Sunday, April 28, 2013

Technical Difficulties and Hanley Ramirez Rehab

In case you've been wondering why I haven't posted anything in the past couple of weeks, It's because I've been experiencing some technical difficulties. As of now it's not that big of a deal, basically the photos I took of my last three autograph adventures haven't been able to upload onto the computer correctly. I can import them just fine, but when it comes to adding the photos to my posts it just won't load the photos. I tried a new batch of photos and of course they worked perfectly. I guess I could just go back and retake photos of everything, but in my opinion it would be a waist of time for some autographing adventures that happened quite a while ago. My adventures have consisted of graphing the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium, graphing a minor league game between the Lake Elsinore Storm and the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, and finally getting Hanley Ramirez last weekend on a rehab stint. The Dodgers' superstar was rehabbing with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes last weekend, and it was just too tempting to make the short drive to the Epicenter. I was able to get Hanley four times, once coming in, once by the dugout, and twice after he got pulled out of the game.

          I'm really hoping that the new batch of photos from my Orioles series will upload, as I did pretty good (2 Hall of Famers... hint, hint). I've really enjoyed this blog and I'm hoping that this doesn't become a permanent defect and force me to shut down this blog. If anybody has experienced this before on their blog, please leave a comment and I'll email you if we have similar cases. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Angels vs. Tigers Series Recap: 4/19-4/21

          The Detroit Tigers came into town for their first and only series in Southern California. Last year I had terrible luck with the Tigers and missed out on Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder both in one night, but this year I was hoping things would be different.

Game One (4/19/13):

          I headed down to Angel Stadium directly from school to try and catch the tail end of pregame graphing. When I got to the stadium, I was informed that only Max Sherzer and Joaquin Benoit had came up and signed in the morning, and also that Miguel Cabrera, my main goal for the series, had not come in yet. The first person to come in was Tigers' reliever Phil Coke. Coke was friendly as usual and signed my 2013 Topps Heritage card for me.

          About 20 minutes later Ramon Santiago pulled up in a taxi and signed for everyone that asked. Ramon was kind enough to sign three cards for me.

          Not to long after the gates to the stadium opened and I hustled down to the Tigers' dugout to try and catch some players as they come out to stretch. It was about five minutes later that I noticed C.J. Wilson and Joe Blanton having a bullpen session in left field. I noticed that there was already a big crowd surrounding the dugout, and figured that I'd give the bullpens a try. So I hustled over to the bullpens and was able to get C.J. Wilson to sign my 2013 Topps Heritage card.

          Joe Blanton then came out and completely ignored me and the other kid waiting. Joe is a terrible signer and never even looks at the fans. There should be a rule that if your career ERA is over 4.20, then you should at least be decent about signing. So after being denied I raced back over to the Tigers dugout where I got shut out. In fact almost everyone got shut out. Max Sherzer signed for a few people, but signed while I was over getting C.J.'s autograph. The biggest surprise was Prince Fielder signing for a good 5 minutes over the dugout, but by the time I got there, it was a mess and I had no chance of getting his autograph. Disappointed, but not overly surprised, I headed up to my seat where I got this picture of Torii Hunter in his first at-bat back at Angel Stadium.

          Luckily all wasn't bad. The Angels came out victorious in an 8-1 contest, and I enjoyed the game along side my fiends Josh and Benson. As for post-game, let's just say it was a nightmare. I've never before seen such a big crowd waiting for autographs, and what annoyed me was half of the people were expected Angel players to walk out or were bugging us asking who every person that walked out was. There were probably a good 100 people waiting and the only two people I was able to get were Joaquin Benoit and Anibal Sanchez.

          That was it for game one. As I was waiting in line at McDonalds, I got a text from my fiend Mike that Torii Hunter had just walked out and signed for the remaining ten graphers. I could have easily had my best night ever at Angel Stadium. Had I been more prepared, I could have had Miguel Cabrera (the story is too complicated to share), Prince Fielder, and Torii Hunter all in one night, but instead, I got none of them. That's how some nights go though. Kind of like when I was at Superfest in San Diego earlier this year, getting shut out by Adrian Gonzalez while my friends were getting Grienke, McGuire, and every other big name Dodger imaginable. Luckily I still had two more days to try and rebound.

Game Two (4/20/13):

          I made the trip back down to Angel Stadium for game two of the series in hopes of rebounding from the rough night prior. Since the game was being televised nationally, it started at 12:00, which meant I would have to be at the stadium way too early after being up until 2:00 a.m. the night prior, so instead I just decided to graph post-game. I got to the stadium just minutes after the Angels pulled out a 10-1 victory and found my friend David who was lucky enough to have gotten Erik Karros' autograph. I was really hoping for E.K.'s autograph but obviously it wasn't meant to be. A couple of minutes later USC quarterback and top draft prospect Matt Barkley came out and signed for a few fans. I didn't bring anything specific for Barkely since I didn't know he was going to be in attendance, but I did, however, have an extra ROMLB which Matt kindly signed.

          Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson, and Max Sherzer all walked out within 15 minutes of each other, and none of them signed but for maybe one person. So I then headed to the back in hopes of getting Torii Hunter's autograph. As I got to the back I noticed Johnny Peralta just finishing up signing. I was able to catch Johnny at the last second and was able to get all six of my cards signed by the Tigers' shortstop.

          Then the man, Torii Hunter, came up the tunnel and signed. Torii was super cool and signed for every fan waiting. I was able to get Torii to sign my Rawlings Gold Glove Award baseball under the "Gold Glove" logo.

          Apparently, in getting Torii's autograph, I missed out on Garrett Richards and Jim Leyland, both guys who I've gotten before. But I was more than happy to get Torii's autograph and head home, concluding the second day of graphing.

Game Three (4/21/13):

          Since it would be my final chance this year at getting Miguel Cabrera's autograph on a baseball, I figured I'd wake up early and head down for some pre-game graphing. I decided to try the Angels side first in hopes of getting some of the big names (Trout, Pujols, etc.), but none of them stopped and signed. After seeing most of the big names roll in, I decided to head to the front and try to graph some Tiger walk-ups. My goal was still to get Miguel Cabrera's autograph on a ball, unfortunately there was no sight of Miggy. The only Tigers I was able to get were Andy Dirks, Omar Infante, Joaquin Benoit, and Brayan Villareal.

          That concluded the day and the series for me. Overall it was a tough series. I don't know what it is about the Tigers, but I never seem to have any luck when they come in to town. Hopefully my luck will change either next season or if they meet the Angels in the playoffs come October. A big shout out to Josh, David, Ryan, Nancy, Kieth, Benson, and everybody else that I saw this weekend. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Astros vs. Angels Recap: 4/12-4/13

          The Angels newest divisional rival, the Houston Astros, came into town for the first time last weekend. Most graphers weren't very excited for the Astros to come into town, in fact, some of the regular graphers skipped the series entirely or took advantage of the opportunity to graph the Angels instead. I for one was actually excited to see the Astros for the first time. It's not often that I get to see a new team come into town and play, so I was eager to get back to the ballpark and check out the first two games of the series.

Game One (4/12/13):

          I got to Angel Stadium just as the gates opened and made my way down the right field line. Since this was the first time I've ever graphed the Astros, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I figured that most of the players would be good signers considering they would all probably be in Double-A if they were in any other organization. After a quick, and non successful attempt by the dugout, I headed down the right field line to see if I could call over some players once they finish catch. The first person I was able to call over was Brett Wallace. Brett was kind enough to sign a pair of cards for me including a 2013 Topps Heritage card.

          Just minutes later I was able to call over one of my favorite players on the Astros, Rick Ankiel. Rick has always been one of my favorite players since his early days with the Cardinals (I used to be a huge Cardinals fan), therefor I got him on my Cardinals mini-helmet that I have had on me for over a year and a half.

          I noticed Rick was doing two or three per for the other graphers, so I too advantage of the opportunity and got my 2008 Topps card signed as well.

          I then headed back over to the dugout where I caught the attention of former big leaguer Geoff Blum. "The Blummer" is now a broadcaster for the Astros after having a solid big league career. I only had one card for Geoff which he was more than happy to sign.

           Following Geoff, Carlos Pena came over and signed some autographs. Pena was friendly but was strictly one per person. I had him sign my 2013 Topps Heritage card.

          The final guy to sign during batting practice was Justin Maxwell. Maxwell was very nice and got pretty much everybody who was asking for an autograph. Justin was kind enough to sign all three cards for me.

          The Angels ended up losing the game 5-0, dropping to 2-8 on the season. The only positive thing about the decision was that most of the Astros would probably be in better moods after a victory and be more willing to sign. Unfortunately, most of the Astros took the team bus out, and only a few players ended up walking out of the front, making it a pretty bad night for post game graphing. The only person to sign was Chris Carter, who signed three cards.

          That was it for game one. Nothing great but not a bad start to the series. None-the-less, I was looking forward to getting back to the ballpark for game two.

