Sunday, June 30, 2013

Carl Crawford Rehab Assignment with Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

Former All-Star outfielder Carl Crawford made an appearance with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Sunday as part of a rehab assignment with the Dodgers' single-A club. Carl has been one of my favorite players since his days with the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays, however I've only been able to get his autograph once before, when he side paneled my ROMLB during a preseason game. Long story short, that ball turned into my Dodgers team ball, which is now nearing completion, so in a way, I guess I can thank Carl for that. Anyways, I was still looking to get Carl on a couple more items, so I made the short trip to Rancho to hopefully catch him coming in.

Knowing that the crowd would be crazy inside, I decided to wait for Carl to walk in where I'd hopefully get his autograph. Also, it was 95 degrees as of 9:30 am, so I really wasn't in the mood to stand in a crowd of 200 sweaty men with temperatures over 105 degrees. After about an hour of waiting, Carl showed up and signed for the five or six graphers that were waiting for him. I was able to get Carl on a 2009 Rawlings All-Star ball, and he was kind enough to add the inscription "MVP" to it as well.

My mother was also able to get this beautiful 8x10 photograph of Carl signed for me.

Had I been able to choose, I probably would have rather gone with a Rays photo of him. Carl was one of the best players in the franchise's history, and in my opinion, he was on track to a Hall of Fame career until he basically "hit the wall" with Boston. However, this was the only photograph that they had for him at Frank and Sons, and must I admit, I am very happy with the way it turned out. A big thanks to Carl for signing and not making us wait too long in the dreaded heat. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Angels vs. Pirates: 6/21-6/22

The Pittsburgh Pirates came into town for a three game, interleague series against the Angels this past weekend. While the Pirates' may not have a ton of "star caliber" players like the Angels or Dodgers do, their roster is filled with a bunch of solid players, and of course, Andrew McCutchen. So I headed down to Angel Stadium to catch a pair of the three games.

Game One (6/21/13):

The morning got off to a rough start, as none of us graphers knew which hotel the Pirates would be staying at. That's one of the downsides when a National League team comes to visit. When familiar teams like the Rangers, White Sox, Rays, etc. come into town, we all know where to go to get the most autographs, but when a N.L. team comes in, it's basically luck-of-the-draw. As a result, I found myself having to drive back to the stadium, empty handed and hoping that somebody would get dropped off.

It was pretty late into the day when I got my first autograph. Both Neil Walker and Russel Martin drove in together, and both were kind enough to sign for the six fans that were waiting.

It was nice to finally get on the board. It's always an uneasy feeling for a grapher to be shutout, especially when you dedicate so much time into one team. I then went back to the front where I was able to get Brandon Inge to sign four cards.

That was it for pre-game. I considered myself fairly lucky to have gotten both Martin and Walker, as most of the graphers were at the front of the stadium and missed out on them both. The gates then opened and I hurried inside hoping to get in prime positioning for Andrew McCutchen. My friend Kyle, from Addictive Artwork, had a painting for McCutchen, and that almost guaranteed that McCutchen was going to come over. 

Sure enough, McCutchen came over, and to nobody's surprise, things got crazy. Things got so crazy, in fact, that I missed out on getting his autograph. Now I don't usually get very upset at other graphers when I miss out on an autograph, but this situation was different. The "Cutch" signed for fans in the suite seats, so like usual, the usher let a couple of fans down at a time. However, instead of getting the autograph and leaving the seats so others could get in, these people decided to stay down there and basically block everybody else from entering the seats. I'm not going to mention any names, but you all know who you are. It's been years since I've actually gone back and double-dipped a player in one day, so it really gets me upset when I see other graphers be so greedy and go back for more autographs when they know that not everybody has gotten one yet. I guess greed had become part of the hobby now, and maybe it's time for me to accept that.

Well, now that my small rant is over, here is a photograph from Kyle's Instagram of McCutchen signing. Kyle makes some amazing paintings, and I encourage all of you to follow his Instagram page @addictiveartwork. Also, while your at it, make sure to follow my autographing page @MCs_Autographs. 

