NEW YORK -- That shimmering burst of sunlight as you crack open the year's first foil pack of cards: for fans of all ages, it belongs right alongside melting snow and those equipment trucks rolling toward Arizona and Florida as a sure sign that baseball is here.
Spring arrived a little early at Topps' Manhattan headquarters on Wednesday, where the company unveiled its anticipated Series 1 set for 2015. It includes the final card for Derek Jeter, who is shown joyously leaping after his final Yankee Stadium hit and has been listed as the set's first card.
"Usually card No. 1 is designated for somebody very special," said Clay Luraschi, Topps' vice president of product development. "Being a New York company and being that Derek was the captain of the New York Yankees, we felt that card No. 1 should be Derek Jeter this year. We captured him, I think, perfectly on this card."
Luraschi said that months of debate took place behind closed doors to select the players, layouts and photos for Series 1's 350 cards, calling each a "family decision." But once Jeter lined that game-winning single against the Orioles last Sept. 25, the Topps decision-makers realized they had their iconic moment.
"Jeter is up there with a handful of guys in the history of baseball, and we wanted to celebrate that," said Matthew Perrone, Topps' senior brand manager. "Commemorating that final season and choosing the photo was a painstaking process, and literally everyone had an opinion. I think once we gathered everything and put all the options together, the choice was obvious."
With Series 2 scheduled to be released in June, the resulting 700-card set will be Topps' largest in a decade. Luraschi describes it as a mix of the present and the past, with some pop culture sprinkled in.
To that point, the set includes 15 celebrity "First Pitch" cards captured during the 2014 season, including rapper 50 Cent's unforgettable first pitch before a Mets game at Citi Field, as well as rapper Macklemore wearing a Mariners jersey, actor Jeff Bridges on the mound at Dodger Stadium and rocker Eddie Vedder with the Cubs.
"Even if you're not a trading-card collector or a big baseball fan, you might be interested in checking out these cards," Luraschi said.
A random assortment of packs did not disappoint, revealing treats like autographs, game-used equipment and decades-old cards that were bought back by Topps and reinserted into circulation, having somehow avoided the dangers of bicycle spokes or Mom's spring cleaning.
One unique twist is a "Baseball History" subset that combines historic moments with on-field feats: for example, Sandra Day O'Connor being sworn in as the first female Supreme Court Justice on Sept. 21, 1981, the same day that Steve Carlton broke the National League strikeout record.
"We're a company that chronicles pop culture, and we've been doing that for 75 years," Luraschi said. "When we release products, we're not only telling the story of the game of baseball. We're telling the story of Americana. Baseball always has a tie into something, and that's the beautiful thing about this game."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.