Game Two (4/13/13):

          Since it was a Saturday I was able to get to Angel Stadium early for some pre-game graphing. The day got off to a rough start. I decided to try the back of the stadium after hearing that J.D. Martinez, Brett Wallace, and Jason Castro had all signed back there the day before, however today was different. I must have seen six or seven vehicles go down the tunnel, making autographs nearly impossible. The only guy to drive in and park was Brandon Barnes, who is one of the nicest guys in the league. Unfortunately, I didn't have anything for Barnes so I didn't get his autograph on anything.

          After seeing each and every vehicle drive down the tunnel, I decided to try a different entrance to try my luck. Within 20 minutes the first taxi drove off and dropped off Jose Altuve and Ronny Cedeno. I went after Altuve first and was able to get his autograph on my 2013 Topps card. After getting him, I hustled over to Cedeno (who hardly anybody stopped) and got him on one of my 2010 Topps Heritage cards as well.

          All of the graphers were relieved to know that the morning wouldn't be completely wasted. Plus, Altuve is by far the best player on the Astros, so getting his autograph was definitely a big deal this series. The only other player to walk up and sign was Chris Carter, who signed my final 2013 Topps Heritage card for me.

          Since it was a 6:00 game, the gates opened at 4:00, so as soon as four o'clock came around, I hurried inside and found myself once again behind the Astros dugout. For the second straight day I got shutout over the dugout as the players came out to stretch and throw. A few minutes later, however, I was able to get the attention of Wesley Wright, who signed a card for me.

          Later during batting practice, I was able to get Jason Castro and Justin Maxwell to sign three cards a piece for me.

         The final guy to sign was Hector Ambriz. I didn't have a card on me for Ambriz, so I got him on an older team card that I was carrying around in my folder.

          I'm usually opposed to getting guys on team cards since I find it just a waist of an autograph, especially when it's a team card like the one above where it doesn't even show the player that signed the card. However, it's the Astros, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

          It appeared as if the Angels were about to loose their second straight game to the Astros and fall to 2-9 on the young season, but then in the ninth Albert Pujols, aka "The Machine", drilled a two-run, walk-off double down the left field line with two outs to win the ball game. Me and my friend Kyle had both moved down to field level around the 8th inning, and this was our view of the celebration.

          I was debating whether to try and graph the Angels post game, or the Astros again. The only guys I really needed on the Astros were Bud Norris (who came out the front and denied everybody the night prior) and/or Matt Dominguez. I decided to try the Astros with the intentions of getting one or both of the two players mentioned above and then heading back to the angels parking lot. After about 30 minutes of waiting, Bud Norris came out and this time signed. Bud was doing two items per person, but for some reason he signed two of the same cards when I had two different cards laying right next to eachother. 

          After getting Norris I kept my plan in tact and headed to the Angels parking lot with Kyle. Right as we got there Mike Trout pulled out and signed. Trout ended up getting mobbed, and only signed for a couple of people before driving off. A few minutes later I was able to get Scott Downs to sign three cards for me.

          I don't think I've ever seen Downs turn down an autograph request. He literally signs everything you have, every night over by his truck. The final guy to sign was Hank Conger, who signed for the 30 or so remaining fans. Hank signed both of my 2008 Tristar Projection card which I've been carrying around now for quite a while.

          That was it for the night and the series. Overall it was a fairly good series, and I was able to collect a total of 30 autographs in two games. Unfortunately, I didn't have card for half of the Astros players, so if I did, I probably could have came away with nearly 50 autographs, but I was still pleased with my 30. A big shout out to my friends David Park, David A., Benson, Scotty, Tyler, Kyle, Alex, Rob, Matt Crocker, and everybody else that I saw. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Angels Home Opener vs. Oakland Ahtletics 4/9/13

          On Tuesday I made the trip to Angel Stadium for game one of the Oakland Atheltics vs. Los Angeles Angels series. Not only was it game one of the series, but it was also game one at Angel Stadium, and I was not about to miss my fourth straight home opener/Opening Day game. 

          I arrived at the stadium just prior to the gates opening. I got word from some of my friends that all of the big names for the Angels (Trout, Pujols, Hamilton, etc.) all stopped and signed on their way in. This figures since it was the first home game of the year for the Angels. I've really stopped caring about the Angels too much this past year or so. I've literally gotten every one's autograph (including Hamilton's) that I need. I wouldn't mind getting a few of the new guys like Madson, Hanson, and/or Blanton, but to be honest I don't feel like waiting all day with 50 people to most likely just get Scott Downs' autograph. Anyways the gates opened and I hurried inside with some of the usual graphers. When I got down by the field I noticed Hamilton talking with the A's bullpen catcher about 10 yards from where I was standing. A small group of maybe 10 people soon gathered and we asked Josh if he'd come over and sign. Sure enough, after finishing up his conversation, Josh came over and signed for a good 10 minutes. Josh was really cool and was taking his time to talk with all of the fans. He is truly one of the classiest superstars in the game and I'm excited to see how many Hamilton autographs I can get this year. Josh was kind enough to sign three cards for me, as well as a baseball for one of my friends who is an usher at the stadium.

