In the Cards: 1994 Medicine Hat Blue Jays

By IAN WILSON

When you leaf through old minor-league baseball cards, it’s common to wonder, “Who are these guys?”

If you’re looking through rookie-level sets, that feeling is often even more pronounced. “No really, who ARE these guys!?”

That’s what makes this 1994 In The Cards edition of the Medicine Hat Blue Jays special – it’s got true star power. The 30-card set, made by Sports Pro and photographed by Gaines DuVall, includes images of a number of Major League Baseball (MLB) players and an elite pitcher. It also includes a strong contingent of minor league and MLB coaching talent.

Headlining the Baby Jays that season was 19-year-old Chris Carpenter, who would go on to win two World Series titles with the St. Louis Cardinals and a National League (NL) Cy Young Award in 2005. A total of 30,028 fans went to Athletic Park to watch Carpenter and the Jays assemble a 36-36 record in the Pioneer League that year.

As for the cards themselves, the layout and look on the front is fine. Despite some fairly standard bat-and-glove poses, the photos are in focus and you can clearly see the faces of the coaches and players. The ball caps look terrific, although I’m not quite sure what serves as the backdrop of these pictures – perhaps they were going for a Hall of Justice from SuperFriends type of feel.

The big letdown for the cards – which are a bit too thin – can be found on the back. First, there’s no statistical information to provide clues about each player’s talent level. Second, there’s that dainty font accompanying the biographical data. With the bold look on the rest of the card, that gets lost in the mix. Generally speaking, there’s just not much there to educate fans about the person. However, it looks like TD Bank got full value for their sponsorship, so there’s that.

Alright, let’s have a closer look at the cards:

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Shortstop Kevin Witt (centre) had reasons to smile in 1994. The 18-year-old led Medicine Hat in home runs, with seven, and finished third on the team in runs RBI with 36 over 60 games. Witt was a first-round pick of Toronto’s in the ’94 draft when he was selected 28th overall. The lefthanded hitter ended up playing 20 games for the big-league club, registering his first career MLB home run in 1999. Witt played 126 more games for the San Diego Padres, Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays, before finishing his playing days in Japan in 2007.  He later became a hitting coach in the Miami Marlins organization.
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Dominican-born outfielder Felix Rosario (bottom right) put together a solid season with the Baby Jays. He played in 61 games for Medicine Hat and topped the team in stolen bases with 17. The 6-foot-3 speedster also batted .288, scored 49 runs and smacked six long balls. The highest level of baseball Rosario reached was low A with the St. Catharines Blue Jays in 1995. He later played in the Seattle Mariners system – his final season was 1998 as a member of the Arizona Mariners.
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Fresh-faced Chris Carpenter (middle left) was the ace of the Medicine Hat Blue Jays, putting together a 6-3 record with a 2.76 ERA and a team-best 80 strikeouts over 84.2 innings in 1994. The 6-foot-6 righthander from New Hampshire – who was a 15th overall pick of Toronto’s in the 1993 draft – had an outstanding MLB career. He played 15 seasons with the Blue Jays and the Cardinals, going 144-94 with a 3.76 ERA and 1,697 Ks in 2,220 innings in the majors. In addition to his two World Series rings and his Cy Young award, Carpenter was a three-time All Star and the winner of the NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2009. The fierce postseason performer is also a member of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.
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Edmonton pitcher Mike Johnson (bottom right) had an OK season with Medicine Hat, going 1-3 with a 4.46 ERA during 36.1 innings. The righty improved on those numbers when he returned to the Gas City in 1995, going 4-1 with three saves and a 3.86 ERA over 49 frames. Johnson had a lengthy career playing professional baseball. He pitched 218 MLB innings, mostly for the Montreal Expos, before continuing on at the Triple-A level in the Pacific Coast League for several years, including a 2004 season with the Edmonton Trappers. He stuck around in Alberta’s provincial capital between 2007 and 2010, suiting up for the independent league Edmonton Cracker-Cats and Capitals.
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Joe Young (lower left) never made it to the majors but the Fort McMurray product was once a very promising prospect for the Blue Jays. The 6-foot-4 righty, who also played in the Western Hockey League in the early 1990s, posted a 3-5 record with a 5.35 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 70.2 innings pitched for Medicine Hat in 1994. Young later played Double-A baseball for the Knoxville Smokies, but he retired from baseball in 2000 after injuries got the better of him. He was elected to Fort McMurray’s Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
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There were three Smiths on the Medicine Hat roster in 1994, but only pitcher Brian Smith (top left) was fortunate enough to break through to the major leagues. The North Carolina native threw 64 innings for the Pioneer League franchise, appearing in 20 games and starting five of them. He compiled a 5-4 record with four saves, a 3.38 ERA and 53 strikeouts. Smith played pro ball for a decade and appeared in three games with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2000.
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After working as a manager in the Appalachian League, the South Atlantic League, and with the Butte Copper Kings of the Pioneer League in the 1980s, Hal Dyer (left) resurfaced with Medicine Hat, serving as the team’s pitching coach in 1993 and 1994. As a player, Dyer was a catcher and first baseman in the Florida State League in the early 1960s.
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It’s not often you see a blank offering as part of a set of baseball cards, but that’s what #30 is. Instead of including a checklist, the blank card (right) was presumably included so kids could get it autographed by players. Or maybe children could attach their own picture to the card and become a part of the team? Regardless, it’s a bit of an oddity.

Thanks for looking through this set with us. We encourage you to leave a comment about the players and cards below.

We are currently developing an online digital archive of Alberta baseball card sets with our In The Cards series. If you have baseball cards you’d like to donate – or lend – to our cause, please email us at AlbertaDugoutStories@gmail.com with more information and to make arrangements.

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