After the chaos ended, I went back over to the dugout where I was able to catch Gaby Sanchez, Charlie Morton, Garrett Jones, Clint Barmes, and Mark Melancon, who were all kind enough to sign some cards for me.

That was it for BP. I once again tried for Trout on the Angels' side, and once again he only signed for people in the suite seats. People from out of town think that us SoCal graphers tend to get Trout and Pujols everyday. While they do sign quite often, it's only for a select few and most of the time it is a chaotic scene whenever one of them signs. So with that said, please do not email me asking to get you Trout, or Pujols, or any other Angel besides Scott Downs and/or Mark Langston. Thank you.

Post game was really slow as well. Since most of the players took the bus in, most of them took it out. The only "big" guy that came out was Gerrit Cole, but unfortunately he had already signed for quite a few people and was done by the time I got to him. In the end I was able to get Bryan Morris, Michael McKenry, and Duke Welker, wrapping up a rather frustrating game one. 

Game Two (6/22/13):

After a rough game one, I was looking to score big in my second day graphing the Pirates. I put aside my hopes of getting McCutchen, mostly because he had signed for a handful of people the first day, and focused my mind on getting some other guys such as Gerrit Cole, Starling Marte, and Pedro Alverez. Also, since walk-ups were so terrible the day before, I decided to save my time and show up just in time for batting practice. It turns out that my decision was a good one as only Michael McKenry, Brandon Inge, and Justin Wilson drove in and signed. 

When I got inside things were rather dead. I was being shutout for the first thirty minutes or so of BP, luckily, Jeff Locke came over and got me on the board by signing three cards.

I was pretty excited to add Locke to my collection. He has put up extremely solid numbers this season but has really been overshadowed by some other young pitchers (Harvey, Moore, Cole, etc.). Hopefully his league leading ERA will land him a spot in the 2013 All-Star game.

After getting Locke, I headed back over to the dugout with my friend David A. That's where we were able to get Travis Snider to sign some cards for us.

The next person to sign for us was former #2 overall pick, Pedro Alvarez. I really owe this one to David. Coming into the day, Alvarez was David's main target, so he went to his trademark move and yelled "Go Comodors!" to Alvarez as he walked into the dugout. For those of you that don't know and/or haven't figured it out yet, Alvarez went to Vanderbilt, and played baseball there until he was drafted by Pittsburgh. Well the combination of David yelling that as well as wearing a shirt that had "Vanderbilt" in bold letters across it got Alvarez to come over and sign for about five of us, and I was able to get him on a ROMLB across the sweetspot.

Finally, I was able to get Jason Grilli and Charlie Morton to sign a some cards for me at the conclusion of BP.

As for the game, well, the Angels sucked (again) and I decided to go to McDonald's with a few 
friends instead of watching the "star-studded" Angels get taken to work by Francisco Liriano. Depressing, but true.

When I got back the game was in the 8th inning, and once the Angels finally lost, I headed to the back in hopes of having better luck post-game than the night before. Within the first twenty minutes, things were already better, I was able to get Justin Wilson on my 2013 "Rookie Stars" card, which now has both his and Morris' autograph on it.

Soon after that, I was able to get the winning pitcher on the night, Francisco Liriano, to sign three cards for me.

And about ten minutes after that, I was able to get the 2010 #1 overall pick, Gerrit Cole, to sign a ROMLB across the sweetspot.

I was really excited to finally get Cole on a ROMLB. One of my friends picked me up a card signed by Cole after I missed him at this year's UCLA Alumni Game, however I really wanted a ball signed by him. So now I finally have one in my collection.

I figured that my night was all but over. I decided to take a quick walk by the Angels' parking lot in case some of the players had stuck around for the Big and Rich post-game concert, that had just ended a few minutes prior. I found my friend Laurie, who was standing by a hole in the bush next to another kid, and asked her if anyone was left. Right about then, Jason Vargas came out and walked to his car which was literally parked right in front of us. We told Jason that there were only three of us waiting, and sure enough, he came over and signed. Jason was kind enough to sign my ROMLB across the sweetspot.

