Saturday, August 22, 2015

Albert Pujols: 8/22/15

One of my all time favorite players, Albert Pujols, recently held a rare public signing in SoCal a few days ago. For those of you who don't know, the St. Louis Cardinals were the first baseball team that I actually rooted for, and to this day I still pull for them to represent the National League, so it's easy to see why I've been such an avid Pujols fan many years.

Unfortunately, Pujols is far from the friendliest or most willing signer around the ballpark. In several years of collecting autographs, Pujols is one of the few players who I had never gotten a signature from until this signing. Needless to say I was excited to get my first autograph from "The Machine" regardless of the high price tag.

I ended up choosing a 2015 All-Star baseball to get signed. There were several different baseballs that I could've chosen from, but I chose a 2015 for a few reasons. Not only was it his first All-Star Game as an Angel, but it was also his tenth overall ASG, and 2015 will represent the year in which I got it signed.

I think we all have an athlete or celebrity who we like even though they are not the friendliest. It's almost like a guilty pleasure in terms of collecting. Mine is definitely Albert Pujols. I heard some pretty bad stories about him at this signing, and none of them shock me a bit. Overall he was nice to me, but I'm sure that wearing a Pujols shirt while telling him that I've been a huge fan for years helped. There's a much longer version of this story that I can't share yet, strictly because it's still unresolved. I may or may not share it when I get the opportunity. At the end of the day, Albert Pujols still is, and always will be, one of my favorite players to ever put on a baseball uniform, and I'm beyond happy to add his autograph to my collection. Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

2015 Tristar National Sports Collectors Convention

*Please note that this will be the longest blog post that I have ever written. It will include roughly twenty-five photos and likely over a couple thousand words, so please keep that in mind as you start reading. If you've have time to kill and enjoy hearing stories about different ballparks and autographs, then enjoy!*

This year I was able to attend the 2015 Tristar National Sports Collectors Convention (NSCC) in Chicago, Illinois. Attending the National has been something on my autograph bucket list for years, and since Chicago is as far west as the convention will come over the next several years, I figured that 2015 would be the year to go.

On top of attending the National, I was able to visit four different Major League ballparks in and around the Chicago area. I've decided to post the pictures of those separately instead of mixing them in with all of the autographs.

Wrigley Field was the first ballpark that I visited, and aside from the traffic getting there, the experience was great. I say the experience was great because that's exactly what is was. The ballpark itself isn't overwhelming, but the fans, the bleacher seats, and all of the t-shirt and food vendors along the street make it awesome.

Busch Stadium in St. Louis was by far my favorite ballpark that I visited. Ever since I got into baseball, the Cardinals have been the team that I have rooted for in the National League. If you ask me which baseball team I am a fan of, I'll say the Angels, but in reality there are four or five teams that I root for every year. I personally think that's just part of being a baseball fan. Anyways, if you ever attend Busch Stadium make sure to check out the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum at the Ballpark Village. Also, don't sell yourself short and buy tickets anywhere other than in the sections that have access to "Club Redbird".

Miller Park in Milwaukee was a lot of fun to visit. It's a very interesting stadium and unlike any that I've ever visited. There are a lot of neat "little" things that you notice around the ballpark. If Busch Stadium wasn't so damn beautiful, this would've easily been my favorite ballpark from the trip.

The fourth and final ballpark that I visited was US Cellular Field. Overall the "Cell" was a lot nicer than expected. I've heard some pretty bad stories about the ballpark being ugly and plain, but I actually really enjoyed watching a game there.

It probably didn't hurt either that it was Scott Podsednik bobblehead night at the ballpark. The bobblehead is actually huge compared to my other SGA ones, and even included the 2005 World Series patch on the sleeve of the jersey.

Ballparks and bobbleheads aside, the actual point of this post is the NSCC. The show itself was huge and would likely be heaven for some other bloggers that I know, but for me it was mainly about the autographs. I will say this, you can't go to the National without being prepared to spend money. I won't say exactly how much I spent, but it did makes months of saving to afford as many autograph as I did. I used some of that money to purchase a VIP package from Tristar. The package included admission all five days and also came with some cool, limited edition cards from different card companies.

The VIP package also came with a bunch of "free" autograph tickets for the some of the VIP guests. I ended up not using a few of the autograph tickets, but here are some of the ones that I did use:

Rollie Fingers was nice as always and signed a ball with "HOF 92" for me.