          Right after getting Hamilton's autograph I noticed Seth Smith signing near the dugout. I hurried over and walked right up to Seth, who was kind enough to sign my 2013 Topps Heritage card.

          The card pictured to the right of it was signed by A.J. Griffin after BP.  A.J. was signed everything you had, but unfortunately I just had the one card of him. Eric Sogard then came over after finishing up his stretches. Eric is always cool about signing and was kind enough to sign two cards for me.

          I actually called Eric over and therefor was the first person that he signed for. That ended up being critical in getting my next autograph. While everyone else was getting Sogard I noticed Chris Young finishing up his warm-up tosses. I ran over to Young and asked him for an autograph. To my surprise, he came over and signed for me and one other grapher who was lucky enough to catch Chris at the last second. I was thrilled to get Young's autograph on my 8x10 photo of him with the D-backs that I've been carrying around since Spring Training last season. Chris is a tough autograph to get, so I was thrilled that I was able to get him fairly easily. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the signed 8x10 so you will all just have to take my word for it. If you don't believe me, well... that's your problem.

          I was off to a sensational start. Within 15 minutes of the gates opening I had already gotten Josh Hamilton, Seth Smith, Eric Sogard and, Chris Young's autograph. From there things slowed down just a bit. I went back over the dugout where I was able to get Jed Lowrie to sign a 2013 Topps card for me.

          Everybody else was trying to get Yoenis Cespedes' attention, so literally nobody noticed that Lowrie was signing right in front of them. I think he was a tad bit surprised that nobody else wanted his autograph. What's funny is that nobody even knew that Jed had just signed for me until things died down a little and I started showing people the signed card. Cespedes did come over and signed, however he skipped over me. I wasn't too disappointed, and to be honest, I was happier getting Lowrie's autograph. I got Cespedes on an 8x10 and a card last season, however I've never gotten Lowrie, so I counted it as a win in my book.

          That was it for BP autographs. Like I said above, A.j. Griffin signed my one card. Brett Anderson came over but unfortunately had left by the time A.J. finished signing my card. That's okay since Anderson is an easy autograph to get. Unlike most of the graphers I decided not to graph the players during their stretches. Instead I went up to my seats to see the player introductions and fly over. The A's come in a total of 9 times this year, but there is only one Opening Day.

          The game took a painful 3 hours and 40 minutes and the Angels lost 9-5. Hamilton struggled in his first game as an Angel and did nothing in two bases loaded opportunities. The highlight of his debut was a sac-fly that brought home Brendan Harris and tied the game at 4 a piece. I was honestly debating on whether to do post game or not since I had school the next morning, but I figured I'd give it a try since this was the only game I planned on attending over the three game series. The first guy to come out and sign was Jarrod Parker, who started the game. Parker was quiet but signed for everyone waiting. He was strictly one per person but I had some help in getting the 2013 Topps card signed.

         Parker actually told a fan that he doesn't sign baseballs. This confused me since he is baseball player the last time I checked. The only other person I've seen do this was Joey Votto, but come one, Jarrod Parker? Next up was a guy that does sign baseballs' Tommy Milone. Milone is always cool about signing and will sign everything you have. He was kind enough to sign 3 2013 Topps Heritage cards for me.

         The final person that I got was former Angel Mark Langston. I kind of feel bad asking for Langston more and more times, but he never minds so I guess it's not that big of a deal. Langston was kind enough to signed a pair of cards for me.

          After getting Langston I decided to cal it a night. There was still a nice SUV in the parking lot that I believe belonged to all of the coaches, however it was already midnight and I didn't want to wait any longer. A big thanks to all of the players who signed for me as well as a shout out to David, Greg, Rob, Alex, Matt Crocker, Scotty, Mike, Benson, and everyone else that I saw at the game. Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of your week!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Modesto Nuts vs. Inland Empire 66ers Game

          On Saturday evening I decided to head out to San Manuel Stadium in near-by San Bernandino to catch the Modesto Nuts vs. Inland Empire 66ers game. Unlike the last two minor league games that I attended, there were no big league players on a rehab assignment, instead my main goal was to get Rockies' top prospects Trevor Story (#2 prospect in organization) and Tyler Anderson (#6 prospect in organization) as well as some other guys that I brought cards for. Overall it was a major sucess, I was able to get both Story and Anderson, as well as almost everybody else that I had brought cards along for. Since I got so many autographs, I'll leave it strictly to photos and numbers.

