Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Padres vs. Reds: 7/29

I decided to make the two hour trip down to San Diego on Monday to graph the Cincinnati Reds. It's not very often that I make the trip down to San Diego, but when I do, I usually do quite well, including my last trip on 7/14/13, when I witnessed my first ever no-hitter. I also decided to bring along my friend Kyle (formerly of Sid's Autographs), so I was hoping to be able to show him around and give him an idea of San Diego graphing.

I arrived in San Diego fairly early, around 11:00 a.m., and quickly received some bad news. Apparently the Reds were staying at the hotel right next to PetCo Park, which provides a bridge that allows players to go directly from the hotel to the stadium without making contact with the fans. This basically ruins graphing as most of the players are instructed by hotel security to take the bridge, making pre-game graphing essentially worthless. Basically, I'd need a miracle to be able to get any of the big players before the gates opened.

My first auto of the day came from Reds' outfielder Chris Heisey. I noticed that Chris was putting a cross on every item that he signed, so I decided to ask him to put his favorite prayer verse on the card. He ended up inscribing "Phil 2:3" below his signature.

The next two autographs that I got came within five minutes of each other, as both Todd Frazier and Jack Hannahan came over and signed.

At that point, there was still no sight of Brandon Phillips or Joey Votto, and we all figured that our chances at getting there autographs were diminishing by the minute. While waiting, I was also able to get Cesar Izturis and Ryan Hanigan, who were both kind enough to sign some cards for me. 

I was also able to spot Derrick Robinson, who I surprisingly had three cards for. Derrick was kind enough to sign all three cards for me.

By the time Robinson finished up signing, it was 3:55. My friend Alex, Kyle, and I had all basically come to the conclusion that Votto and Phillips were either in already, or were going to go across the bridge, avoiding fans. We had just one hour until the gates opened, so we all decided to go get something to eat before returning to the stadium. While we were eating, another grapher came in and literally walked right up to our table while we were eating and told us the Votto had just came out and "signed for EVERYONE". We were all in shock as the guy pulled out his card and showed us the scribble that was suppose the say "Joey Votto". As it turns out, Votto DID NOT sign for everyone. In fact, he only signed cards, and no baseballs, so basically we were all frustrated at the other grapher for trying to make us jealous or something along those lines. A word of advice, if you really want to make friends in graphing, don't try and rub things in, and especially don't lie while doing so.

Anyways, we made it back just in time for the opening of the gates and hurried inside, hoping to get a prime spot if anyone were to sign. As it turned out, the Reds were fairly stingy at signing. The only autograph I was able to get came from Shin-Soo Choo, who signed a card for me and a card for another grapher who kindly offered to get it signed for me.


Besides Choo, basically nobody signed. Todd Frazier signed a ton of autographs, however I had already gotten him earlier in the day and did not want to double-dip. Mat Latos signed about twenty, and was going to sign for everybody until people began throwing three things at him when he was pointing to just one person. Finally, Aroldis Chapman signed for just two people, who both got there baseballs signed in black Sharpie (when will people learn?!).

The game itself sucked. While it was a 1-0 affair up to the bottom of the ninth, the game lasted three hours thanks to a total of nine walks. What really sucked was Aroldis Chapman blowing the save and giving up a walk-off home run to Chris Denorfia, and what REALLY sucked was seeing Chapman deny everyone as he walked about a full block to his hotel room. Had he been able to close the game, he probably would have been in a much better mood.

Basically everyone was denying us. Even Todd Frazier, who is possibly one of the best signers in the National League. But luckily, the night completely turned around as Joey Votto came out and was kind enough to sign for all of the fans who still had stuck around. The former NL MVP was kind enough to sign a 2013 All-Star baseball for myself as well as a 2013 World Baseball Classic ball for my mother.

The photo above shows the 2013 ball (left) next to the 2012 All-Star ball (right) that I got Votto to sign at Spring Training. Who knows, maybe I can get the 2010 and 2011 balls signed at Spring Training this year and complete the Joey Votto "All-Star project" for the time being.

Finally, I was able to get Bronson Arroyo, who actually signed just before Votto did. Arroyo is usually a really tough autograph to get, so I was happy to get my 2013 Gypsy Queen card signed.

That ended a great day of graphing (all thanks to Joey Votto). A big shout out to Kyle and Alex, who were literally the only two people that I knew coming into the day. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Angels vs. Twins: 7/22 & 7/23

The Minnesota Twins came into town last week for a three game series against the Angels. This was just the second series for the Angels following the All-Star break, and I had been looking forward to going after the "M&M boys" (Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau) for quite some time. So I made the trip to Angel Stadium once again for the first two games of the three game set.

