Saturday, April 5, 2014

Mariners vs. Angels Opening Day Recap: 3/31

My home away from home
A few weeks ago when I made my Spring Training 2014 Recap, I started out with the simple quote "Baseball. Is. Back.". While the four day getaway may have meant a small glimpse of the game we all love, nothing compares to being inside of a major league ballpark for the first time of the new season. Luckily for me, the Angels opened up the 2014 MLB season at home on March 31st, and I'm sure you all could've predicted where I was that night.

The day got off to an incredible start to say the least. I decided to hang out down the line with a few of my friends, all of whom were trying to get Robinson Cano. We lucked out as Cano looked over to us, nodded, and made his way over as he finished stretching. Since I already got my jersey done last month at Spring Training, I decided to get a ROMLB this time from Robbie.

Robinson Cano autographed ROMLB
I was a bit unprepared for Cano to sign, and while I didn't want to drop an ROMLB, I really had no choice. I was hoping to do a 11x14 for Cano (knowing that he signs ROMLB's lightly in person), but I never got the time to order one. None-the-less, I'm very happy to add another Cano to my collection.

Since I didn't have to chase Cano around for the rest of BP, I had the luxury of kicking back and just hoping that someone would come over and some. As it turned out, John Buck, Danny Farquhar, and Logan Morrison all came over and signed some cards for me.

Mariners autographed cards
My plan was to head upstairs for the Opening Day ceremonies, but my graphing instincts got the better of me, and I ended up watching the national anthem and player introductions from behind the Mariners' dugout.

The new-ish Seattle Mariners
During the game I checked on my phone and noticed that I was on a few different Instagram pages, including AM 830's, which showed Robinson Cano handing me back my baseball from a few hours prior.

A proof pic at it's best
I decided to stick around after the game and try my luck with the Mariners. The results aren't too great, but I was able to get Erasmo Ramirez on three cards...

Erasmo Ramirez auographed cards
And Brad Miller on a pair of cards.

Brad Miller autographed cards
I did attend game two of the series, but with the sole purpose of obtaining this...

Best. Bobblehead. Ever.
The bobblehead commemorated Mike Trout's cycle last season, and reads "May 21, 2013- Youngest Player In AL History To Hit For Cycle" around the base. It also shows mini figures hitting and sliding around the bases at his feet.

Stupid State Farm
I did stick around for BP, but only to be left empty handed, but to be honest, I was perfectly fine with that. I got my bobblehead and was content on leaving. 

Overall it nice to be back at the ballpark and catch up with some friends. The Angels aren't back for over a week, but their next home series is against the New York Mets, so I'll definitely have a nice recap up as soon as that series concludes. Thanks for reading! 

Offseaon Pick-Ups

Over the past few months I've made a lot of improvements to my collection through trades and also the occasional purchase. My goal is to one day have a collection with only quality items, and I've come to the realization that to have a quality collection, sometimes you're going to have to give in and pay up. I made a small post in December recapping a few items that I had picked up, but since then I've made quite a few more transactions that would impress just about anyone.

Before I get into the pick-ups, I attended another Steve Sax signing at Dr. Alex Corbin Liu's office a while back. Sax was charging $20 per autograph, which I decided to pay up in order to finally get a full signature from Sax. I had Steve autograph a ROMLB with "82 NL ROY" inscribed.

Steve Sax autographed ROMLB
Next up are a pair of baseballs that I briefly mentioned in my 2013 Year In Review post. The first ball is signed by Hall of Fame member Paul Molitor. The reason why I picked up the ball was because Molitor wrote out his full name, "Paul Leo Molitor", which I hadn't seen before. The ball is also a PSA "gem mint" 10 to make things even better.

Paul Leo Molitor autographed ROMLB
The other item that I previously referenced is this 2012 All Star baseball signed by 2014 Hall of Fame inductee Tony LaRussa. The ball has one of the sickest inscriptions that I've ever seen, as it reads "Final Game MNG NL-8 AL-0" referencing the final score of the game.

Tony LaRussa autographed ROMLB
The next item I got came from a trade with my friend Nik from Facebook. I was able to get this Lance Berkman ROMLB with MLB Authentication off of his hands. I've been wanting a Berkman autograph for a while so this will definitely be a welcome addition to my collection.