Jason has been one of my favorite pitchers in the majors since his days with Seattle, when I found out how nice of a guy he was. Last year, I was able to get Jason on about 15 cards, but this was my first ball that I had ever gotten him to sign.

In the end it was a solid couple of days for me. While I did miss out on McCutchen, I was able to add plenty of new autographs into my collection, and that is always my goal whenever a National League team comes into town. A shout out to David A., Benson, Matt Crocker, Alex, Rob, Kyle, Joe, Laurie, David Park, Kyle M., and everybody else I ran into this series. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Angels vs. Mariners: 6/18 & 6/20

The Angels' A.L. West rivals, the Seattle Mariners, came into town for a four game series this past week. While the Mariners aren't stacked with overwhelming talent, I still decided to attend a pair of games in hope of getting Felix Hernandez and to pick up a couple of free SGA's, including the C.J. Wilson bobblehead as seen in the photograph above.

Game One (6/18/13):
The first game I attended was absolutely miserable. My intentions were to get up early and head to the Mariners' hotel, however, after a long night unpacking and sorting through my Mariner cards, I decided to get a couple extra hours of sleep and try to graph the Angels' parking lot instead. After three straight hours of watching car-after-car drive straight in, I ended up with a grand total of three signed cards.

I really don't know why I even try the Angels' side anymore. I guess it's because I see people walking back with Trout and Pujols signed baseballs, but from experience, it's an absolutely awful place to graph.

I was hoping that my luck would turn around as the gates opened and I hurried inside with my friend Kyle. We bot had the same goal for the day, to get Felix Hernandez, the former American League CY Young winner. I had only gotten Felix once before, but traded it away to my friend David last year, so I was obviously hoping to get another one to keep in my collection. Unfortunately, Felix never signed. He told both Kyle and another grapher named Joe, who was hanging with us as well, that he'd sign after he threw, however Felix never kept that promise, and he darted to the outfield without even looking our way.

Going after Felix basically took up all of batting practice for me, and I ended up missing out on a few Mariners' that signed over the dugout. I very nearly got shut out fort he entire duration of BP, but luckily I was able to get former major league pitcher Jamie Navarro to sign four cards.

As for post-game, the only player to sign for me was Oliver Perez, who signed one card.

If you still don't believe that it was miserable, consider this... in the twelve hours I was at the stadium, I only got eight cards signed, highlighted by J.B. Shuck. Now do you believe me? That's how things go sometimes. You win some and you lose some, but in the end, today was definitely a loss.

Game Two (6/20/13):
There was one reason, and one reason only that I attended this game, and that reason was to get this...

This bobblehead was the third and final one that the Angels' would be giving out this season, and must I admit, I am a big fan. In fact, I am a big fan of all three of the bobbleheads that have been given away this season. The past two or three years, the Angels' bobbleheads have all been the same, but this season, they all have their own unique touch added to them. In this case, it was the red glove and high leg-kick.

In case you were wondering, the ball next to the bobblehead in the photo above is a 2012 All-Star Game ball that I was able to get C.J. to sign last season. C.J. is always cool about signing, and as a result, I have gotten more items signed by him than any other Angel over the past season and a half. Sorry that I spent so much time on the bobblehead, but to be honest, it was probably the best thing I got all series.

Back to the autographs. It was another horrible day for graphing and yet another day where J.B. Shuck bailed me out. Shuck was kind enough to sign two more cards for me.

As you can see, I also got Scott Downs to sign a card for me. Scott is simply the best signer on the planet (maybe a little over-the-top, but you get my point). I don't think I've ever seen him deny an autograph request, and it is that reason why he has become one of my favorite players in the majors.