Game One (7/22/13):

Game one of the series got off to a horrible start. Since a majority of the Twins players took the team bus to the stadium, I was held to just one lone autograph after hours of waiting. That autograph came from Scott Diamond, who was kind enough to sign three cards for me.

After watching nearly every single Twin get driven straight down into the tunnel, I decided to head over to the Angels' side. I knew all of the big names (Trout, Pujols, Hamilton, etc.) would already be in, but my hopes were to catch a few of the pitchers who usually come in late. Right as I turned the corner I noticed a black SUV dropping off Erick Aybar. There were quite a few people waiting for Aybar, but luckily my friend Jeremy knew some Spanish and lured him over. Eventually, I was able to get my Angels 50th Anniversary ball signed by Erick.

I was very happy to get Aybar since it basically made up for the slow start to the day. I knew that everybody was pretty much in at that point, so I grabbed some lunch and made it back just before the gates opened.

Once inside I hurried down to the Twins' dugout looking to get a few more autos than I got earlier in the afternoon. About ten minutes in I noticed Kyle Gibson signing for some fans on the opposite end of the dugout, so I made my way over there and got the Twins' #4 prospect on a ROMLB across the sweetspot.

After getting Gibson, I took a few steps to my right and was able to get the attention of Jared Burton, who signed a pair of cards for me.

In the photo above, the card on the right of Burton is Chris Herrmann. Chris was kind enough to sign that card for me later on in BP.

Finally, I was able to get Long Beach native Aaron Hicks to sign a ROMLB across the sweetspot after batting practice had concluded.

I then had a decision to make. I could either go to the Angels' side like a lot of other graphers, or I could stay on the Twins' side and try to get Mauer and/or Morneau. In the end, I decided to stay on the Twins' side with my friends Rob and Alex, which turned out to be a good decision. Meanwhile, I was able to take a picture of Justin Morneau taking some practice swings.

Since Mauer was catching all of our attention turned to Morneau. The bad thing was that he had been ignoring everyone all day. Luckily, there were a few kids who were decked out in Twins gear and when Justin finished stretching, he walked right over the the two kids and began signing. I was really hoping that Morneau wouldn't just sign a few and then bail, as it turned out, he ended up signing for about 20-25 fans, and I was able to get my 2010 All-Star baseball signed underneath the logo.

To be honest, I think I was just as happy to get Morneau as I would of been to get Mauer. I'm actually half Canadian (my dad's side of the family is entirely Canadian), so I always enjoy getting some Canadian players. I know few people of Asian ethnicity who try and get every Asian player who ever played in the majors on a ROMLB, but I'm not like that, I just enjoy getting Canadian players whenever I can on whatever I can.

I'm also happy to say that Mike Trout did sign for a few fans after he stretched, and among those were my friends Josh and Clint, who never seem to have very good luck whenever the drive out of the valley.

Post-game was much like pre-game, very slow. The first person to walk out was Brian Dozier, who was kind enough to sign a 2013 Topps card.

After Dozier, Twins' manager Ron Gardenhire came out. Gardenhire is always a great signer and in my opinion is one of the funniest guys in baseball. He continued to crack jokes as the was signing and even laughed and said "This picture was before I took steroids" while signing the 1987 Topps card that I gave him. In total, I was able to get three cards signed by Ron.

That concluded day one.

Game Two (7/23/13):

Day two got off to a similarly slow start as day one. After another five hours of waiting, I was able to come away with just two autographs, one from Glen Perkins, and one from Dan Gladden.

Thankfully, there was a surprise guest hanging out in front of the stadium, no other than former AL MVP Fred Lynn. When I first approached Mr. Lynn, he didn't seem too thrilled about signing, but none-the-less, he grabbed my baseball and was kind enough to sign it. Unfortunately, I didn't ask for the sweetspot. Looking back, I think I was a bit intimidated since he told us that he "wasn't here to sign autographs". Thankfully, I had a quick resolution to things, as Lynn's former teammate Bob Grich walked up. Bob was friendly as always and was kind enough to sign the same baseball right above Fred on the sweetspot, making it a duel signed baseball.

In case anyone was wondering, the two played together on the California Angels from the 1981 season to the 1984 season. They were also on the same American League All-Star team a total of four times (1976, 1979, 1980, and 1982) and both won an American League Gold Glove in 1975, so in the end, I think it was a fairly good duo to put on the ball.

