Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Training: Part Two

          On Friday afternoon I made the five hour trip to Goodyear, Arizona for my second and final trip to Spring Training. This was my third straight year of going to Spring Training, but this was the first year I made two trips out. My first trip in late February produced massive numbers for me, and I was able to get a total of almost 400 autographs in just four days (You can read about that trip by clicking here) and I was hoping to produce similar numbers in my three days down in AZ this time. While I still did good, I came to a conclusion that the earlier you go to Spring Training, the better.

Day 1 (3/16/13):

          I had a booked schedule for my first day in Arizona. All in all I had planned on visiting four different stadiums in the Phoenix area. To start the day off I went to Camelback Ranch in Glendale for the Chicago White Sox's morning practice. My main goal of the day was to get Paul Konerko's autograph, as well young pitching sensation Chris Sale. However that hope were shot down after I found out that Sale would be starting that afternoon against the Athletics. The first autograph I got was from Gavin Floyd. Floyd was just hanging out and was kind enough to come over and sign for the 30 or so fans waiting. Gavin was kind enough to sign a pair of cards for me.

          Dayan "The Tank" Viciedo also came over to sign after he was done practicing. I got Viciedo's autograph on a pair of cards last season when the Sox came to Anaheim, but was happy to get his autograph again on his brand new 2013 Topps Heritage card.

          I for one really like the new design for the Heritage cards. I have heard a lot of collectors rant about how they hate the design, but I really like it. In fact it is probably one of my favorite Heritage designs since Topps began making the set (2012 and 2010 are also pretty nice). Anyways, back to autographs. Paul Konerko came over and signed some autographs on my side after practice was over. I waited patiently as Paul worked his way down the line, then, after he signed the guy's 8x10 right next to me, he stopped signing, walked another five feet down, and started signing again. Okay, so then I went down to where he was NOW signing and was in perfect position. Paul reached out to grab my ball, but right then, some 30 year old guy reached out over my shoulder and yelled "Paul, this is for my kids!". Paul stuttered, then picked up his ball instead and signed it. It didn't bug me too much at the time since I was right there, so instead I just asked Paul how his day was going and he said "Pretty good, I'm going to go eat lunch now" then handed the ball back to the guy and left. I was disappointed to say the least. I sure hope that guys' kids were at home, because there wasn't any kids near him after he went back to his original spot. Luckily Robin Ventura cheered things up, as he came over to talk to some friends and was kind enough to sign for fans who waited.

          Robin signed the 2013 Heritage card (left) at practice and then signed the 1998 Topps (right) inside the stadium before the game started. Inside the stadium I was able to get quite a few other autographs as well, including Alexei Ramirez, White Sox legend Harlod Baines, and former CY Young winner Jake Peavy.

          Then Konerko started signing again but way down the line from where I was standing. Game time was less than 10 minutes away and I thought all hope was lost. But then Paul decided to come down near where I was waiting, and signed some more autographs. He kept getting closer and I was afraid that he would skip me again, but I guess the third time really is the charm as Paul grabbed my baseball, signed it across the sweetspot, and then signed for one more person before running back into the dugout.

          I had basically gotten 90% of the players that I needed at Camelback, so I decided to head over to Maryvale to catch the Brewers' starters as they got pulled out of the game. As for the morning at Camelback, here are my final results...

White Sox:
Jose Quintana- 4/4
Steve Tolleson- 4/4
Trayce Thompson- 3/3
Jesse Crain- 3/3
Gavin Floyd- 3/3
Angel Sanchez- 3/3
Keon Barnum- 3/3
Connor Gillespi- 2/2
Josh Bell- 3/3
Duante Heath- 2/2
Matt Lindstrom- 2/2
Dayan Viciedo- 1/4
Jordan Danks- 2/2
David Purcey- 2/2
Robin Ventura- 2/2
Brent Morel- 1/3
Jake Peavy- 1/4
Alexei Ramirez- 1/3
Gordon Beckham- 1/8
Harold Baines- 1/4

