Speakeasy, spa, card signings await MLB at Topps Spot house in Scottsdale

Tucked deep into Scottsdale is a rented 10,000 square-foot, three-story mansion, where thousands of baseball cards wait to be signed by more than 160 ballplayers who are in the Phoenix area for spring training.

Throughout the hallways, the walls are decorated in poster-sized baseball cards of current (and former) baseball players. Elsewhere, there's a private underground speakeasy for players to open Topps Series 1 packs.

This is the "Topps Spot," and it's the second year where the longtime trading card company has arranged an event to give players the opportunity for a respite from the spring training grind. The idea is to offer players a relaxing environment to sign baseball cards that will later be distributed in Topps series packs. While there, the players can partake in the many amenities.

On Monday, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. arrived in his purple BMW, matching his purple hair. DBacks prospect Gino Groover, an infielder drafted in the second round last year, also showed up. Pitcher Bryan Hudson, acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers from the Los Angeles Dodgers last month, also was on hand Monday, the first day the house was opened for the week-long event.

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"At spring training, it's a really kind of big touch point for us and the players," said Kevin Eger, the senior director of talent licensing and authentics for Fanatics, which owns Topps. "We really kind of just wanted to leverage the opportunity. ... Getting these guys to sign their cards, we wanted to just make it a seamless experience."

In the backyard, players can lounge out by the pool, grab a complimentary haircut or even play baseball-themed "putt-putt."

Amid numerous food and drink stations, sits a giant silver baseball glove called the "Chrome Throne," where players and their families can pose for a quick photo. Other amenities include a gym, movie theater, spa, soaking tub and steam room, all available to players and their families. And a secret underground speakeasy features a prominent poster-sized Ken Griffey Jr. baseball card on the wall.

Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Gino Groover signs his card at Topps Spot card signing house in Scottsdale on Feb. 19, 2024.
Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Gino Groover signs his card at Topps Spot card signing house in Scottsdale on Feb. 19, 2024.

Last year was the first that Topps organized this vibrant atmosphere. Previously, these card signings were held in small, lifeless hotel rooms. Players wanted to sign then quickly leave.

Now, given the amenities and interactive atmosphere, players stay and sign hundreds to thousands of cards. Although 160 player invites were sent, the goal is for word of mouth to attract more ballplayers to visit the Topps Spot through this Friday, all while building a relationship with the company.

"We sent out 160 invites, so that's what we're hoping for. But it could evolve throughout the week," Eger said. "As long as we have a highlight agreement with that player to sign cards, we're more than happy to have these guys come through. Basically, we don't want to say no to anybody.

"If players want to come through and hang out with us and sign cards, by all means, yes. You could come through and we'll have a seat at a table for you guys."

Games near the pool at the Topps Spot card signing house in Scottsdale on Feb. 19, 2024.
Games near the pool at the Topps Spot card signing house in Scottsdale on Feb. 19, 2024.

Each player has a Topps employee who meets with them as they sign, ensuring the authentication of these autographs.

A major addition to this year's house is a room for a Fanatics Collectibles' e-commerce platform, Fanatics Live. On the app, numerous collectors spend up to eight hours live in the Topps Spot opening up boxes of trading cards. Such live opening events have become a major feature of trading card enthusiasts in recent years.

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Dozens of players have joined the breakers on Fanatics Live, opening Topps packs and answering questions. On Monday, ESPN's Tim Kurkjian opened packs and gave insight on the players of the cards he was pulling.

With the way the Cactus League is set up (15 teams are spread out across the Valley), a reasonable distance between the teams allows Topps to hold this event in Arizona. Florida is a different story. The Grapefruit League - also consisting of 15 teams - is so spread out that a task like this becomes difficult.

Pool area at the Topps Spot card signing house in Scottsdale on Feb. 19, 2024.
Pool area at the Topps Spot card signing house in Scottsdale on Feb. 19, 2024.

However, unlike 2023 where the idea of holding a signing event in Florida was dropped, a ballroom-type signing event will be held in the next month across four towns - Tampa Bay, Jupiter, Fort Myers and Sarasota - over the course of a week. Yet the possibility of a "Topps Spot" in Florida is a possibility.

"Just because everything's so spread out, it's kind of hard to execute. It's something that I think we'll continue to evaluate," Eger said. "We'll probably do a post mortem this past year in Florida and see how successful were we; Were we able to get guys out? What are the challenges? Try to understand some of the challenges and benefits of having an event like that. It's definitely on the table."

While Topps Spot primarily showcases top prospects and rookies for its Topps Chrome Baseball packs, the flagship product for Topps' packs specifically for autographs, major league veterans and, in some cases, hall of famers visit Topps Spot as well. It's an event for everyone, though not open to the public.

"When you have all of these guys together, it's like creating this sense of fraternity," Eger said. "Like most of these guys are rookies or top prospects, and they all are signing. When you know that you're a part of something bigger with a group, it kind of helps get through this stuff a little bit easier.

"Obviously, seeing your card for the first time is always something that's really special, a sign that you've made it. It's cool to get to be with the guys and see their reaction when they see like some of their cards for the first time."

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Topps Spot offers inclusive card-signing experience for MLB players