Lance Berkman autographed ROMLB
These next items came from purchases either through Ebay or other sports memorabilia websites that I frequent. I'll start off with my second Paul Molitor baseball, this one inscribed "93 WS MVP" and ".418 WS BA"

another Paul Molitor ROMLB
Fromer National League MVP and an extremely tough autograph to get in person, Jimmy Rollins.

Jimmy Rollins autographed ROMLB
One of the best deals I got was this Ryan Braun autographed 2008 All Star baseball. I snatched this up with six seconds left and am very happy with the deal I got.

Ryan Braun autographed 2008 AS ball
Ryan Madson, which I picked up at the Angels Yard Sale for less than the price of a new ROMLB.

Ryan Madson autographed ROMLB
Alberto Callaspo, another ball I picked up for basically nothing.

Alberto Callaspo autographed ROMLB
By far one of the best items I picked up, a Harmon Killebrew autographed ROMLB with "573 HRs".

Harmon Killebrew autographed ROMLB
Yet another deceased legend, Ralph Kiner inscribed "HOF 75". I picked this ball up a few days after his passing and I'm thrilled with it. 

Ralph Kiner autographed ROMLB
I also sent out and got back my first ever TTM attempt from Pat Gillick. I had a 1992 World Series baseball left over from the regular season and decided to send it out to the guy who constructed the team. I can't remember how long it took but Mr. Gillick sent back the ball with "HOF 2011" as requested.

Pat Gillick autographed 1992 WS ball
Finally, I sent in to a signing on the east coast and got back this Orlando Cepeda autographed ROMLB with "HOF 99". Cepeda typically give out rough signatures in person so I was happy to get a clean, sit down signature for a great price.

Orlando Cepeda autographed ROMLB
Just like I began this post, I'm going to end it with an IP success that isn't really worthy of it's own post. I attended the Dodgers vs. Angels exhibition game at Angel Stadium last weekend and got Chone Figgins to autograph an ROMLB with "2002 WSC". Chone was even nice enough to add the number 9, which he wore during his playing days in Anaheim. As always, it's nice to add another member of the 2002 Angels to my PC.

Chone Figgins autographed ROMLB
That covers my pick-ups over the baseball offseason. Overall I'd call it a very successful offseason adding these beauties and some other items to my collection. I'm still keeping an eye out for good deals, so expect another recap similar to this one in the near future. As always, thanks for reading!

Chuck Finley at the OC Dugout

Angel legend and former All Star pitcher Chuck Finley made an appearance at the OC Dugout in Anaheim a while or so ago. I decided to go to the event with my brother-in-law, Todd, who's favorite player growing up was Chuck. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get one of the most popular pitcher's of his decade, so I got Chuck to sign a ROMLB with "5x All-Star".

Chuck Finley autographed ROMLB
The OC Dugout was also allowing photo ops with every autograph ticket purchased. As seen in the photo, Chuck Finley is a very tall guy, which is one of the things that helped him dominate the American League in the 1990's.

Chuck Finley and I
A big thanks to Chuck Finley and the OC Dugout for putting on the event. On a side note, I'm beginning to enjoy paid autograph signings a lot more now. While many graphers enjoy "the hunt", I find it nice to not have to battle with graphers and fans alike over a signature. I also like the fact that you're guarenteed an autograph at paid signings, so I feel more comfortable buying premium items knowing that I'll get it signed. That's my personal preference. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Upcoming Signing: Michael Cage

Even with two basketball teams in Los Angeles, any Southern California grapher knows that basketball is, for some reason, one of the toughest sports to graph in our area. There is, however, the occasional basketball signing, and the next one is scheduled to take place at my friend's, Dr. Alex Corbin Liu's, office. Former NBA player Michael Cage will be signing for $10 a pop with proceed going to one of his charities. It's a great cause and an easy way to score a former NBA player and Gold medalist. Check out the flyer attached for more details.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Spring Training 2014 Recap

Baseball. Is. Back.

Or at least kind of. While Opening Day is still a long, grueling twenty days away, Spring Training is in full force in both Arizona and Florida. While I've never experienced any Grapefruit League action, 2014 marked the fifth straight year in which I made the trip down to Arizona to get a faint glimpse at the six month graphing season ahead. As usual, I tried to schedule my trip for the first weekend of games, and for the first time I brought along a graphing friend, Kyle, to share the experience with.

