Friday, August 17, 2018

Quick update before I forget...

I'm actually going to try to stay on top of things. Sort of.

TTM July 31
John Kruk, c/o Phillies, 2/2, 1 year

TTM August 13
Jose Canseco, c/o home, 2/2, 5 months

IP August 15 - Cleburne Railroaders at Texas AirHogs
Rafael Palmeiro, 1/4, 3/3
Angelo Gumbs, 2/2

I have one more Grand Prairie outing and one more Frisco outing all coming up. I just need one autograph in that time to hit 200 for my third straight month, and four more to hit 700 across June-July-August.

We'll be seeing the Lincoln Saltdogs on Sunday in Grand Prairie (Dan Johnson, Shairon Martis, Dan Reichert, Joe Bircher, Curt Smith, and Brandon Jacobs all have cards), and I'll be headed out to Frisco next weekend for the Midland Rockhounds. Both teams' seasons are done on September 3 unless Frisco can overcome a 4.5 game deficit in the final two weeks.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The National: Final

Whew. We had a busy few days after my return (had a good friend stay with us one night, band practice Saturday), I finally had a moment today to photograph almost everything. Not pictured: Set cards, items I got signed for others, and the 100+ hockey sig lot I picked up for Lee Alexander.

FINAL TOTALS

Miles driven: 3,358
States visited: Fourteen
Games attended: Twelve
Autographs obtained, whether in-person, trade, purchased, or pulled from a pack: 574

A gigantic rundown-- and this doesn't include signed photos or the unsigned items I snagged...














Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The National Trip: Days 12 and 13

I'm back in Arlington, having survived the week. Got about half the car unloaded.  I'll probably have a full recap next week.

DAY 12

START TIME: 9:30 am Central
STARTING CITY: Des Moines, IA
STOPPING POINT: Kansas City, MO and Wichita, KS
STATES VISITED: Iowa, Missouri, Kansas
MILES DRIVEN TODAY: 400
MILES DRIVEN TOTAL: 2,932

Fortunately this game was much more calm than the previous. Not much to talk about, so we'll roll through it fast.

Arron and I got in a little before 11 and caught the 51s doing a bullpen session. Ian Krol signed 2/2, PJ Conlon 1/6, and Buddy Baumann 4/4.

At the other side, we got hitting coach Joel Chimelis coming in, signing 2/2, and Peter Alonso who signed the lone card I had left on him.

For Iowa, Chris Valaika signed 3/4, starting pitcher Jen-Ho Tseng signed 1/1, and Trevor Clifton signed 3/3.  I only missed Taylor Davis on the trio of Rookie Stars from the 2018 Topps Heritage set-- I might be able to get him in Iowa at some point. Ironically, I had heard he was the easiest to get of the three!  Also got to meet up with Josh Middleton of some of the Facebook autograph groups.

Food was excellent as well-- we went to Zombie Burger in downtown Des Moines, and hit Gates BBQ in Independence, where I was able to finish off a trade I made with Brian Reser for some soccer and baseball autos, plus some old IHL and CHL media guides.

RUNNING TOTAL: 343 autographs

* * * * * * * * * *

DAY 13

START TIME: 10 am Central
STARTING CITY: Wichita, KS
STOPPING POINT: Wichita Falls and Arlington, TX
STATES VISITED: Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas
MILES DRIVEN TODAY: 426
MILES DRIVEN TOTAL: 3,358

We drove. That's all I got.

I'll have more next week, like I said. Give me a day or five to relax and get everything sorted and organized.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The National Trip: Day 11

DAY 11

START TIME: 10 am Central
STARTING CITY: Cedar Rapids, IA
STOPPING POINT: Des Moines, IA
STATES VISITED: Iowa
MILES DRIVEN TODAY: 128
MILES DRIVEN TOTAL: 2,532

Sometimes I seriously hate people. Especially those with a New York Inferiority Complex™. But we'll get to that in a moment.

