Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Look Into The Past: 2011 All-Star Fan Fest

With the 2014 Major League Baseball season upon us, I figured that it would be a good time to write my first ever "A Look Into The Past" post. I hope to make a series of throwback posts sporadically throughout the season, and where better to start than the 2011 All-Star Fan Fest.

In July of 2011 I decided to attend Major League Baseball's annual All-Star Fan Fest in Phoenix, Arizona. The event included multiple Hall of Fame members and baseball legends who were scheduled to sign autographs throughout the weekend.

The Phoenix Convention Center
One of my favorite things about All-Star Fan Fest has always been the organization, especially when it comes to the autograph lines. The lines are fairly small and fast moving, which makes it great for autograph seekers like myself who want to check out multiple lines. Also, MLB releases the signers and stage times a few weeks prior to the event, which allowed me to plan out my weekend ahead of time.

One of the first autographs I got at the event came from former World Series Champion David Dellucci. Dellucci was one of many members of the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks World Series team who were on hand, and while I did not originally plan on getting the twelve year MLB veteran, I was able to find a nice 8x10 at one of the booths inside of Fan Fest.

David Dellucci autographed 8x10
Another member of the 2001 World Series team in attendance was Greg Swindell. Swindell won 123 games throughout his sixteen year career and was an All-Star in 1989 as a member of the Cleveland Indians. Like Dellucci, I also found a photo of Swindell at the event and got him to sign it.

Greg Swindell autographed 8x10
The final member of the 2001 team that I got was former big league outfielder Reggie Sanders. Reggie was undoubtedly the nicest guy I met all weekend and took at least a minute with each fan to talk about baseball and such. Once it was my turn to meet Reggie, I had him autograph a ROMLB on the sweetspot.

Reggie Sanders autographed ROMLB
Another great thing about All-Star Fan Fest is that they offer free MLB Authentication on spot, so after getting my ball authenticated I headed over to the next autograph station where former AL MVP Fred Lynn was schedule to sign autographs. Lynn was also very friendly, however he was a bit more rushed due to the fact that he had quite a long line of fans waiting. I didn't think about asking for the ROY/MVP inscription as some might have, but Lynn was kind enough to add #19 on my ROMLB.
Fred Lynn autographed ROMLB
Somewhere in between came these next few autographs, starting off with Hall of Fame member Gaylord Perry, who signed my ROMLB and was kind enough to add "HOF 81"

Gaylord Perry autographed ROMLB
I was also able to get another Hall of Fame pitcher, as Juan Marichal kindly autographed my ROMLB and inscribed "HOF 83".

Juan Marichal autographed ROMLB
In a last minute change, it was announced that Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton would be signing autographs for thirty minutes later in the day. I made sure to get a prime spot in line and got Upton to signed my ROMLB.
Justin Upton autographed ROMLB
This next autograph was by far the most special autograph that I got all weekend long. One of the game's true legends, Earl Weaver, signed autographs for the fans. Weaver, of course, passed away on January 19, 2013, roughly about a year and a half after I met him. I had him autograph a ROMLB and decided not to ask for the Hall of Fame inscription, and instead opted to ask for a photo.

Earl Weaver autographed ROMLB
I look really young in all pre-2012 photos
The final autograph I got over the weekend came from Tony Gwynn. This was the first of three (and counting) times that I've met Mr. Gwynn. Since the line was so long, Gwynn wasn't allowing any posed photos, but I was able to get my ROMLB signed with "HOF 07" inscribed.

Tony Gwynn autographed ROMLB
To cap off the exciting experience, I bought tickets at the last minute for the Home Run Derby, which was just down the street at Chase Field. I got there too late to try for any autographs, but I was able to watch a great Derby and see Robinson Cano win it all.

Pre-Derby festivities
Cano gets interviewed after winning the Derby

Saturday, February 8, 2014

USD Baseball Alumni Game: 2/8/14

After attending the San Diego Padres Fan Fest for a few hours, I decided to make my way over to the University of San Diego, where the baseball club was holding it's annual alumni game. While there were a few different Major League players in attendance, I had my focus on someone who hasn't even played a MLB game in his career. That's because the second overall pick of the 2013 Draft, Kris Bryant, was in attendance to receive his Golden Spikes Award.

After having a tough time finding the actual baseball field, I walked in right as Bryant was receiving his GSA award. After receiving the award, a few reporters from the school pulled him aside as the game was starting. A few graphers had come over and began waiting, and after his interview, Bryant came over to sign without us even asking. I was able to get a pair of baseballs signed by the newest Cub, one inscribed "2013 #2 Pick" and the other just "#2 Pick".

Before leaving, I got a photo with Bryant's Golden Spikes Award trophy.

I also got a photo of Bryant's and Brian Matuz's new banners, which overlooks the ballpark.

A big thanks to all of the signers from Fan Fest and also Kris Bryant for taking the time to sign. You can follow Bryant on Twitter @KrisBryant_23 and while you're at it, give me a follow @MCville27. A shout out to Alex (who took the badass panorama at the top and allowed me to use it), Rob, David P, Alex, Kyle, Ryan, Scotty, and all of the others I forgot to tag. I'm definitely looking forward to the 2014 baseball season and being inside of two ballparks doesn't help my desire at all. As always, thanks for reading!

San Diego Padres Fan Fest: 2/8/14

On Saturday, February 8th, I decided to attend the San Diego Padres Fan Fest at PetCo Park. After skipping the event last year, I was looking forward to enjoying one of baseball's best Fan Fest's and also soak in some San Diego sun.

After printing out early access tickets the night before, I was allowed inside of the ballpark around 9:30. My first priority was to get autograph vouchers, which were distributed as you walked. Unfortunately, the Padres only allow one voucher per person, so between my father and I, we were able to get vouchers for the Josh Johnson/Tommy Medica session and the Yamani Grandal/Robbie Erlin session. 

Since I had some time to kill before my first session, I decided to wait in line for the Huston Street/Cory Luebke autograph session. While I didn't have a ticket, I was allowed to wait in the "overflow line", which only consisted of three people. Street and Luebke got through the line quick enough and I was able to get both players on cards.
After getting Street and Luebke, I headed over to section 117 where the Johnson/Medica session had just started. Unfortunately, I didn't have anything for Medica to sign, but I was able to get Josh Johnson on a 2009 All Star ball inscribed "1st All Star Game".

I was very pleased with the fact that Johnson took the time to write out "1st All Star Game". Most players now-a-days become lazy and will put "1st ASG", and while I'll never complain about an auto, I always appreciate when a player cares enough to write it out.

The final autographs I got came from the Yasmani Grandal/Robbie Erlin seasion. Both guys were very friendly and Grandal had no problem signing all three cards for me.

 Unfortunately, when Grandal handed back the 2013 Allen and Ginter, he put his thumb over the signature and smudged it. I was disappointed since I loved the design of the card, but luckily the other two cards came out perfectly fine.

I would've loved to have stuck around and gotten a few more players, but I had to make my way over to San Diego University for the baseball alumni game.