Day One (3/1/2014):

Jason Kipnis inscribed "1st ASG"
That was how my day started, and basically ended as well. That's because the entire day was plagued by a grapher's worst nightmare... rain. While the forecast in Phoenix had called for showers, I was hoping that the rain wouldn't be severe enough to halt graphing activities for the entire day. Unfortunately, my hopes were bashed quickly. Luckily, Jason Kipnis made the day a bit better by signing the 2013 All-Star baseball as seen above. Kipnis was cool as usual and even inscribed "1st ASG' as I asked.

About two minutes after getting Kipnis, the rain began. Hoping to find a dry spot to graph, I headed over to Glendale where the skies had cleared up a bit. By the time I got there, however, most of the big names had already left, but I was able to get Jose Quintana, John Danks, and Dayan Viciedo to sign a few cards.

Quintana, Danks, and Viciedo cards
I then decided to head over to Scottsdale, where the Diamondbacks were playing a day-night double header. In hopes of getting some of the bigger names from the first game, I bought a ticket and made my way down to the field. The game was already in the sixth inning when it started pouring, and of course, the game was cancelled after about two minutes of rain. The worst part was that by the time I made my way to the other side of the stadium, the rain had completely stopped, and the game could have resumed had it not been called already. As I was leaving the field, however, I noticed Miguel Montero signing on the D-Backs side, so I made my way over to him and decided to drop a ROMLB just to make the $9 ticket worth it.

Miguel Montero autographed ROMLB
Since the rain had already stopped, I decided to try my luck at the Diamondbacks parking lot. The only guy that stopped was Brandon McCarthy, who signed four cards for me.

Brandon McCarthy signed cards
As I mentioned above, the D-Backs were playing a day-night double header. The skies had cleared up and there was hope that the game could actually be played, so with that thought in mind I decided to bought tickets, but by the time I got down to the field this was my view.

Photo courtesy of Kyle
This was my view from the concourse about five minutes later...

Rain sucks
Not only was it raining, but there was a lightning storm as well, so we were not allowed to leave the covered area for at least fifteen minutes. The field was literally flooded, and to my amazement, it took them more time to call this game than it did the first, where it was barely raining. The biggest waist of $10 in my life (which TicketMaster has yet to refund me for).

Day Two (3/2/2014):

After a rain-filled day one, Kyle and I were in serious need of a big day, and was it ever big...

Cano don't ya know?
The picture doesn't do it any justice
The first, and by far best, autograph of the day came from Robinson Cano. Kyle and I were the only two people to get Cano's autograph all day, and I was able to get Robbie on my authentic New York Yankees jersey. Not only did Cano sign for us, but he was also very friendly and talked with us for a minute. It was nice to have a good experience with him since I've always imagined him as a jerk.

After getting Cano I caught up on some sleep and made my way over to D-Backs camp where I got Trevor Cahill, Eric Chavez, Nick Ahmed, Josh Collmenter, and Daniel Hudson on cards.

Diamondbacks autographed cards
I was also able to get Diamondbacks coach and former World Series MVP Alan Trammell on a ROMLB.

Alan Trammell autographed ROMLB
And Patrick Corbin on a PhotoFile 8x10.

Patrick Corbin autographed 8x10
The D-Backs were scheduled to play the Rockies later in the day, and inside the stadium I was able to get Matt Stites, Matt Tuiasosopo, Henry Blanco, and Bronson Arroyo on cards.

More Diamondbacks cards...
After getting a few D-Backs, Kyle and I decided to test our luck on the Rockies side. Colorado was starting their big three (Cargo, Cuddyer, and Tulowitzki), and judging by the crowd I was almost certain that we'd come away with at least one of the three. While Kyle was able to score a last second auto from Gonzalez, I got shutout by all three players as Cuddyer and Tulo both ignored and Cargo only signed for a select few, one of which being Kyle. I was, however, able to score a couple of autos from two of the best pitching prospects in baseball, Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler, who both signed ROMLB's for me.

Jonathan Gray inscribed "2013 #3 Pick"
Eddie Butler inscribed "2012 First Round Pick"
I also got 2013 Gold Glove winner Nolan Arenado on a ROMLB. I had gotten Arenado a few times in the past but never dropped a baseball on him until now. Luckily his signature hasn't changed too much from his minor league days. 

Nolan Arenado autograph ROMLB
Finally, I was able to get the before-mentioned Butler and DJ LeMahieu to sign a card each.