The day started out just fine. Or at least comparatively well compared to later. I was hoping to see the first house I ever lived in, but it was about a 30 minute drive to get there, then probably another 20 back to the ballpark, so we skipped that. We got to the stadium in Cedar Rapids, met up with Larry from the Facebook groups... and it starts raining. Just soft enough that it wouldn't cancel the game, just hard enough to make it hell on us graphing. Down next to the Beloit dugout, I was at least able to get Nick Allen and Webster Garrison each on 1/1.  After his pitcher warmed up, Don Schulze came over and signed 8/8.  Up on the concourse, the Kernels had a couple of players signing, so I got Randy Dobnak and Andrew Bechtold each on a card, along with Tyler Watson who was charting.

Funny thing about Watson, we went and asked him to sign just before the national anthem, and he said he'd sign after. I thought he meant after the game, so we sat back down. Turns out he just meant after the anthem, and actually walked over to our section and signed. I've never seen that before.

By the end of the game, the rain had cleared off so we went out to the bus out back and hoped for the best.  The tough part about 'graphing outside is you have no jersey numbers to help you out. So you have to figure out heights, weights, and distinguishing features to have any hope. We did alright though: Cibney Bello, Toby Gardenhire, and Trey Cabbage each signed 1/1 and Bailey Ober 2/2 from Cedar Rapids. For Beloit, Austin Beck signed 1/2, and Lazaro Armenteros signed 3/5.

We didn't see Akil Baddoo, and missed Blayne Enlow, but Larry offered to help us out with Baddoo.

From there, it was a two-hour drive to Des Moines, and we arrived only 15 minutes after gates opened. Las Vegas was finishing up batting practice, but we weren't able to get anyone just yet.  Having zero luck early on the Iowa side, we went over to try the Vegas side and at least got Patrick Kivlehan on 4/4 and Bryce Brentz on 3/3-- putting me past my stated goal of 300 for the trip.

And this is when my trouble began.

Arron and I are down doing our thing, minding our own business, chatting with a couple other 'graphers when over comes this guy in an Iowa Hawkeyes shirt, 51s hat, and beard and glasses that make him look like some hipster candyass.

"SO, WHICH OF YOU ARE VEGAS FANS? METS FANS? THEN YOU NEED TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW."

Clearly I don't take well to that, so I just look and scoff at his arrogant douchebaggery. So he doubles down...

"YOU A METS FAN? I DON'T SEE IT ON YOUR HAT. YOU'RE SOME BANDWAGON CUBS FAN AREN'T YOU?"

Oh. Hell. No. I don't bandwagon anything, much less the Cubs. So I told him to go sit back down. Repeatedly

"SO, WHAT, YOU'RE HERE TO GET THESE AND SELL THEM, AREN'T YOU?"

I told him yeah, exactly, I'm that desperate for a dollar. Sarcasm clearly doesn't go over well with him. Meanwhile Jeremy Accardo came over and signed 2/2, followed by Dominic Smith on 1/2. So Mets Fan Cockwagon goes and sits back down for a bit, telling everyone around that I'm a dealer. On my way back out of the section, I called him out for the fact that it's amazing that this "bandwagon Cubs fan" knew all of his team's players better than he did.

By the way, this dude was getting a computer-printed team logo sheet signed... and didn't even fit it onto a single page.

So he strikes back at me-- of course-- this time loudly dropping F-Bombs that are echoing throughout a couple of sections, with a kid right next to him. When I pointed that out he expressed the fact that he "didn't give a fuck" who was around. Meanwhile one of the other decent 'graphers notified security, who... did absolutely nothing except check his ticket and tell him to tone it back. I was hoping he'd be escorted out and I probably would try to needle him into punching me on the way by.

Even two Mets fans at the top of the section were on my wide in the whole thing seeing it all go down. Most Mets fans I know are decent people. No idea why this guy was looking for a fight or why he went after me for it, but as the former penalty minute leader of a few floorball leagues, I think most people I know are well aware I don't back down from an altercation if I'm in the right. And every witness agreed that I was.

Postgame went better. One of the 'graphers who saw it all go down said "Geez, you're really getting it tonight, aren't you?" He said he had never seen that guy before, so he wasn't remotely representative of the Des Moines 'graphers. Over at the bullpen, I got Casey Coleman on 2/2 and as the teams left the field it was Peter Alonso on 2/3 and Glenn Abbott on 3/3 as he was heading off the field.  Closer to the dugout I added Ryan Court on 1/1.