As for batting practice, it was a bit worse than the day prior. In the end I was able to get Clete Thomas to sign two cards...

And Jamey Carroll to sign four cards.

On of the major downsides was seeing Joe Mauer sprint off the field during the middle of his batting session. At first we all thought that Joe may have tweaked something, but as it turns out, his wife had just delivered twins (coincidentally) and he was on his way back to Minnesota to be with her, basically ending any chance that I had of getting his autograph this season. 

I decided to try for Mike Trout both during stretches and post-game, but as it turned out, I wasn't able to get him either time. I was, however, able to get Kyle Gibson on a pair of cards and Josh Roenicke on one card, concluding the day and the series.

Overall it was a fairly good series for me. While I was not able to get Mauer, I was able to get the other half of the "M&M boys" in Justin Morneau, as well as Kyle Gibson and Aaron Hicks, which were two of my other goals coming into the series. A shout out to Kyle, Josh, Alex, Rob, Crocker, Clint, Joe, Jeremy, and Benson. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Angels vs. Athletics: 7/19 & 7/20

The Oakland Athletics came into town for a three-game series following the 2013 MLB All-Star break. Normally I wouldn't try to hard for the Athletics, as I've gotten over 90% of the team already, however I was looking forward to getting the second half off to a good start and hopefully getting another autograph from Cuban star Yoenis Cespedes, who was fresh off his victory in the Home Run Derby.

Game One (7/19/13):

The day got off to a very quick (and good) start. While there was no sign of Cespedes, I was able to get quite a few A's coming in. Those included Tommy Milone, Josh Reddick, Eric Sogard, Jarrod Parker, and Mike Gallego, who were all kind enough to sign some cards for me.

After hearing that Cespedes was seen going down one of the tunnels, I decided to head inside and test my luck near the dugout. There I was able to get one of the best signers in baseball, Pat Neshek, to sign a pair of cards for me.

Pat has always been a great signer both TTM and in person. While I don't personally do TTM (through the mail), I hear that he signs literally everything you send him and that he always appreciates any extra signed cards that you are willing to give him. Also, make sure to follow him on Twitter (@PatNeshek).

After getting Neshek, things died down. Josh Donaldson and Nate Freiman both signed, but only for a select few. Cespedes ended up signing quite a few autographs (roughly 30-40 in total), but things were absolutely crazy and there was just too much pushing and shoving for me to get to him. I ended up being in a good position for about a minute or two, but unfortunately he left right just almost immediately after.

Since I had gotten most of the A's coming in, I decided to go for Mike Trout near the Angels' parking lot after the game. To my surprise there were only about ten or twelve people standing near his car and I was able to get in a great spot when Mike came over and signed. I was able to get Trout on a 2013 All-Star baseball which he side-paneled.

Ideally, I would've liked for him to sign underneath the All-Star logo, but it's tough to complain when you get a star like Trout. Plus, he gave me a very nice signature with a full "27", so in the end I'm very happy with it.

My night was basically done after Trout. On my way back to the front of the stadium I did notice John Jaso standing around with some family. I waited until he was finished talking and he was kind enough to sign two cards for me.

I also was able to get Grant Balfour (seen above), which officially concluded my first day of graphing.

Day Two (7/20/13):

I decided to go on Saturday for one reason and one reason only, Yoenis Cespedes. I had just gotten some nice 8x10's of Cespedes in the mail on Friday and was really hoping to get them signed before the A's left town, so I went back down to Angel Stadium hoping for a miracle.

I got to the stadium extra early just to make sure that I would not miss Cespedes if he were to come in the front. As a result, I sat all by myself for about an hour with no action what-so-ever. Finally, I was able to get my first auto of the day as Bob Melvin walked up the front and signed a pair of cards.

I then realized that country singer Billy Curington would be having a post-game concert that night. While I couldn't of been less interested in hearing him perform, I was interested in the fact that the back tunnel would be mostly blocked off, and that most of the shuttles that bring the players from the hotel to the stadium would have to come through the front. I was hoping that my assumption was true, and for the time being, it was as the next shuttle came directly to the front and dropped off no other than Yoenis Cespedes.

I was absolutely thrilled when I saw him and hurried over to grab my photos. At that time there were only three graphers total, so I knew he would stop. Sure enough, he did, and I was able to get Cespedes to sign a total of three 8x10 photographs.

My day was basically complete. I had gotten the one guy I came for on all of the items I wanted. I was debating on going home from there but decided to wait around instead and see how many more shuttles would come through the front. In the end it was a good decision as I was able to get Ryan Cook, Josh Donaldson, A.J. Griffin, Josh Reddick, and Mike Gallego about ten minutes later.

