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REVIEW: OYO SPORTSTOYS MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL FIGURES
By Thomas Wheeler

It could be fairly stated that two of the most popular types of toys of all time are action figures, such as G.I. Joe, various super-heroes, etc. as well as building toys, that include Lego, Mega Bloks, and so forth.

In recent years, the two concepts have met on a sort of middle ground. Both Lego and Mega Bloks have produced ever-growing series of small figures, based on popular licensed properties. These figures are very close in basic principles to action figures. They have movable parts, and are also designed to be entirely compatible with the building sets themselves. Everything from Batman, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, Avengers, Power Rangers, and many others have been part of this popular phenomenon, which has been popular enough to even see video games and other media turned out for them.

Well, there's a new player in town -- literally. Called OYO Sportstoys, they're producing an extensive line of figures that are designed to be nicely compatible with most such building toys. But instead of super-heroes, Clone Troopers, or pirates, OYO has turned to the world of professional sports for their inspiration, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to present a preview and a review of their MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL product line.

Now, with all due respect to my longtime place of residence, I'm from the Detroit area to begin with. Admittedly, some of the Motor City's sports teams have not fared all that well in recent years (but hey, how about those Lions in the 2011 season!?). Nevertheless, most of my childhood sports memories are based in Detroit -- including attending Game 3 of the 1968 World Series at Tiger Stadium. You know -- the World Series that the TIGERS WON!!?!

So, from that standpoint, it was an easy call when deciding which Major League Baseball OYO's I wanted -- I wanted Tigers! No offense to fans of any other baseball teams intended. We all have our favorites, and I'm sure OYO will be tending to your teams as well. According to their own press release, They will be producing mini-figures featuring the players and logos of all thirty Major League Baseball teams, under licensing agreements with MLB and the MLB Players Association.

The Generation One 2012 collection will feature players from all the MLB clubs, including such stars as Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Twins catcher Joe Mauer, Angels first baseman Albert Pujois, Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay and Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, among many others, of course.

I have four figures here. A generic baseball player, and three others based on actual Detroit Tigers -- #28 Prince Fielder; #35 Justin Verlander; and #58 Doug Fister.

It's at this point in my figure reviews that I usually present a fairly major backstory on whatever it is I'm reviewing. This time around, I'm going to try to keep that relatively short, and present the most basic look into the Detroit Tigers, and these three players. There is certainly a wealth of information about the team and its players available online and elsewhere.

As a team, the Detroit Tigers are one of the American League's eight charter franchises. The club was founded in Detroit in 1894 as part of the Western League. Detroit is also the only member of the Western League, the AL's minor league predecessor, that remains in its original city under its original name. It was established as a charter member in 1894. The Tigers have won four World Series championships (1935, 1945, 1968, and 1984) and have won the American League pennant 10 times (1907, 1908, 1909, 1934, 1935, 1940, 1945, 1968, 1984, and 2006).

As to these three players. #28 Prince Semien Fielder (born May 9, 1984) is a first baseman for the Tigers. He was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round of the 2002 Major League Baseball Draft out of Eau Gallie High School in Melbourne, Florida, and he played for the Brewers from 2005 through 2011.

He is the son of former first baseman Cecil Fielder. Prince and Cecil Fielder are the only father-son combination in MLB history to each hit 50 home runs in a season. Fielder holds the Brewers' team record for home runs in a season, and is the youngest player to hit 50 home runs in a season. Prince Fielder was the first Brewer to win the Home Run Derby, defeating Nelson Cruz 6–5 in the final round of the 2009 derby in St. Louis.

Following the 2011 World Series, Fielder became a free agent. On January 26, 2012 Fielder agreed to a nine-year contract with the Detroit Tigers to play first base.

On April 5, 2012, Fielder made his debut with the Tigers and singled in his first at bat. Fielder hit his first two home runs as a Tiger on April 7, 2012, in a 10-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

Sounds like the Tigers have a winner with this guy.

#35 Justin Brooks Verlander (born February 20, 1983) is a pitcher with the Tigers.

In 2006, he was named the American League Rookie of the Year. On June 12, 2007, he pitched a no-hitter—the first ever at Comerica Park—against the Milwaukee Brewers, striking out 12 batters and walking four. He pitched a second no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 7, 2011, in Toronto, walking one and facing the minimum 27 batters.

On November 15, 2011, Verlander was named the 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner by a unanimous vote, becoming the first American League pitcher since Johan Santana in 2006 to win the award in such a fashion. On November 21, 2011, Verlander was voted the AL MVP, winning with 280 points over Jacoby Ellsbury's 242, completing a sweep of the Cy Young Award and MVP, a rare feat for a pitcher in the modern era.

He features two fastballs: a four-seamer in the high-90s (which routinely pushes and occasionally eclipses 100 MPH) and a two-seamer in the low- to mid-90s with good swing-back movement. He also throws a 12-6 curveball in the 78–83 mph range, a circle changeup in the low to mid-80s, and a slider which he throws 83–89 mph. Observers frequently note that Verlander's fastball regularly registers in the high-90s, and the velocity of the pitch remains relatively uniform throughout the course of a game. Many attribute Verlander's success to his outstanding endurance.

And #58 Douglas Wildes Fister (born February 4, 1984) is also a pitcher for the Tigers.

Fister bats left-handed, and throws right-handed -- which one would think confuses the heck out of the opposition sometimes. He was born in Merced, California and attended Golden Valley High School. For college, Fister attended Merced College, and later Fresno State University. Fister spent four seasons (2006–2009) in the Seattle Mariners minor league organization before being called-up by the Mariners in 2009.