Outside it was too dark to see at the Vegas doors, so we went for the Cubs side. I got Chesny Young on 1/1, Dillon Maples on 1/2, Cory Mazzoni on 2/2, Kyle Ryan on 2/2, James Norwood on 1/2, and Rob Zastryzny on 1/4. The coaches came out last, as Marty Pevey signed 1/1 and Desi Wilson 3/3.  Or at least we thought they were last:  Stephen Bruno was close behind, signing 2/2.

So, despite the near-throwdown with some total asshat, it was good. Day 12 will consist of hopefully more of the same, but with different names and hopefully no throwing of hands.

RUNNING TOTAL: 326 autographs

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The National Trip: Days 7, 8, 9, and 10

Time has just been incredibly limited, sleep is at a premium, and my brain is melting.   So please forgive my lateness. Caffeine is my friend.

DAY 7

START TIME: 8 am Eastern
STARTING CITY: Macedonia, OH
STOPPING POINT: Westlake, Cleveland, Akron, and Macedonia, OH
STATES VISITED: Ohio
MILES DRIVEN TODAY: 164
MILES DRIVEN TOTAL: 1,812

The first full day of the National saw Arron handling the 'graphing while I went searching the tables.  Signers were Isaac Curtis, Ross Browner, Len Barker, and Tom Cousineau.  At the tables, I mistly spent my time at a $1 autographs booth, where I managed to pull over 100-- mostly for Lee, with a few for me. I also grabbed a few 1972 Topps set needs, and a few random cards to TTM.  I also got to spend the show with my dad.

Meanwhile in the evening, it was down to Akron for the RubberDucks game against the Bowie Baysox.  We went for Akron inside, and they were excellent. We never say Triston McKenzie, but signers for us included Rob Kaminsky on 2/4, Mitch Brown on 4/4, James Karinchak on 1/1 (finishing my Lake County No-Hitter card), Kieran Lovegrove on 1/1, Matt Whitehouse on 2/2, Logan Ice on 2/2, Sam Haggerty on 1/1, Mark Mathias on 4/4, Joe Sever on 2/2, Tyler Krieger on 2/2, and Ka'ai Tom on 2/3. Inside postgame we got Dillon Tate, who was charting. He signed 2/2.

Postgame we went to the Bowie bus. Before a group of overzealous, rude, and demanding kids ruined it, we got Brian Gonzalez on 2/2, Ryan Mountcastle on 1/4, Yusniel Diaz on 1/1 (he's now one-per), and D'Arby Myers on 2/2.

Side note, apparently a dealer had his inventory confiscated and was taken into custody by the Cleveland Police's Financial Crimes unit over selling alleged forgeries. Apparently his forgeries have been known to the hobby for AT LEAST five years too (check the latter link and you'll see a poster at Net54 calling Posada's company My Favorite Forgeries). Keep on busting the big fish-- it helps to keep the petty scammers like like Andrew Miller from getting too comfortable.

RUNNING TOTAL: 197 autographs

* * * * * * * * * *

DAY 8

START TIME: 9 am Eastern
STARTING CITY: Macedonia, OH
STOPPING POINT: Cleveland, Eastlake, and Macedonia, OH
STATES VISITED: Ohio
MILES DRIVEN TODAY: 88
MILES DRIVEN TOTAL: 1,736

Friday put me back into the autograph lines for Charles White, Steve DeBerg, Livan Hernandez, and Rico Petrocelli. Petrocelli was a non-ticketed signing (yay!) limited to one item per person (boo...). So given the option of my 11x14 photo, 1972 Topps set card, or 1965 rookie card that I procured for a dime the day before, I went with the photo. He signs by mail for $5, I could knock out the other two next week if I really want to (and I do).  White got started late, talked a lot, and people randomly jumped into his line so it took forever.  I was able to get through DeBerg's line while I was waiting and not lose much time (two for me, two for Arron, and one for another friend we were helping out).  Finally I got through and got a total of ten items signed by the former Heisman winner-- six for me, four for Arron.  Hernandez's start time got moved up which I didn't notice, but I was able to get to him quickly even though he started while I was still in White's line. Knocked out six items there-- two for me, two for Arron, two for another friend. Hernandez was on his phone the whole time, but did respond at least when I thanked him.