Bret Saberhagen has cancelled his last few autograph appearances in California. I was able to get him in person at the Angels/Royals playoff game last year, but this was my first sit down signature from him.

Pierre Pilote was the only hockey autograph that I got. I had originally planned on getting autographs from a few other Blackhawk legends but had to cut some costs after picking up an item that I'll show later on. Still, a 3x Norris winner and HOF inductee isn't too bad.

Cecil Cooper was very business-like while signing but still autographed a ROMLB with "5x All-star".

Todd Hollandsworth was one of the main reasons why I bought the VIP package. His name may not sound familiar to people outside of Southern-California, but Hollandsworth was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1996 for the Dodgers, and hasn't done and autograph signing in California in years.

Lem Barney was extremely nice, however his line was extremely long as well. I had asked him to put "ROY 67" and he also included "HOF 92", so it was well worth the wait.

Dontrelle Willis' line was also very long. I still remember when Willis was expected to be the next star pitcher for the Marlins and eventually the Tigers. Things never fully panned out for him but I was still glad to get him on a ball with "NL ROY 03".

Nate Archibald was also a part of the VIP package. I'm not a huge basketball collector outside of the Clippers and marquee players, so I had him sign a baseball with "HOF 92". He also added his nickname "Tiny" in all of his autographs.

My final VIP autograph came from Maury Wills. Wills has been a name that has been mentioned on this blog many times before. I have gotten his autographs many times but decided to get one last ROMLB with "NL MVP 62" on it.

Those were all of the autographs that came along with the VIP package. It's really a good purchase if you are planning on attending four or all five days of the show. One of the more random autographs not included on the VIP list came from the Rudy Ruettinger. Ruettinger was signing autographs at the Steiner booth for a $20 purchase. I ended up buying a Notre Dame mini helmet for $25 and got Rudy to sign it along with the famous motto "Play like a champion today".

After getting Rudy I returned back to the autograph lines and got the "Ironman", Cal Ripken Jr. Ripken is one of the classiest athletes in all of sports and was the only athlete to take a posed photo with every person who bought an autograph ticket at no additional cost. I got my ball autographed with "HOF 2007" and then got my picture taken with Cal.

After getting Cal I made my way over to the Randy Johnson line. Johnson has always been one of my favorite pitchers of all-time, so it was pretty cool to meet the Big Unit in person.

A last minute addition to the show was Luis Aparicio. By Last minute, I literally mean last minute. Aparicio was added the morning before he was scheduled to appear and I knew that I needed to get a ball signed to go along with my photo that I got signed back in 2010.

Manny Ramirez was making a rare autograph appearance as well, and let's just say that he has earned a lifetime award for the biggest a-hole that I have ever met. There are too many things to talk about, but let's just say that if you agree to do a sit down autograph signing and are getting paid $25,000 to sign your name for two hours, don't ruin people's items by signing in the wrong spot or writing literally an "M" and calling it an autograph. I saw too many people walk away with ruined 2004 Red Sox team pieces because he ignored them their request and/or gave an horrible autograph. Also, don't get up and leave when there are still people in line who already pre-paid for your autograph. I guess that's just "Manny being Manny", and ironically he refused to sign that at this signing. I got pretty lucky and was able to come away with one of the best Manny autographs from the day, but still shame on Manny for being such an arrogant (fill in the blank).

From the biggest a-hole that I've met to one of the nicer guys in baseball, I was able to get Tom Glavine to sign a HOF ball with "HOF 2014". Glavine is the literally the opposite of Ramirez in every way possible, and I couldn't be happier to say that.

These final two pieces were by far my favorite from the show. I've tried hard to pick one that stands out over the other, but I just can't. The first piece is an 11x14 photo signed by two of the greatest players in MLB history, Brooks and Frank Robinson. I was able to get their autographs on separate days and was extremely happy with the way it turned out. It's truly a legendary piece for my collection.

The second piece is signed by one of the newest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, John Smoltz. I was able to pick up an authentic Atlanta Braves jersey of Smoltz from one of the dealers at the show and was able to get him to sign it a couple of days later.

That concludes what was the longest recap in this blog's history. Overall the National Sports Collectors Convention and Chicago treated me very well, and I highly recommend it to any collector. Thanks for reading!