, the park was going through some repairs, so they played their home games at Henley Field, home of the Lakeland High School baseball team. On normal games at Joker Marchant, the Lakeland Tigers would draw 200-400 people, if that. The noise would carry some, but you could still hear people heckling or whatever even with the big size of the ballpark. Henley Field was smaller, had bleacher seats, was mostly made from wood, and the sound carried there. I got Simon Pond to sign his Royal Rookies card before the game, and one inning, he was playing 3rd base, and a Tiger batter hit a line drive that Pond dove for and missed. Right after he missed the ball, Pond let out an F-bomb that the whole stadium heard. Some old guy, probably in his 70’s, shouts out ‘Hey #35!! Watch your mouth!!!’  It was just funny to hear Pond and then the old fart scolding him. 

The last one is off a guy who went to the same school as me, Sheldon Fulse. From 2nd through 5th grade, I went to Temple Christian School in Lakeland, Florida. I only have the yearbook from my 2nd grade year, but Sheldon has a photo in it. He was in 4th grade. 
Fortunately for you, I started attending Temple after the yearbook pictures were taken. Sheldon went to George Jenkins High School, and I went to their rival Lakeland High. Sheldon got drafted in 1999 by Seattle, and moved on to the Red Sox in 2003. That year, he played at low-A Sarasota, and I went to a series in Lakeland, but he was injured and didn’t make the trip, so I couldn’t get his Royal Rookies card signed. In 2004, he got a card in ‘04 Bowman, as well as ‘04 Bowman Chrome. While 2008 was his last year in pro ball, I would still get to meet him in 2010. That year, in the spring, former pro Rob Ducey had a brilliant idea, and held a pro free agent camp, designed for guys who were free agents to showcase their skills and hopefully get signed. It was an autograph haven for me, as I got autographs from ‘coaches’ helping with the event like Cecil Fielder, Heathcliff Slocumb, Pat Hentgen, and Ducey himself. I also got autographs of many of the free agents, including Tim Raines, Jr., Pete LaForest, and a guy I have a yearbook photo of, Sheldon Fulse. 
I wonder if the Boras 4 would’ve signed with a team quicker had Ducey had a camp now?  Hats off to Ducey for having the idea, and I will always remember how kind he was. He not only responded back within hours to an email I sent him regarding if I could try to get autographs at the event, but he also sought me out after the players and coaches had finished eating and offered for me to get in line and grab some of the bbq sandwiches they had for the players and coaches to eat for lunch. Just a stand up guy. 
Anyways, I don’t think Fulse remembered me from grade school, but he signed the Royal Rookies card. Later, I purchased a certified version, and you can see the difference between the two in the photo up top. Same back, but the autograph and serial number stuff on the front. Looks like after pro ball, Sheldon became a physical therapist and offers coaching clinics

That’s all I have as far as memories of the set. I darn near got half of the set autographed with all of the A and AA games I went to in 2002 and 2003. So any of you guys remember the set or if you’ve seen packs in the wild at Wal-Mart or Target?  Are there crappy sets like this that you can’t help but love because of fond memories?

Life has been different and challenging the last few weeks. Karens mom is officially living with us. I could bitch about that all day, but I’ll save that for my coworkers. Karen was in the hospital again with basically the same problems as last time. There was good news, as they got her hooked up with an infusion center who handles tough insurance circumstances, and Karen will now get her ivig infusions at the center and insurance will cover it. Hopefully this will help her not get knocked out so bad every time she gets a cold and hopefully help with the breathing. 

As far as cards, most of my cards are uploaded to TCDB. There are random highlights cards and non-baseball sets I didn’t add, but I’m ok with that right now. I have been working at putting all of my cards from monster boxes into binders now, and have finished Arizona and Atlanta, and am at 1996 with the Cubs. Interestingly, from what I’ve observed, I think I might have enough 9 pocket pages, but might run out of binders, and will probably have to figure out another storage system because I have a bunch of empty binders stacked on top of each other on a desk, but once they are filled with cards, it will be tough to find a binder that I need if they are stacked and the one I need is on the bottom. It is still loads of fun getting to put the cards into binders and made the TCDB project worth it. I’m just not as young as I was when I went to school with Sheldon or when I got most of my Royal Rookies cards, so my arms and hands get tired easier. It’s relaxing, though, so I’ll work through the pain. With the TCDB project done, I might go on there and try to make some trades. It might be a little disappointing to land a card from 1980 that will go in the front of a team binder that I finished updating, but that’s the process, and I’ll have plenty of empty monster boxes to fill with cards until they get full enough to call for an update, which might be a few years down the road. There are just a few more weeks of school left, and once Kyler is out, he should be going to day care and they stay open until 6 PM, so I might use a few days off during the week in the summer to swing over to Ocala and dig through trade boxes at Johnny’s Trading Spot’s HQ, and probably do some trading in DeLand with my friend Jim, another guy who probably has a ton of Royal Rookie cards autographed. I also have my birthday coming up, and I’m really looking forward to the Rays game and having the next day to take our time getting home. Maybe I’ll check out a card shop in Tampa or go to a nice steakhouse. I kind of want to make a sign for the game. Either ‘It’s my 41st birthday tomorrow and the only present I want is to meet Randy Arozarena’ or ‘The only thing worse than Rob Manfraud is Stuart $ternberg not spending money on the Rays!  I want a championship in my lifetime, not 20 Wild Card banners!’  I think the latter one will be nice as I don’t expect the Rays to be in the hunt for anything by then. Maybe in 2025 if no starting pitchers get injured and Arozarena isn’t traded. Anyways, June is going to be a nice month and really after all of the crap that’s went on during the first part of the year, I was honestly just hanging on for the summer. It’s going a little better now, so hopefully it’s a nice rest of the year. Series 2 Topps and 2024 Donruss should come out around then as well, so it could be a fun birthday trip. I’m hoping to get my hands on a blaster of Bowman the next time I’m at Wal-Mart or Target, but we’ll see how full the shelves are. I could probably go for another blaster of Heritage, but I’ll keep my paws off of Series 2 and wait for the complete set. 
Thanks for checking out my latest post. 


  1. was never a fan, I still see them in the cheap boxes though.

  2. I've got Royal Rookies autos of three major leaguers--just recently picked up Hank Blalock for a dollar, got Marlon Byrd but I'm not sure how much I paid, and JJ Putz I actually found in a dime box!

  3. A. Don't think I've opened any packs (but if I did... they were most like from Fairfield repacks), but I'm sure I have singles laying around in my collection somewhere.

    B. That yearbook with Fulse is cool. Maybe it's a sign that you should become a super collector of his cards.

    C. Glad to hear there's some good news with your wife.

  4. Hey Jeremy... can you email me your mailing address? I have that Clear Travel Kohl for you... along with some Rays.