Scott Oberg- 8/8
Trevor Story- 8/8
Tyler Massey- 9/9
Tyler Gagnon- 6/6
Tyler Anderson- 1/8 (told me the bus was waiting on him)
Brian Humphries- 4/4
David Kandalis- 4/4
Harold Riggins- 6/6
Ryan Casteel- 4/4
Ben Alsup- 3/3 (starting pitcher)
Chad Cordero- 1/1 
Dave Burba- 4/4
Len Sakata- 7/7

Total: 65 autographs

          Overall it was a great night of graphing. I absolutely love graphing at California League games since there are no big crowds what-so-ever and all of the players are super friendly about signing autographs and hanging out with the fans. It's practically like a Spring Training atmosphere. A big thanks to the members of the Modesto Nuts and Inland Empire 66ers who were kind enough to sign for me. Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Ted Lilly Rehab Start with Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

          For the second straight day I made the short trip out to the Epicenter in Rancho Cucamonga. On Thursday I attended to Quakes game and was able to get Chad Billingsley, who was rehabbing, and also Don Mattingly, who was a surprise guest. This time I went for 2x All-Star pitcher Ted Lilly, who was making a rehab appearance as well. I didn't need any of the Quakes or Storm players, so I arrived after the third inning in hopes of getting Lilly as he was leaving. Ted was only scheduled to throw somewhere around 4 innings and 75 pitches, but he ended up going a total of 6 innings with about 80 pitches. Meanwhile, to kill off some time, I took a seat down the third base side where I snapped this poor quality picture of Lilly getting ready to pitch.

          Obviously there was no sign of Mattingly tonight. Don was only there on Thursday since the Dodgers had an off day and weren't traveling anywhere, but on Friday the Dodgers were back in action against the Pirates. Lilly ended up coming out just moments after the game ended. He wasn't overly friendly or talkative, but he was kind enough to sign one item for every person that waited around. I was able to get my 2013 Topps Heritage card signed by him and my mother was also able to get my Dodgers team ball signed. The ball now features Lilly, Billingsley, Mattingly, and Carl Crawford.

          A big thanks to Ted Lilly for stopping and signing, making my short trip plenty worth while. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chad Billingsley Rehab Start with Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

          Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley made a rehabilitation (rehab) start with the Dodgers' High-A affiliate, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Thursday night. Since I live only 10 minutes away from the Epicenter, I felt obligated to make the short trip for what would be an easy autograph. I got to the stadium shortly after the gates opened at 6:05. It was the California League season opener for the Quakes, so as expected, there was a slightly larger crowd than normal. Unfortunately, all of my Quakes and Storm cards came late in the mail, so I only had a few cards on me to get signed. I was, however, able to get Padres top prospects Cory Spangenberg and Jace Peterson to sign some cards for me.

          After that I headed back up to my seats and watched about the first three innings of the game while Billingsley was pitching. Around the third inning I looked at my phone and saw a rumor that Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was in attendance to watch Billingsley pitch. t made perfect sense since the Dodgers had an off day Thursday and were waiting for the Pirates to come into town. I searched around the stadium and finally spotted Mattingly in a suite behind home plate. However the window of the suite was closed and Billingsley had just gotten pulled out, so I decided to leave and come back after I got his autograph. Things ended up working out well though. As we were waiting by the Quakes clubhouse for Chad to emerge, Mattingly walked right in and had a few words with his pitcher before coming back out. One of the graphers approached Don and he was more than happy to sign autographs. I didn't come prepared with any Mattingly items, however I did bring my Carl Crawford ball which he side-paneled and decided to turn it into a team ball.

          Getting Don was an unexpected treat that really made my day. I then waited around for Billingsley to come out. About 15 minutes later, he popped out of the Quakes clubhouse and signed for the 20 or so fans waiting. Chad was strictly one per, claiming that he was in a hurry. Luckily my mother was able to help me out and get my recently started team ball signed by him as well.

          Right as I turned around I noticed former Dodger World Series Champion Dave Stewart standing waiting for Billingsley. Apparently Stewart is Billingsley's agent and was there to watch him pitch. Had I seen Stewart before I got Billingsley, I would have easily used my ROMLB for him, however I didn't and just took a picture with him instead.

          Overall it was a terrific night of graphing in Rancho. I came away with a lot more than I expected going into the stadium. A big thanks to Don and Chad for both signing, as well as Cory Spangenberg and Jace Peterson for signing earlier in the evening for me as well. Thanks for reading and happy Firday!