I then headed over to the Mariners' side in hopes of catching anybody that would be willing to sign. Thankfully, Joe Saunders got dropped off by his wife and signed for me and another grapher. I was able to get the former Angel on a beautiful 8x10 photograph from his days with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

That little scribble underneath his signature is suppose to say "2008 All-Star", however, Joe must of had a mental lapse or something, as he "28 Allstar" and then added in two little zeros. Looking back, I should of just had him sign it, but I'm still very happy with the way the signature came out.

That was it for the day and the series. I went inside, picked up my bobblehead, and pretty much just left. Felix Hernandez was scheduled to pitch, so I had absolutely no reason to stay. In the end it was a pretty terrible series, but I was at least able to get my C.J. Wilson bobblehead and add a former Angel into my collection. Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Great Day of Graphing: Padres vs. Braves Game 6/10/13

The Atlanta Braves traveled to San Diego for the first of three games against the Padres on Monday. The Braves are filled with a ton of young stars such as Evan Gattis, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, and Justin Upton, so it was obvious why I made the trip down to Petco Park for what ended up being a great day of graphing.

The day actually got off to a rough start. Both my friend Rob, who I met up with earlier, and I just barely missed Brian McCann, who took a taxi through the back entrance. That was a big blow for Rob since he had a 2010 All-Star ball that he wanted signed by McCann. I remained shutout for the next two hours, and I was beginning to think that making the trip down to San Diego was a bad idea. Thankfully, former Angel Jordan Walden walked in and signed three cards for me.

Jordan and I had actually talked quite a bit when he was an Angel, so it was nice to catch up with him and tell him how much the Angels need him right now (like he doesn't know).

While getting on the board was nice, I was still hoping to get an autograph from at least one of the big names. No disrespect to Walden, but I had gotten him so many times prior that it wasn't worth a trip to San Diego for. Luckily, things started to turn around as both Craig Kimbrel and Julio Tehran walked up and signed. Craig was kind enough to sign a ROMLB across the sweetspot with the "NL ROY 2011" inscription, as well as an official 2013 World Baseball Classic ball.

Like I said above, Julio Teheran came in with Kimbrel. Teheran was actually one of my bigger goals coming into the afternoon, however he was scheduled to start, so I figured my chances were slim-to-none. With that in mind, I went after Kimbrel first, but to my surprise, Teheran began signing for a few fans and my decision to go after Kimbrel nearly cost me his autograph. I had to catch Teheran about five feet in front of the players entrance, but thankfully I was able to get him on my ROMLB across the sweetspot.

After Kimbrel and Teheran, things started to get much, much hotter. It was almost as if they opened the flood gates for all of the other players to come, as it seemed like there was a player walking up every five minutes. I ended up getting Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, and Freddie Freeman to sign ROMLB's for me.

Things started to finally cool down around 3:30, and that's when Rob and I decided to go and get something to eat before returning to the stadium for batting practice. This turned out to be a mistake as we missed Hall of Famer Don Sutton, who came in right after we left.

We then returned back to the stadium gates where we were let inside for one of the worst batting practices I have ever experienced. Quite a few of the Braves signed, however I missed almost every one including Justin Upton (again), Jason Heyward, and Andeltron Simmons. The only autographs I was able to get came from Jordan Schafer, Feddy Gonzalez, Terry Pendleton, and Gerald Laird.

I then went over to the Padres' side for pre-game stretches, where I was finally able to get Chase Headley to sign a ROMLB across the sweetspot.

I don't know what it is about Chase, but I always seem to be unlucky when it comes to getting his autograph. I've had to of missed out on that guy at least five times in the past two years, and the only other time I got his autograph came at a Padres game last year, where I got him to sign a card, so I was actually quite happy to finally get Chase on a baseball.