Butler and DJ LeMahieu autographed cards
Since it was Sunday and there were no night games scheduled, Kyle and I decided to check out the Atlanta Hawks vs. Phoenix Suns game in downtown Phoenix. While we didn't graph, I was able to get a few pictures of the US Airways Center.

Entrance to the US Airways Center
The Suns beat the Hawks 129-120
Day Three (3/3/2014):

This was our final full day in Arizona, as we were only seeing one game on Tuesday before heading back to California, and to say we made it count would be an understatement.

My original plan was to check out the Reds camp on Saturday, but as I mentioned above, the day was plagued by rain and as a result, the Reds did not practice that day. So after getting Cano out of our way on Sunday, we figured Monday would be our best shot at graphing Votto, Phillips, and the other Reds.

For whatever reason the Goodyear Baseball Complex has always been my favorite in Arizona. Whether it be getting Votto and Phillips last season to getting Kipnis a couple of days prior, I;ve always seemed to do well at the facility. My luck continued this day, as I started off getting cards signed by Chris Heisey, Ryan Ludwick, Jack Hannahan. and Todd Frazier.

Reds autographed cards
After the Reds finished up practice, Brandon Phillips came over and signed for the fans. "Dat Dude" signed for everyone at practice as usual and autographed a ROMLB for me.

Brandon Phillips autographed ROMLB
Later that day Phillips posted a photo on Twitter of him signing for the guy next to me. The photo was taken by one of's photographers and of course, Dat Dude was standing right in front of me, completely blocking me and my one second of fame...

Finally, I was able to get Joey Votto coming off of the practice fields. Kyle and I got real lucky on this one, as we picked the perfect spot for both Phillips and Votto. Votto only signed for about ten of the thirty fans waiting but thankfully Kyle and I were the first two people to get him. I got Votto on a ROMLB, which marked my fifth item signed by the former MVP.

Joey Votto autographed ROMLB
After practice ended we hurried over to Glendale to catch the tail end of warm ups. Kyle and I bought a cheap ticket and then went inside and got cards signed by Josh Phegley, Erik Johnson, Matt Davidson, Andre Reinzo, Connor Gillaspie, and Robin Ventura.

White Sox autographed cards
Kyle was also able to get Paul Konerko pre-game which was a nice addition to his set. If anyone has any unsigned 2013 Heritage cards make sure to contact him on Instagram or Facebook.

Our final stop for the day was once again Salt River Fields, home of the Rockies and Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks were playing another day-night double header, and since Paul Goldschmidt was playing in the day game, our only hopes at getting him was on the way out. Luckily, Goldy stopped and signed for the six or seven people who were waiting and I was able to get him on a 2013 All-Star baseball.

Paul Goldschmidt autographed 2013 A.S. ball
While waiting for Goldschmidt, I was also able to get Aaron Hill on a PhotoFile 8x10 before heading over to the Rockies side.

Aaron Hill autographed 8x10
Once on the Rockies side I was in autograph heaven. The practice fields had been changed from years past and were much more accesible for autographs than before. Within the first few minutes of arriving I was able to get Carlos Gonzalez on a PhotoFile 11x14. Gonzalez was also nice enough to add "Cargo" as he did for almost every person.

CarGo autographed 11x14
While waiting for Tulo and Cuddyer to finish up their fielding drills, Drew Stubbs and Wilin Rosario came over and signed. It was nice adding Rosario to my collection since I see him as a very good catcher one day.

Stubbs and Rosario autographed cards
The next guy that signed has been one of my white whales for over two seasons, Troy Tulowitzki. For whatever reason I've never had any luck getting Tulo's autograph in the past and have never found the time to try for him in San Diego when the Rockies come in. Tulo told a young fan earlier that he'd sign after hitting and in the end he held up to his word. While he wasn't the friendliest (or friendly at all for that matter), Tulo stuck around and signed my ROMLB on the sweetspot.

Troy Tulowitzki autographed ROMLB
Before even putting my Tulowitzki ball away, Michael Cuddyer had begun signing in the same area. Cuddyer was in a much better mood than Tulo and signed an ROMLB with "2013 NL Batting Champ" as requested.