With the All-Access Super VIP package, we got five free authentications, so I used one each on White and Hernandez.  We never ended up using the other three at all. Mostly since I didn't think to do it.

It was a lighter day at the tables for me-- a small amount spent at a random 12 for $10 autograph table, but not much else.  I wanted to be able to have a total bonanza the final day.

That night, it was off to Lake County.  We got the Captains again pregame on a few cards that we had left over from the team set-- coach Kyle Hudson on 3/3, Felix Tati, Ulysses Cantu, Todd Isaacs, and Juan Acevedo each signed 1/1, and Will Benson did 1/2.  I also got Bowling Green coach Manny Castillo to sign 5/5 and shortstop Taylor Walls on 1/1.  Postgame I got Mikey York on 2/2, and Will Benson on my last card.

RUNNING TOTAL: 225 autographs

* * * * * * * * * *

DAY 9

START TIME: 10 am Eastern
STARTING CITY: Macedonia, OH
STOPPING POINT: Cleveland and Macedonia, OH
STATES VISITED: Ohio
RAPID TRANSIT LINES USED: Red from Brookpark to Tower City and back
MILES DRIVEN TODAY: 60
MILES DRIVEN TOTAL: 1,796

Arron handled the lines the final day as I hit the tables.  I went back to the 12 for $10 autographs and bought a bunch from that box as well as a $5 box that had several set needs for 1972.  I also grabbed a ton of Dave Stieb in the first box-- I'll gladly grab everything for $1 from a guy who charges $10 to sign!  I also snagged a bunch of non-personalized Doug Drabek and Cecil Cooper sigs.  Gotta love having trade bait on the cheap.

Over in the autograph lines, Arron got Randy Jones, Gregg Jefferies, Jose Rijo, and Marty Cordova.  Marty's pen slipped a bit on my photo, but it still looks alright.  So from this, I added three from Jones, one Jefferies, one Rijo, and three Cordova.

We kept the graphing light since we were close to dead at this point.  Pregame, the Indian had Jim Poole and Eric Plunk signing in the center field plaza, and each did a card for me.  I wish I had known they would be there: I have tons on them at home, and had to quickly scan through some cards my dad found at his place (found a 1992 Topps on each for Arron) and open up the 1991 Score factory set I got for $2 on Thursday (found both for myself).  Corey Kluber looked like his Cy Young self, pitching a complete game shutout. Exactly four years to the day was my last game at The Jake, where I saw Kluber go seven, allowing one run in a 7-1 win over Cincinnati.

RUNNING TOTAL: 235 autographs

* * * * * * * * * *

DAY 10

START TIME: 9 am Eastern
STARTING CITY: Macedonia, OH
STOPPING POINT: Fort Wayne, IN and Cedar Rapids, IA
STATES VISITED: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa
MILES DRIVEN TODAY: 608
MILES DRIVEN TOTAL: 2,404

Sometimes you just get on a roll and want to knock out an entire drive.  So we went all the way to Cedar Rapids after the Fort Wayne game.

My friend Shawn texted me updates as he helped us out getting the last day's signers-- Tommy Helms, Benito Santiago, Tom Browning, Joe Charbonneau, and Billy Sims.  From those, he got ten for me (three from Helms, two each from Sims, Santiago, and Charbonneau, and one from Browning) and several for Arron.