That was it for the day. I could of stayed and tried post-game, but I had already gotten just about everybody that I needed/wanted. On top of that, my mother and I had a long trip home, so in the best interest in both of us, I decided to leave after the third inning and call it a day, and a great one at that. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Nomar Garciaparra 6/8/13

This will be one of my shorter recaps, simply because there isn't much to explain. Former American League Rookie of the Year Nomar Garciaparra was set to broadcast the College World Series meeting between the UCLA Bruins and the Cal State Fullerton Titans. I had heard from a fellow grapher about a week prior that Nomar would be announcing over the three game, weekend series, however, the info entirely slipped my mind and I forgot to attend game one. Luckily, game two was just the next day, so I headed down to Goodwin Field where I was able to catch Nomar walking out. The 6-time All-Star was kind enough to sign a ROMLB across the sweetspot and a 1998 Topps card for me.

A big thanks to Nomar for a quick and easy autograph. It's always nice not having to wait around for hours just to get a couple of autographs. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Angels vs. Cubs Game 6/4/13

The Chicago Cubs came into town for the first time ever to face the Angels in a two game, inter-league series beginning Tuesday. Since the series was only two games long, I figured my best chance would be to graph the Cubs all day on Tuesday, so I headed down to Angel Stadium to hopefully add somenew autographs into my collection.

Nobody really knew what to expect from the Cubs. I had only graphed them one time prior in San Diego, however, just one game is a pretty small sample size. Luckily, everything went pretty well. While I was not able to get any big names like Castro, Rizzo, or Soriano, I was able to get some cards signed by Darwin Barney, Nate Schierholtz, Dale Sveum, Ryan Sweeney, Cody Ransom, and Dave DeJesus all pre-game.

I was also able to get my Cubs team ball, which I started in San Diego last year, signed by Carlos Mormol, Blake Parker, coach Dave McKay, and Edwin Jackson.

Batting practice was really tough. Not only were the Cubs stingy about signing, but I had to deal with 100's of Cubs fans who were surprisingly aggressive. I was shocked to see so much pushing and shoving over somebody random like Donier Navarro, and you could only imagine the madness when somebody bigger like Matt Garza signed. However, I did get a chance to talk to a lot of cool Cubs' fans, and I can understand their eagerness due to the fact that the Cubs are rarely in Southern California.

While the conditions were rough, I was able to get basically every Cub that signed. That included Jeff Samardzija, who was kind enough to sign my Cubs team ball and a ROMLB across the sweetspot.

That also included Julio Borbon, Scott Hairston, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, and David Bell, who all signed cards for me.

In the end it was a solid day of graphing. While all of the "big name" Cubs never picked up a pen, I was able to add plenty of new autographs to my collection, including one from a guy who I believe is going to be the future face of the Cubs' rotation. Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Peter Bourjos and Hanley Ramirez Rehab Game 6/3/13

This was one of those rare times where everything just fell perfectly into place for me. Going into the day I had no intentions of doing anything except relax and get ready for the Chicago Cubs, who were coming into town the next day. However, at about 6:00, I began roaming through Twitter and saw that both Peter Bourjos and Hanley Ramirez were scheduled to rehab in Rancho Cucamonga that night. Everything seemed too perfect, I had nothing to do and two big leaguers were ten minutes away from my house, so I grabbed some items, and headed down to the Epicenter.

When I got to the stadium the game was in the third inning, so I watched a couple of innings before heading over to the visitors clubhouse for Peter Bourjos. To my surprise, Peter was already signing by the time I made my way over. Luckily I wasn't too late and was able to get one of my Bourjos bobbleheads signed by the man himself.

I'm usually not a big fan of getting bobbleheads signed, but in this casem it was the only things I had except cards to get signed. I've already gotten Peter on just about every item imaginable, so now I can add "bobblehead" to that list.

After getting Peter I went back to the Quakes clubhouse, where there were about 30 or so fans waiting for Hanley Ramirez. Nobody, including me, thought Hanley was going to sign. The guy had apparently been turning autograph requests down all day, so why would things be any different? Finally, around the eight inning Hanley came out and this was the result.

Two Hanley's. Not bad, especially when you' expecting zero. I was literally in and out of the ballpark in a under two hours, and came out with a three good autographs. That is why I love rehabs. Thanks for reading!