Where in the world is Rich Ireland?

23 06 2008

It’s funny how much our hobby has changed, thanks largely in part to Bowman Chrome. In the 80’s it would have been an act of blasphemy if you put out a set of cards and left out Jose Canseco. The same could be said about a 90’s set without Ken Griffey Jr. and/or Frank Thomas.

So when exactly did unknown and unproven prospects become more important than stars? Well, the rookie obsession has been around for decades but ever since 1997’s Bowman Chrome debut, not to mention the historic 2001 Bowman Chrome Albert Pujols autograph rookie, it’s become priority number one among almost every collector imaginable, at least in baseball.

So if you are what they hobby refers to as a “Chromie”, you have probably seen it a million times by now. It began with Jose Cruz Jr. and Kerry Wood in 1997 and is still going strong today. There have been many “Can’t Miss” prospects who for one reason or another, missed. For every one Travis Lee, there have been hundreds, if not thousands of collectors who have spent small fortunes on their cards trying to put together the best collection around, only to find their stash worthless in a few years or less.

Tribe Cards recently sent over a package of Florida Marlins cards from 2007 all the way back to 1993. It gave me a chance to do a little reminiscing about the time when I wasn’t a Marlins fan (’93-96), a time when I jumped on the bandwagon (’97, ’03), and the dark ages of everything in between. One thing I couldn’t help but notic is the amount of below-average players we have carried through the years.

Josh Booty, Kurt Abbot, Todd Dunwoody. All of them were Marlins and when they left the team, all pretty much became nomads until finally disappearing from baseball. What that meant was that as much as I enjoyed the package sent, naturally a lot of it went into my commons box. The thing is, while looking through each card as I was filing them away one card grabbed my attention. It was a 1993 Topps Draft Pick card of a player named Rich Ireland who was drafted by the Florida Marlins.

While reading the card bio it shocked me to find out that this guy was not just any regular player but some kind of baseball phenom. He will probably go down as one of the greatest high school players of all-time and yet, no one will ever remember him. Do you?

Did you know that in his Senior year at Crater High School he threw an astonishing three no-hitters? In another game that year, he struck out 19 of 21 batters he faced. Of course, in no time he was drafted to play baseball but lasted just two seasons in the Minors before dropping off the face of the Earth. It’s not like he did terrible in the Minors, either. He actually pitched quite well but then mysteriously, the stats come to an end in 1993, at the tender age of 18.

So much promise, such a bright future and today his cards are rotting away in commons boxes all around the Country. Where in the world is Rich Ireland and why did he give on baseball?

Sadly, the world may never know.


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9 responses

23 06 2008
chemgod

He changed his name to Peyton Manning and now plays football. The resemblance is uncanny.

23 06 2008
AlexT

I was going to post the exact same thing. You got a Peyton Manning Pre-Rookie.

23 06 2008
Cliff

There are so many kids who don’t make it into the Show. As a baseball card collector you become aware of these guys because of all the Draft Picks, Future Prospects, Rookie Cards, and what have you. I often wonder what happens to these guys. If the guy was drafted after 1990, you can sometimes find out, at least, if they had a career. Rich Ireland played two years for the rookie level team the GCL Marlins (1992-93). Of the 30 guys on the 1992 GCL Marlins only 4 ever played in the Bigs, and only one, Edgar Renteria, had a real career. Some of the guys had fairly long minor league careers (one of them is still in the minors). Did the Marlins have that bad of a farm system in the early 1990s? Probably, but that’s pretty dismal performance. 30 guys and only one has a career.

The other three guys were Chris Clapinski, Tony Sanders and Andy Larkin. I actually have a Clapinski card, a 2000 Bowman Draft Pick card. He was drafted in 1992.

24 06 2008
oljoe73

Thank you for taking Josh Booty! Thank you!

He actually had skills as a quarterback before this foray and he had that hot wife pose in Maxim!

Plus – I’m in! I made it to the second round! Nobody took Rickey Weeks!

17 08 2008
Jeff Bernheisel

I went to Crater High School. Rich used to help coach my Babe Ruth team prior to getting drafted. Man he was good…

But yeah, nobody knows where he is, or what he’s up to these days.

23 11 2008
Robert Johnson

Rich Ireland went to the same high school that I went to and he comes from a long line of unfulfilled potential. If I had the arm that Rich did, I would have given up looking for chicks in the back of my best friend Bill’s truck in a comatose demeanor cruising the Medford strip. I saw Rich a few years ago in a softball league and the keg was his best friend. I hope the deal at Gold River distributing was as lucrative as that baseball contract.

11 04 2009
Ryan

I attend high school in Grants Pass, OR. Ireland is the coach of our freshman baseball team and a terrific guy. One of the funniest coaches I have ever played for.

28 05 2009
Ricky

Man, I used to LOVE the Topps Draft Picks from 89-93 (stopped collecting after that), and I bought so many packs that I thought I’d seen them all.. I remember having sometimes over 20 of them from each year.. But I NEVER saw this card, and I’m absolutely positive since I have a photographic memory when it comes to baseball cards.. too funny, lol

16 05 2010
Keith

I have another ’92 draft pick card of Ireland but for some reason he is holding a bat.

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