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!

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