Finally, just as I was about to leave, one last shuttle came up and dropped off both Seth Smith and Brandon Moss, who each signed a pair of cards for me.

It was about 2:30 by then and I was contemplating on sticking around for Grant Balfour, who would be coming in any time, but then it started to rain, so I figured that meant that it was time to go home. Luckily, the rain was just a passing shower, and the game was able to go on without having to be postponed, keeping the long streak of consecutive home games without being postponed alive.

Overall the series was a great one and a great way to kick off the second half of the 2013 season. I really wanted to do a first half review post, but I got caught up with things, so I'll just tell you that I'm somewhere around the 1,171 mark (give or take a few). Some of the highlights of the first half for me was getting HOF'ers Jim Palmer and Rod Carew, Mike Trout, David Freese on a 2011 W.S. ball, Joey Votto, Zack Greinke, and of course, witnessing Tim Lincecum's first career no-hitter in San Diego. Hopefully the second half of the season is filled with some more great memories! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Upcoming Signing: Jack Morris at Harry's Dugout

Normally I don't post about upcoming events/signings, however I received a very friendly request from Edward of Harry's Dugout to help spread the word about an upcoming signing that the new card store in Whittier, Ca is putting on. Four time World Series Champion Jack Morris will be signing on Sunday, August 3rd. Times and prices can be seen on the flyer below. 

I've never attended a signing at Harry's Dugout before, but from what I've heard, every signing has been as smooth as possible. I may very well make it out to this event due to the fact that Morris isn't in So-Cal very much (the flyer states that it's his first California signing ever), but whether I do or not, I encourage everyone to go and meet the former legend.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Historic Day of Baseball: 7/14/13

I decided to head down to San Diego on Saturday night to catch game three between the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres. Since the Angels were out of town and the All-Star break was looming, I figured this would be a good chance to get my baseball fix in. Unfortunately, today was terrible for autographs. In fact, one photo explains the majority of my day.

That is what I had through the first five hours of my day, and in case you can't read it, it is from former American League CY Young Award winner Barry Zito. Barry gave me his "short" signature, which really disappointed me since there was only five people. I've gotten his autograph a couple of times prior and both of those times I got a better autograph than the one I got today. None the less, I was happy to at least be on the board.

I also got a tip from my friend Rob that Dave Winfield would be in attendance for the second straight night. Rob was at the game the night prior and was able to get the HOF'er, which is surprising considering that Winfield is usually a very tough get. Anyways, as BP came to a close, I went straight to the tunnel where the VIP guests go. Dave was hesitant to stop at first but eventually he broke down and ended up signing. Unfortunately, Dave dropped my pen as I was about to ask for the sweetspot, so he ended up side paneling my ROMLB.

Since I knew none of the Giants would sign after they were done stretching, I decided to continue my way over to the Padres' side. I really didn't bring anything for the Padres to sign, mainly because I've gotten multiples by every single player on the team, so I decided to start a team ball and was able to get six total signatures in about twenty minutes.

Photo number one- Yonder Alonso and Will Venable
Photo number two- Jedd Gyroko, Chase Headley, and Dale Thayer
Photo number three- Alexi Amarista

While starting a Padres' team ball wasn't exactly one of my main plans, I figured it would be a good item to bring down to San Diego in my future trips this season. I'm guessing I can fill up this ball easily by the end of the season and in the end it should look very nice.

Now let's get to the game. This is what the scoreboard looked like through six innings.

If you take a look at the hit column, you'll see that the Padres were being no-hit. Usually I don't get over anxious when a guy has a no-hitter through five or through six innings, but I could tell that Tim Lincecum was in a groove. That groove continued into the ninth inning...


My only concern was how high his pitch count was. As you can see above, he was at 142 pitches with two outs in the ninth. I believe he entered the inning with 135 pitches and had to face the heart of the order (Headley-Quentin-Alonso). Luckily, Timmy did it. On his 148th pitch, he got Yonder Alonso to fly out to Gregor Blanco to complete the no-no.

I was absolutely thrilled. I've seen guys have a no-hitter through six, through seven, and even once through seven and two-thirds, but this was my first no-hitter that I've actually witnessed (Many people asked me "Weren't you at Jered Weaver's last year?". Obviously the answer to that is "no") The really cool thing about it was that it came on a day when graphing completely sucked for me, so it really made the trip more than worth it for me. Thanks for reading!