Total: 44 autographs

          I got to Maryvale around the third inning and walked around the stadium a bit to scout things out. Most of the Brewers starters were in except for Braun and Lucroy, who were coming back from Florida after serving on team U.S.A. in the World Baseball Classic. When the players came out of the game they basically had to walk right by you or take the elevator to get to the clubhouse, but many of them just ignored out requests. In fact I was a bit surprised by how the Brewers were not even acknowledging their fans even the slightest bit. In the end I only came away with a few autographs, all of them coaches except for one.

Mike Gonzalez- 3/3
Lee Tunnell- 3/3
Marcus Hanel- 2/2
Ron Roenicke- 1/6

Total: 9 autographs, thanks Brewers

          The only Reds player I got was Todd Fraizer. I actually had no clue who the Brewers were playing due to a lack of homework. I had a lot of Reds cards in the car but they weren't organized so I just sat there and watched a few Reds players walk right by feeling like an idiot. Luckily I traded a fellow grapher for the Fraizer card and got it signed just moments later. Thanks to Todd and the grapher who traded me the card.

          I put the bad numbers from Maryvale behind me and headed over to Packaard Stadium in Tempe for the ASU baseball game. ASU features a pair of guys who have been on past U.S.A. teams, Ryan Burr and Trevor Williams, and also has a coach who formerly played on the San Francisco Giants back in the early 1990's, Mike Benjamin. I got to the stadium about an hour before game time and found Trevor Williams quickly. He was kind enough to sign his new 2012 U.S.A. card for me.

          I then found Burr, who was standing over in the ASU bullpen, and called him over. Ryan was as cool as could be and signed all 13 of my cards. We talked for a while as he was signing the cards, apparently his favorite team is the Rockies, and with their need for pitching, he could very well end up in Colorado at some point in his career.

          Benjamin stayed in the dugout the entire time and apparently you weren't allowed to go near the dugout unless you had seats in that area, which I did not. So I left after getting Williams and Burr and headed back to Goodyear to see if I could catch the Indians by their parking lot. It ended up being a pretty bad night for autographs and a majority of the players either avoided coming near the fans or just denied our requests. I ended up coming away with just a few autographs.

Nick Hagadone- 3/3
Rich Hill- 3/3
Eziquel Carrera- 4/4
Sandy Alomar Jr.- 1/4

Total: 11 autographs

          I then made the short drive back to my aunt's house and rested up for what would be another long day of Cactus League graphing.

Day 2 (3/17/13):

          For the second straight day I had a packed schedule. I planned on visiting three stadiums (2 of which fore sure) and then hang out in Phoenix for a bit. I had a rough time waking up after a bit of a rough night's sleep, but was able to make it out to Surprise just as the practice field gates were opening. I decided to try the Royals this morning since I was almost sure that the Rangers side would be crazy due to it being Spring Break for most of the Texas schools. Plus I had planned on graphing part of the Rangers split-squad later in the afternoon. As for the Royals, most of the major leaguers didn't sign. I had heard great things about this complex, but was surprised by the lack of accessibility, at least on the Royals side. However I was able to get a few minor leaguers over by the minor league fields, which were actually very accessible and a great place to get autographs. The main guy of the day to sign was Mike Moustakas, who took the time to come over and sign for everyone. Mike is one of my favorite young players. In fact I witnessed his MLB debut as well as his first MLB home run in person at Angel Stadium. I got Moustakas a couple of times this past season in Anaheim, but was happy to get him a another pair of cards.

         Like I said above, the majority of the players that I got sigs from were minor leaguers who didn't get the invite to big league camp, so not much to point out specifically other than Moustakas.