Meanwhile in Fort Wayne, I got the two Lansing players I had items for before the game-- five from former outfielder (now coach) Matt Young, and two from former shortstop (now pitcher) Emerson Jimenez.  The Tincaps were in no mood to sign before the game since they had an on-field signing session postgame.  So at that, we immediately went for MacKenzie Gore who signed 1/2.  The only ones signing multiples were Austin Smith on 2/2 and Mason Thompson on 3/3.  Granted, I only had one card on most of these guys-- each signing 1/1 were Caleb Boushley, Tom Cosgrove, Osvaldo Hernandez, Aaron Leasher, Evan Miller, Luis Patino, Ben Sheckler, Jalen Washington, Juan Fernandez, Esteury Ruiz, Tirso Ornelas, Jeisson Rosario, and Jack Suwinski. I had two of Luis Almanzar, but he only signed one.

RUNNING TOTAL: 272 autographs

So, my goal of 300 is in reach if this rain holds off. We got into Cedar Rapids at about 1 am after our second longest day of driving to this point. It rained overnight and looks pretty cloudy this morning.  At the very least, I need to buy a hat. I was born in Cedar Rapids but we left when I was about a year and a half old to move to Ohio. I went back for a week in 1990, but haven't been here since.  Back when my family lived here, they were still the Cedar Rapids Reds.  My parents saw the likes of Eric Davis, Paul O'Neill, Rob Murphy, Ron Robinson, Terry Lee, Kal Daniels, Chris Sabo, Kurt Stillwell, Lenny Harris, and Joe Oliver come through before they made it in Cincinnati.  Now the Kernels, I need to get a hat to go with the ones I bought for the Indians, RubberDucks, and Captains on the trip.

We'll be heading onward to Des Moines later as well for the Iowa Cubs vs. Las Vegas 51s. Thinking we likely will skip the Royals-Cubs game, and may pull double duty on the Cubs-51s since they play at noon tomorrow as well, and we'll be right there in Des Moines already.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The National Trip, Days 5 and 6

DAY 5

START TIME: 9 am Eastern
STARTING CITY: Macedonia, OH
STOPPING POINT: Eastlake, OH, and Macedonia, OH
STATES VISITED: Ohio
MILES DRIVEN TODAY: 53
MILES DRIVEN TOTAL: 1,648

Usually I like rain. And then it affects graphing.

We took off under cloudy skies to head up to the Great Lakes vs. Lake County game.  We stayed dry early-- inside the ballpark I got Juan Hillman on six cards, pitching coach Joe Torres on four, Oscar Gonzalez, Jose Vicente, and Tyler Friis each on one, three from Jonathan Laureano, and two from Francisco Perez.

And then the rains came.  The game did finish just fine, but it was just enough to make us not want to go for anyone postgame. And since the weather looked questionable for the afternoon and evening, we figured it was a good day to cancel the trip out to Toledo.

So, our first double will be delayed until we hit Iowa next week.  On the positive side, the rest was much-needed.

RUNNING TOTAL: 155 autographs


DAY 6

START TIME: 12 noon Eastern
STARTING CITY: Macedonia, OH
STOPPING POINT: Brookpark, OH, and Macedonia, OH
STATES VISITED: Ohio
MILES DRIVEN TODAY: 58
MILES DRIVEN TOTAL: 1,706

Despite having to scramble a bit when I realized that my computer clock is still in Central time, we got to the National on time and got all the signers.  We went for Luis Tiant first since his line was a mile long. Mike Hargrove came second, Calvin Murphy third.  Then the regularly scheduled signers of Eric Metcalf and Ickey Woods did their thing, and all was good.

Pretty simple really. Short entries for short days. But be prepared: it all hits the fan with a full day of the National and a return to 'graphing in Akron.






RUNNING TOTAL: 160 autographs

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The National Trip, Day 4

I thought if I scramble I'd have this in by midnight since my computer clock said 11:45.

And then I forgot I'm in Eastern now. Eh, screw it. I have a lot of thoughts tonight.

About a year ago, I wrote a piece on hobby etiquette. Tonight proved a part of that essay.

"You were new once too. Help others out as long as it doesn't hurt yourself or others to do so. Got an extra pen? Let someone use it. Know who a player is that someone needs? Point him out. See someone using a Sharpie on an official ball? Let them know why they shouldn't. Obviously you don't want to be a know-it-all prick because frankly, we're all still learning. But help educate others. The hobby will be a better place for it."