On July 30, 2011, Fister was traded to the Detroit Tigers along with relief pitcher David Pauley. After his trade to the Tigers, Fister went 8–1 with a 1.79 ERA in 10 starts. He finished the 2011 regular season 11–13, with an ERA of 2.83 that placed him fourth among American League pitchers.

Fister was named the American League Pitcher of the Month for September after going 5–0 with a 0.53 ERA in five starts.

Facing the New York Yankees in the American League Divisional Series, Fister bounced back from a rough game 1 outing to earn the win in the decisive game 5. Fister limited the Yankees to one run on five hits and two walks over five innings in the Tigers 3–2 victory, which sent them to the American League Championship Series.

In Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, he held the Texas Rangers' offense to two runs and going 7 1/3 innings to get the win in a 5-2 Tiger victory.

That's the team, and those are some impressive players.

So, how are the toys? Also very impressive. I know that these types of mini-figures from other companies and other concepts are hugely popular, and it goes without saying that sports memorabilia of any sort is also massively popular. A combination of the two should be a winner. According to what I was told, the owner of the company came up with the idea while attending a professional baseball game with his son, who wanted to buy baseball figures to put in a Lego starship at home.

Long story short, we now have OYO. A friend of mine who saw them described them I think most aptly -- "Starting Line-Up meets Lego". That's not a bad description. You may recall an extremely popular line of figures from several years ago called "Starting Line-Up", that produced well-crafted figure likenesses of popular players from many different professional sports. Those figures remain highly collectible among sports and figure fans to this day, as do their various successors under other names. The Lego comparison is obvious.

The OYO figures are presented in a very attractive and very well-designed package. Each figure comes in a small box measuring 3" x 3-3/4" x 1". It's a nice small size. The nice thing about the size is that the overall shape of the box is nice and even, and the small size of the box means that retailers can stock a generous supply of these toys in a relatively small space.

The front of the box is mostly white, with the OYO and Detroit Tigers logo prominently displayed, along with the shirt, number, player name, and position, right on the front. In the case of the generic figure, his number is "00", and the listing of the name is replaced with the words "Collector Series". Each figure is visible in a small window on the front of the box, fully assembled.

Upon removing the cellophane, you notice that the box is open at the top, and you can remove a green sectioned tray, which includes the figure and all of the various accessories. Each OYO figure comes with a display base -- shaped like home plate, a glove, that can be snapped onto either hand, a small baseball, which is also designed to be snapped onto one of the figure's hands, and a baseball bat, which the figure can hold.

The base of the green tray is also removable. I'm honestly not 100% certain if it was intended to be, but it is, and it has a center peg in the middle of it that's a perfect fit for the peg hole on the bottoms of the figure's feet. A bit of open baseball field, perhaps?

I'm definitely impressed with the storage system. If the cardboard cover is maintained, there's no reason why the small parts like the glove and the baseball should go missing. The tray is very effectively designed.

The figures stand about 1-5/8" in height, and from a basic structural appearance, are very much in keeping with similar figures produced by companies like Lego and Mega Bloks. They have short, cylindrical heads, angular, trapezoid-shaped bodies, squarish legs, relatively stubby feet, and arms out to the sides with round, claw-like hands.

What's impressive, however, is the level of articulation in these figures. It was WAY beyond what I expected. Of course, the heads turn, and the caps are removable. The arms and legs move as well, but there's a lot more than that. The arms are somewhat bent at the elbows, and the elbows pivot! The wrists also turn, and the big surprise to me was that these figures bend at the knees! Heck, I was surprised that they had knees!

The detailing on the figures is superb, especially with regard to uniform details. The Detroit Tigers "D" is proudly emblazoned on white on the front of the dark blue caps -- at about 1/16" in height, but it's still there plain as day. It's just as apparent in dark blue on the front of the white shirt, and the player's number and name are very neatly imprinted on the back. This can't have been the easiest thing in the world when you're dealing with longer names like "Verlander". I was tempted to see if I could find out who had the longest last name in Major League Baseball, but just in case OYO hasn't quite worked that one out yet, I didn't want to depress anybody.

What about player likenesses? Okay -- let's be fair, shall we? These figures are designed to be compatible with other similarly-styled building toys, and the heads are little smooth cylinders. They look as much like the actual players as a Lego Batman does to more realistic versions of the Dark Knight. OYO has done what they can with that, which amounts to matching skin complexion and facial hair. Nicely done, too, I might add. The facial features are more extensive than one would find on a Lego figure, however, as OYO has seen fit to include eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, as well as other appropriate facial characteristics as noted.

One other note -- each OYO figure has its own distinctive "DNA" number, a collectibles' number designated on a holographic foil sticker on the green tray, visible on the outside of the package. Nice little bonus.

So, what's my final word on these? I'm sincerely impressed. What we have here is a collectible figure product that will appeal to two very significant audiences -- sports fans and collectors of this style of figures. And there's no shortage of both of those out there. Not to mention kids that like to build Lego starships when they're not attending baseball games with their dads, that want to see how well their favorite pitcher might fair in a lightsaber duel, or fighting crime in Gotham City, or whatever.

I can't imagine this concept won't be a hit, and I'm sincerely pleased that I have had the opportunity to offer a review of this fine, brand new series. If you're a Major League Baseball fan, or a collectible figure fan, or have kids that are one or the other, then you'll definitely want to track these down.

You should be able to find them at most major retail outlets, but you can also find them online, and for sale, at www.oyosportstoys.com, and at MLB.com. This could be especially useful for tracking down players from multiple teams.

The OYO SPORTSTOYS MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL figures (including, of course, the DETROIT TIGERS) definitely have my highest recommendation!