Ronald Acuna Jr. named 2024 Topps Series One athlete


Storied trading card and collectible company Topps — acquired by global sports conglomerate Fanatics in January 2022 — announced Monday that Atlanta Braves star and reigning NL MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. will be the cover star of 2024 Topps Series One.

The set’s official release date is Feb. 14.

“It’s humbling and crazy to think about [kids getting introduced to the hobby and baseball and seeing me],” Acuña told ESPN via an interpreter. “I never thought someone would want a piece of my jersey or my autograph — and to think it would be worth money and wanted is even more of a reason for me to try harder each and every day.”

Acuña was born in La Guaira, Venezuela, into a baseball family. His father, Ronald Acuña, was an outfielder for eight minor league seasons (mostly with the New York Mets) and his grandfather, Romualdo Blanco, pitched six seasons in the Mets and San Diego Padres organizations.

“Back home, [collecting] isn’t too popular; everyone is more focused on watching the game or making it out and playing in the league,” Acuña said. “All I knew was making it out of the streets and to be on a baseball card one day.”

Fanatics Collectibles’ president of trading cards, David Leiner, notes while being a cover athlete for Madden means contending with a curse, being a Topps Series One cover star has been a positive harbinger. Former cover figures Juan Soto finished second in NL MVP voting in 2021, Shohei Ohtani finished second in AL MVP voting and fourth in Cy Young voting in 2022, and Julio Rodriguez finished fourth in AL MVP voting before turning 23.

“You want a star that’s going to resonate nationally, somebody fun, exciting … [Ronald] transcends baseball,” Leiner said. “He’s 26, a very young 26 — just had a 40-40 season with 73 stolen bases. He’s still part of this youth movement in baseball; I can’t remember a time there’s been a more exciting selection of young players across the entire league.”

Since his MLB debut in 2018, Acuña is one of four major leaguers with 500 hits, 500 runs, 150 homers and a .900 OPS along with Soto, Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. Acuña has played 106, 84 and 186 fewer games respectively in that span, en route to Rookie of the Year and MVP awards and a World Series victory.

Acuña wasn’t a collector growing up, though one of his favorite pictures of his grandfather is from a baseball card. That’s changed now.

“I keep the most monumental moments of my career and display them in my room — my first hit and home run balls, [the] 2017 Futures Game jersey, 70th stolen base and uniform, 40th home run ball — items like that,” Acuña said. “I also like displaying jerseys of other athletes I have respect for or that are my friends [like] Fernando Tatis Jr., Jose Reyes, Miguel Cabrera, Nikola Jokic, [Stephen] Curry, Dame Lillard, Ja Morant.”

Acuña admitted he was shocked by how his collectability was impacted by on-field productivity — or lack thereof.

“I couldn’t believe how low my cards sold for when I had a torn ACL,” Acuña said. “For most people, it’s a hobby or an investment — but people were still buying [when I was hurt]. Now it makes sense; I hope I gave everyone a great return after last season. Business is business.”

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