The same should go for someone graphing your city from elsewhere. Help them out. In Frisco, we try to help 'graphers who come in from other cities whenever possible. They don't come often, but when they do we'll assist where we can.

Tonight, the graphers in Columbus were among the least helpful I've ever encountered and easily the worst on this trip. A very cliquey group. In Birmingham, Lexington, and West Virginia, everyone else was willing to help us if and when we needed it. Tonight we got almost no assistance-- every man for himself was the name of the game outside, and almost no one was doing it inside.

START TIME: 9 am Eastern
STARTING CITY: Macedonia, OH
STOPPING POINT: Perry, OH, Columbus, OH, and Macedonia, OH
STATES VISITED: Ohio
MILES DRIVEN TODAY: 358
MILES DRIVEN TOTAL: 1,595

We made a quick drive up to see my dad this morning, having breakfast and picking up some stuff I had stored there.  Included among it was a pennant signed by a bunch of former MISL players, which can be seen on the Pacific Soccer Project blog.

After a quick break at the hotel, we hit the road down to Columbus.

Inside the ballpark was easy: we got in at 5:30 as Indianapolis was finishing batting practice. At their dugout, Ryan Lavarnaway signed the lone card I had of him, along with Brian Esposito signing 3/3 and Ryan Long 2/2.

We ventured over to Columbus' side and Eric Haase signed 4/7 (one going to Adam Rosenstein who sent me a few items and helped me out with a lot of scouting and recon on AAA teams), followed by the night's starting pitcher Mitch Talbot, who signed 4/4.  Pitching coach Steve Karsay signed 3/8.  As Talbot warmed up, we got a few position players to sign: Eric Stamets on 3/3, Adam Rosales on 2/2, Brandon Barnes on 5/5, and Yandy Diaz on 3/3.  We also got lucky on Yu Chang, who signed one-per right after the anthem.

Postgame was tough as I stated above, but we got a few: Drew Maggi signed the lone card I had of him, Mitch Keller did 1/3, Chris Bostick 2/2, and Kevin Newman 1/4.

Overall not bad; but I would have done better with some assistance from the locals.

Day total: 36 autographs
Running total: 137 autographs

Tomorrow: doing it double time as we hit Great Lakes at Lake County in the morning, Louisville at Toledo in the evening.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The National Trip, Day 3

START TIME: 9 am Eastern
STARTING CITY: Lexington, KY
STOPPING POINT: Charleston, WV
STATES VISITED: Kentucky, West Virginia
MILES DRIVEN TODAY: 174
MILES DRIVEN TOTAL: 1,237

Aside from a nice sunburn, Charleston was a fun outing.

We got into town pretty early for the 2 pm game-- gave us enough tome to make a quick Walmart run and get inside as gates opened. Team sets were only $8 for the 2018 set and $5 for the 2015 set, so I grabbed both. The 2017 set didn't have anything too useful aside from cards of Wyatt Toregas, Mitch Keller, and Ryan Long, but I'll take it. Future usages, perhaps.

Michael Egnor of the Ballpark Graphers group on Facebook helped me with some recon in advance and it made things easier for us. If you go down the right field line near the deck overhang, you can get both teams coming onto the field there. So before the game we were able to get Toregas on six cards, Joel Hanrahan on three, Cody Bolton on the game program, Rodolfo Castro, Kyle Watson, Lolo Sanchez, Ryan Peurifoy, Domingo Robles, Matt Seelinger, and Calvin Mitchell each on one. For Asheville, Norberto Martin signed four, and Tommy Doyle signed two.

Postgame we managed a few exiting-- Ryan Vilade signed two, and Argenis Diaz and and Ike Schlabach one.  We really wanted to try to get Oneil Cruz, so we went for the bus.  Luckily, the visiting bus and home bus pulled up together so we were able to get both teams-- Will Gaddis signed two and Robinson Cancel three for Asheville. For West Virginia, we got Joel Cesar, Sergio Cubilete, Nick Pressley, Travis MacGregor, Hunter Stratton, Ben Bengtson, and Chris Sharpe each signed one. Deon Stafford signed a card and the program, and eventually, finally, Cruz broke down and signed one.