John Lamb- 4/4
Mike Moustakas- 2/4
Cheslor Cuthbert- 3/3
Sam Selman- 2/2
Brian Brickhouse- 1/1
Doug Henry- 3/3

Total: 15 autographs

          I thought about checking out the Rangers' minor league game on the other side of the complex, but decided to head out to Peoria instead to catch Felix Hernandez, who was pitching in a minor league game.

          "The King" was scheduled to pitch four innings over at the Peoria minor league fields, which are very accessible for autographs. Apparently the Mariners didn't want the Rangers to be able to see Felix live since they will face him many times during the regular season, so instead they had him pitch against Single-A batters. A few other graphers as well as myself waited until Felix completed his four innings, and then tried to predict where he would come out. He ended up taking a cart out the right field wall and met up with his wife and kids who had came out to watch. Seeing that he had his family with him, I was almost certain that he wouldn't sign. Indeed, I was correct and Felix speed off in the cart. So after being denied by Felix, I went inside the game and attempted to get some of the starters as they got pulled.

          A majority of the Rangers big names were with the other half of the split squad at another ballpark, however the Mariners had almost all of their starters in the game, and a majority of them signed as they got pulled. Overall I was able to get some quality autographs, including two from Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley, who for some reason has been my "white whale" since he got the call-up.

          As for the rest of the day at Peoria, here are some photographs followed by the numbers. As you can see it was once again quality over quantity, which began to become a trend this time down.

Michael Kirkman- 4/4
Joe Nathan- 2/5 (signed for everyone)
Evan Meek- 3/3
Konrad Schmidt- 1/1

Total: 10 autographs

Jason Bay- 4/4
Blake Beavan- 2/3
Brad Miller- 4/4
Dustin Ackley- 2/4
Franklin Gutierrez- 2/4

Total: 14 autographs

          Since it was Sunday, there were no actual night games going on. Instead the latest game started at 3:05 between the Rockies and the Giants in Scottsdale. I headed over to Scottsdale and got there just seconds before the last out, but I ended up just turning around after seeing well over 200 fans waiting by the player's parking lot. So I just decided to go downtown and enjoy a nice dinner at the TGIF's inside of Chase Field. If any of you ever get a chance to go to Arizona and are looking for a place to eat, you have to go to this place. The restaurant is open every night and you can even sit on the left field deck over looking the entire ballpark. Plus it is filled with tons of memorabilia like signed jerseys, baseballs, photos, and even the sign "Front Row" sign that Mark McGwire broke with a monstrous home run. It is definitely something you have to see if you are in the area.

Day 3 (3/18/13):

          For my third and final day in Arizona I decided to head back to Goodyear for the Indians morning practice. I had three main goals for the day, the first two were to get Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, who had alluded me to that point, as well as Jason Giambi, who will most likely retire if he does not make the Opening Day roster for Cleveland. To assure that my final day wouldn't be a bust, I decided to wake up early, and I mean early, to try and catch some players coming in. Luckily I was the only person crazy enough to wait that early on a Monday morning and was able to get a few of the Indians coming in including one of my Twitter followers, Scott Kazmir, Jason Kipnis and Vinnie Pestano.

          It seemed like no time before 9:00 rolled around and the practice fields gates opened. I went inside with my three main goals of Swisher, Bourn and Giambi still in-tact and was hoping to knock at least one of them out at morning practice. Sure enough I was able to knock not  only one, but two of my main goals out by getting both Giambi and Bourn.

          As an added bonus I was also able to get skipper Terry Francona on a 2007 Allen and Ginter card. Terry used to be a terrible signer when he was manager of the Red Sox and even last year when he was a broadcaster on ESPN, but has surprisingly been signing away this Spring. Maybe "Tito" is just happy to have a job again. 

          Overall it was a great start to the morning, and I headed over to the main stadium in hopes of getting some of the Brewers. Unfortunately the Brewers were pretty stingy today as well. The big names that signed were Rickie Weeks, Aoki, and Carlos Gomez, however they all signed at once and I couldn't get any of their autographs. In the end I was able to scratch out a few players and coaches.