Michael Cuddyer inscribed "2013 NL Batting Champ"
Getting Cuddyer, Gonzalez, and Tulowitzki in under an hour was a huge relief, and meant that I could focus on getting Kirk Gibson pre-game instead of trying for more Rockies. While waiting for Gibson to onto the field, I was able to get Randall Delgado, Cliff Pennington, Alex Sanabia, Chris Owings, Alfredo Marte, Eric Chavez, and A.J. Pollock on cards.

Even more Diamondbacks cards...
Finally, Krik Gibson emerged from the left field clubhouse and signed for fans by the bullpen. This is when I knew that I was having a lucky day, as I had never seen Gibson sign before a Spring Training game before. Even though I have graphed the Diamondbacks multiple times, this was my first time ever getting Gibby and I am very happy to add his autograph to my collection.

Kirk Gibson autographed ROMLB
After I got out of the crowd I heard Gibby questioning some other graphers where they got these new baseballs from. I've seen people get questioned for a lot of different things before, but never have I seen people get questioned for buying new baseballs. 

Day Four (3/4/2014):

Tuesday marked my fourth and final day in Arizona, and after getting most of my main targets the day before, I had a tough time choosing who to graph. Kyle and I eventually decided to try the White Sox in hopes of Jose Abreu, who we both had expected to get already. Unfortunately, Abreu has already stopped signing as much as he did during the first few weeks of camp. 

While we weren't able to get Abreu, we were able to get solidified star and possible Hall of Famer Jim Thome, who was at camp as a guest instructor. Thome hadn't been at Sox camp in the past few weeks so I was not expecting to see him. However, Thome pulled up in a gold cart and signed for about twenty fans, one of which being me, and I was able to get the 600 home run club member on a ROMLB.

Jim Thome autographed ROMLB
Getting Thome was one of the highlights of the trip, and while I would've been happy going home right then and there, I decided to stick around and enjoy my last few hours in Arizona. Once practice ended Chris Sale came over and signed. Sale is known for his atrocious signature, however he is a great signer and an even better pitcher, so I decided to get him on my final 2013 All-Star baseball. Unfortunately Sale didn't even put his number and the signature basically looks like two loops.

Chris Sale autographed 2013 A.S. ball
Former Angels relief pitcher Scott Downs came over to sign as well. Downs was one of my biggest targets this Spring, and while that may sound really bad, it was because I picked up a Downs game used jersey at the Angel Yard Sale the weekend before. Downs made time to come over and sign the jersey and was kind enough to put "2013" on it as well. It's a great piece signed by one of the nicest guys in baseball.

Scott Downs 2013 G.U. jersey
Signature and inscription up close
MLB Authentic hologram
Before leaving, Paul Konerko came over and signed for a few fans after practice. Konerko was skipping a lot of people but luckily I was in a good position and got my 2005 World Series ball signed. 

Paul Konerko autographed 2005 W.S. ball
After getting Konerko, Kyle and I made our way back to Goodyear. Since it was on our way back to California, we decided to drop in on the White Sox and Indians game in hopes of scoring a couple more autos. Inside I was able to get Jeff Keppinger, Dylan Axelrod, Jordan Danks, Adam Dunn, Alexei Ramirez, and Gordon Beckham on cards.

White Sox autographed cards
I was also able to get White Sox skipper Robin Ventura on a Gold Glove baseball. I actually forgot that I had brought along a Gold Glove baseball with me and figured that Ventura would be a good candidate as a 6x Gold Glove winner himself.

Robin Ventura autographed G.G. ball
Finally, I was able to get David Murphy and Terry Francona on cards before the game...

Murphy and Francona autographed cards
And Aaron Harrang, Corey Kluber, and Michael Bourn post game.

Harrang, Kluber, and Bourn autographed cards
That concluded my 2014 Spring Training trip. In total I was able to come away with 81 signed cards, 17 signed baseballs (5 of which were commemorative baseballs), 2 authentic jerseys, 2 signed 8x10's and 1 signed 11x14 for a grand total of 103 autographs. I'd like to thank Kyle from coming along and I'll remind you guys once more to hit him up if you have any 2013 Heritage cards. You can contact him on his Instagram page by clicking on his name above. I'd also like to give a shout out to everyone who recognized me from this blog and/or Autographs 101 from Facebook. Finally, a thanks to all of the players that signed and made 2014 another successful year in Arizona. Now the countdown begins to the regular season, as the regular season inches closer and closer. Thank you all for reading!