After that, a quick dash northward put us into out home base for the next week, Macedonia, Ohio!

START TIME: 6 pm Eastern
STARTING CITY: Charleston, WV
STOPPING POINT: Macedonia, OH
STATES VISITED: West Virginia, Ohio
MILES DRIVEN TODAY: 231
MILES DRIVEN TOTAL: 1,468

Day totals: 42 autographs
Running total: 101 autographs

Tonight: Columbus vs. Indianapolis!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The National Trip, Days 1 and 2

Due to bad internet at our hotel in Birmingham, I'm having to post both recaps tonight from Lexington...

DAY ONE, 7/27

START TIME: 6:00 am Central
STARTING CITY: Arlington, TX
STOPPING POINT: Birmingham, AL
STATES VISITED: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama
MILES DRIVEN TODAY: 655
MILES DRIVEN TOTAL: 655

Day one is in the books as Arron and I left my place at 6 am. Exactly 12 hours after leaving my apartment in Arlington, we arrived at Regions Field in Birmingham.  We set out a quick game plan: buy the Barons' team set, get them, and then go after Tennessee postgame if necessary.  Pretty simple, easy enough to execute.

Well, that's if teams do warmups the way we're used to-- trickle out onto the field a few at a time, some signing on their way to the dugout, some signing after dropping gear off before throwing and stretching, some signing after that.  With Birmingham, the entrance to the field is right next to the dugout, so that initial pass doesn't happen.

As of about 6:40, we had only gotten Rich Dotson, who signed 2/3 for me.  But not long after, pitchers made their way to the bullpen. Jake Johansen signed for everyone, doing two of mine.  He did personalize one and add "GO SOX!" to a Nationals card. Is this a Guthrie-esque jab at the Nats? His fellow alliterative pitcher, Dane Dunning, also was great, signing all six that I had.

The players didn't trickle out for warmups so much as flood out-- all emerged together, but fortunately their return was better staggered.  Tito Polo, Jameson Fisher, Luis Alexander Basabe, and strength and Conditioning coach Tim Rodmaker each signed the lone card I had for them. Alex Call signed 2/2, Keon Barnum 3/3.  Trey Michalczewski and Zack Collins each were one-per, but I was incredibly happy to get them.

Another grapher alerted us that Dylan Cease was charting, so we got him just before the national anthem, another two-per signer.

Gotta say, great stadium-- similar to Oklahoma City in a lot of ways and the food was excellent. If I lived nearby I definitely would go again. Barons won 5-2. Postgame, Alec Hansen signed for us, one-per at the dugout.

Afterward, we headed outside to try Tennessee's bus. We didn't have a whole lot for them-- mostly pitchers and a few coaches.  Terry Clark was the first out, as he signed the four I had of him. Jake Stinnett was a one-per signer, but he signed the one I would have picked had he asked.  Manager Mark Johnson was the last one, signing two for me. Looks like he's typically three per, no dupes.

Overall, a solid start with 31 sigs.  Next stop: Lexington, KY!

DAY TWO, 7/28

START TIME: 7:30 am Central
STARTING CITY: Birmingham, AL
STOPPING POINT: Lexington, KY
STATES VISITED: Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky
MILES DRIVEN TODAY: 408
MILES DRIVEN TOTAL: 1,063

Graphing sports for the better part of two decades has introduced me to a to of people-- many of them have been really nice. Drew Waters of the Rome Braves may be the best. If everyone could have the attitude that he has toward the fans, I would leave every ballgame happy and impressed. He has a fan for life right here.

Me, Drew Waters, and Arron; Major thanks to the
fellow 'grapher who snapped the photo for us.
It's amazing that the kid is only 19 and is currently the #9 prospect in the Atlanta org. A second round pick out of high school in 2017, he's hitting .289 in his minor league career, including .296/9/36 this year (and as the Rome leadoff hitter, an impressive slash line of .296/.346/.509). After the game, a 3-2 loss for the Braves, after getting done with a phone call, he came out and signed for the ten or so fans who were there, conversed, posed for photos... and signed EVERYTHING. He told all of us that if we had more, get them out, he'll sign them all. His comment even was "The more I sign, the more cards you guys buy, and the more I get paid, so I'll keep doing it."  How can you not like a guy who's hitting like that and signing like that?