Caleb Gindl- 3/3
Taylor Green- 3/3
Logan Schafer- 1/4
John Shelby- 3/3
Ron Roenicke- 1/5

Total: 11 autographs, once again, thanks Brewers (sarcasm)

          I then headed back to the practice facility to catch the minor league game between the Reds and the Indians. Since I was over by the Indians parking lot, I was also hoping to be able to call over Nick Swisher after he got pulled out of the game. As for the minor league game, I ended up doing pretty good. I also got a surprise as Mark Prior ended up pitching an inning with his newest organization, the Reds. I didn't have any cards of Prior, but luckily another grapher gave me a 2007 Topps to get signed.

Fernando Nieve- 3/3
Tony Wolters- 3/3
Mike McDade- 3/3
Tim Fedroff- 2/2
Jeremy Hermida- 1/8

Total: 12 autographs

Ryan LaMarre- 1/1
Mark Prior- 1/1

Total: 2 autographs

          Then the big moment happened. Swisher came in on a bus with a few other players, I asked him if he would sign after he got dressed and he said he would. Although I wanted to believe Swisher, I had been denied to many times in the past to fully believe him. About 20 minutes later Swisher came out the middle entrance with his father. I again called for him and he told me to meet him by the exit. Sure enough Nick kept his word and stopped his tricked out Hummer to sign autographs for all of us (roughly 8 people). Nick is always a cool dude and is just the same off the camera as he is on the camera. It is always nice to see someone with a smile on his face as often as Swish does. Nick was kind enough to sign my 8x10 as well as a 2012 Topps Heritage card.

          By the time Swish was finished signing it was 4:00 and I figured it would be a good time to call it a trip and end Spring Training on a good note. As for the final results for my last day, here they are.

Jason Giambi- 7/7
Jason Kipnis- 1/4
Vinnie Pestano- 7/7
Michael Brantley- 1/3 (big douche)
Scott Kazmir- 2/8
Mark Reynolds- 2/4
Joe Smith- 2/2
Terry Francona- 1/3
Michael Bourn- 1/1 (8x10 photo)
Nick Swisher- 1/4 1/1 (8x10 photo)

Total: 26 autographs

Total for the entire trip: roughly 169 autographs 

          Overall 169 autographs isn't quite near where I expected, but it's still nothing to be ashamed of over a three day period. Plus I was able to get a lot of quality autographs including Konerko, Peavy, Nathan, Moustakas, Giambi, Bourn, Swisher and more. If there is one thing that I realized, the earlier you go in the month, the more autographs you are going to get. I observed a lot of players and noticed that most of them had put all the fan friendly stuff aside and were in "game mode" while others were still as kicked back as they were in February. The 169 autographs brings my yearly total up to around 750 autographs. Not quite sure of the exact amount, but it is probably in a 10 autograph range. Now with Opening Day just around the corner, I can shift my attention to graphing at the Big A in just a couple of weeks! A big thanks to all fo the players that were kind enough to sign. Thanks for reading!  


  1. hey matt, great job! Im jealous of the whitesox cards you got signed! im surprised Addison reed didn't sign.

    1. Thanks man! Hey, sorry about the Reed cards
      I've been dealing with school and a lot of family stuff so it slipped my mind. Just tweet me if you're going to any upcoming events and ill try to remember to bring one. No charge!

    2. thanks man! I tweeted you, so just let me know when we can meet up.

  2. Unbelievable job Matt! Is one of the Moustakases available and would you ever consider trading the Konerko ball?

    1. Thanks Josh. I'll have to see with Moustakas. I'm not quite sure what I got last year from him. I'll let you know asap! Konerko isn't for trade. I think he'll get in the Hall one day so I want to hold onto it as long as possible!

  3. Hey man, I was looking on google and came across your collection. I am doing the 2013 topps heritage set and was wondering if you would trade the ones you have?