After one game of South Atlantic League 'graphing, I wish I could do it more. Before the game, Arron and I concentrated on the Lexington side after snagging their team set at the shop. Fourteen from the set were already gone, but we were left with 22 still with the team-- 15 of them signed their card.

As soon as we walked in, the Legends had two players signing at a table near the main entrance, then switched them out for two others. So within minutes of entry, we got Sal Biasi and Carlos Hernandez.  Down at the field, pitching coach and former Brewer Mitch Stetter signed three cards, followed by starting pitcher Yefri Del Rosario signing one.

Side note, everyone signed everything I had on me. So if I got one, it's because it was all I had.  Back to the recap...

Seuly Matias signed two cards for me, later blasting his 30th home run of the season, a Legends team record-- and we still have a shade over a month to play!  Nick Pratto came by and signed the four I had of him. Collin Snider, Sebastian Rivero, Ricky Aracena, Janser Lara, Cristian Perez, and Marten Gasparini each signed one.

Earlier, Cal Jones and M.J. Melendez told us they would sign after the game. True to their word, they signed-- Jones on the lone card I had of him, Melendez on three (personalizing all of them), along with pitcher Holden Capps, a native of Lawton, OK, just an hour from Wichita Falls.

We almost decided to leave. Clearly, we're glad we stuck around extra-- in addition to Waters, Freddy Tarnok signed two cards, as did manager Ralph "Rocket" Wheeler as we waited by the bus.

Excellent second day: 28 sigs from Lexington and Rome. Running tally: 59 signed cards through two games.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Final Countdown...

Sing it with me, hit it Europe! *plays synth*

Or let's not.

But yeah, we're into the final days before the trip begins. Today is Tuesday, Arron and I leave Friday.  Cards are bought, sorted and packed (aside from the final 15-20 I'm waiting on), photos are printed and boxed, snacks have been somewhat purchased, and I've made deals for all of the extra autograph tickets that we'll need. Just need to wash and pack clothes tomorrow and load up the car on Thursday night.

Before that, let me do a quick recap on some IP outings just to knock out July thus far. High temp for the day in parentheses because it's been ridiculous here...

JULY 6 - KC T-Bones vs. Texas Air Hogs (95)
Barrett Astin, 1/1
Joe Filomeno, 1/1
Adrian Nieto, 1/1
Taylor Featherston, 3/3
Todd Cunningham, 1/1
Zach Walters, 1/3

JULY 13 - Youth baseball tournament in Arlington (97)
Pat Meares, 15/15

JULY 14 - San Antonio Missions vs. Frisco RoughRiders (98)
Jimmy Jones, 9/9
Jonathan Meyer, 5/5? (Odd... the guy responded to Jonathan but gave me a terrible sig that doesn't match my previous one)
Michael Gettys, 1/3
Trevor Frank, 2/2

JULY 18 - Chicago Dogs vs. Texas Air Hogs (106)
Scott Barnes, 4/4
Joe Benson, 8/8
D.J. Boston, 3/3
Butch Hobson, 5/5

JULY 20 - Cleveland Indians at Texas Rangers (108)
Mike Clevinger, 1/3, 1/1 (with help)
Josh Tomlin, 3/3
Mark Budzinski, 1/1
Terry Francona, 1/1 (completes dual with Tito)

Mr. Kipnis, please? (Photo by Kevin Jairaj)
Well damn... (Photo by Kevin Jairaj)
And so, it begins this week: Looking forward to a cool (?) 93 degrees in Birmingham on Friday, with it currently saying 87 by first pitch. Thomas Hatch is scheduled on the hill for Tennessee, no info yet for Birmingham.

Saturday in Lexington: high of 81. No word of who will be on the hill for either team. No report yet who we'll see on Sunday between Asheville and West Virginia either, but we'll have a high of 83.

Columbus gives us Mitch Talbot on Monday, no word on Indianapolis. Tuesday's pair of games have no info yet.