Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hounding Report: Rangers, Tigers, A's, May 18-21

Been a while since I've written one of these!  Gotta love the setup with one week on and one week off for the most part through the entire season.

After the suckitude known as the Red Sox' signing habits a couple weeks back, I was ready to get back on track with the Tigers and A's, a couple of good signing teams, coming through.  I stocked up on cards from SportLots and got some in the mail from Corey, so I was all set for the Tigers to come rolling through.  Unfortunately, one of my targets got sent to Toledo in Luke Putkonen.  Hey, if I see a player with a Finnish last name, he's going to be one I want to get pretty badly, even if his ERA is in the 8's!

Corey also sent me some signed stuff from his Atlantic League outings-- Javier Colina, Matt Esquivel (2), James Houser (2), Ben Broussard, Eric Niesen, Josh Barfield, Dontrelle Willis (2), Ian Snell (2), and Adam Bailey (2).

Saturday, I biked down to the tunnel for the first time.  The ride was decent, though it took a little work to navigate the sidewalks along Lamar.  The north side of the street (eastbound) doesn't have ramped curbs at driveways.  Fortunately the other side does at most entries.  Legends Way is downhill all the way from I-30 to Nolan Ryan Expressway, so make sure your brakes work well if you decide to ride.  There are plenty of trees where you can chain up.

The tunnel was its typical self-- Leonys Martin stopped and signed one of the four I had on me.  Michael Kirkman signed the only card I had of him.  And aside from Joe Ortiz, no one else stopped.  So it was on to the inside where I hoped for the best.  Temperatures were warm and sunny, 90-ish degrees the whole time.  Fortunately, it didn't alter the Tigers' players usual good signing.  Drew Smyly came by first, signing the two I had of him.  Don Kelly signed the lone card I had of him (he was one-per anyway), followed by Joaquin Benoit, who signed two.  He'll sign everything you have when you see him.  Great guy.  While getting them, I did unfortunately miss out on Matt Tuiasosopo, who was signing one-per as well.  Ramon Santiago came by and was another one-per signer that I got.  Brayan Pena signed my lone card of him.  Phil Coke came down the line and signed one-per for everyone as well.

And then, the ground shook...

Making his way off the infield was Prince Fielder.  And he was walking toward us.  And he stopped.  And he signed, doing one-per for everyone there.  After about ten minutes or so, he did finally say "Okay guys, just two more, I gotta go," and he did his two, and took off.  Huge score though.

After the game, I went back to the tunnel again.  I missed out on Toby Harrah walking out because I wasn't sure if the bald mustachioed man was him or not.  I wasn't 100% on the bald part, but a Google search confirmed that for me.  Rats.  At that point, I wasn't too hopeful.  Aside from a few visiting coaches, no one else had signed at the post-game tunnel all season. The small crowd eventually thinned as I chatted with Paulo, a fellow collector from Frisco whom I've seen several times out at the tunnel.  With only seven or eight of us left, it was close to closing time.

And then a dark red sports car came out.

Elvis Andrus had gone 5 for 5 in the game-- three singles, a double, and a triple.  A pretty decent feat.  And on his way out-- in the same vein of Ian Kinsler stopping after a 6-for-6 game and after Michael Young got his 2000th hit-- he pulled over and signed for those of us who were still there.  My first Andrus autograph to go with a day where I also got Prince Fielder?  How's that for quality?

The bike ride back was slower.  The downhill ride of I-30 to Nolan Ryan becomes uphill when done in the opposite direction.  Needless to say, I walked my bike most of the way until I hit the I-30 underpass.

Sunday morning, I walked to the tunnel.  I was expecting to carry my chair back with me and after riding down with it strapped to the seat, I figured it would be easier to carry it while walking.  Tunnel was typical, again-- Martin stopped and signed two for me.  Alexei Ogando stopped and did one-per which was a nice surprise.  He's another Ranger I had never gotten before.  David Murphy decided he would sign on Sunday and was his usual one-per.  Based on my experiences and reading at TAC, he seems to stop every other day.  So if you miss him one day, try the next.

Back to the inside again, Benoit did another two cards for me.  Smyly signed, but I had nothing left for him.  Alex Avila was another nice surprise-- after ignoring us the day before, he was a one-per signer on Sunday.  Rick Porcello signed as well, doing one-per across the board.  No Prince today, as one might expect.  Miguel Cabrera would sign-- but only if you spoke Spanish and had a ball. No cards, photos, bats, jerseys: only balls.

Last, Phil Coke came down the line, signing, taking pictures, chatting with fans.  He gets up to me and I say "Wow, someone's Mr. Popular today."  He sighs and says "Yeah, because I'm Mr. Friggin Nice Guy," as he signed my card.

I ended up leaving after the 4th inning-- missing the Rangers comeback.  I was dead from spending two days outside, and biking and walking there and back each day.  It's only a mile and a quarter each way, but still, in 90 degree heat and when you're in as bad of physical shape as I am, it wears you down.  Which is why I'm doing it-- I'm tired of being out of breath when I do something as simple as walking to do laundry.  5'8" 230 may have worked for Kirby Puckett, but I've had enough of it.

So, Tuesday.  A's come to town.  It rains all of the early afternoon.  I kept texting Arron updates as I watched the radar.  Everyone at the job was kind of on edge after the tornado in Oklahoma City that leveled Moore.  Fortunately with a few connections to people who know weather really well, and ability to accurately read radar, I knew we weren't in for much-- rain and wind, no hail, no tornadic activity.

Granted, that knowledge doesn't mean I have common sense.  I got home, grabbed a few last cards, changed, and jumped on the bike.  Now, remember I said it was raining.  Wetness causes a lack of friction.  Friction is how brakes work.  Brakes are needed to stop.  So I rode all the way to the Ballpark with no brakes on my bike.  Fortunately I only came close to getting killed a couple times.  The Legends Way downhill was interesting.  I dragged my shoes pretty much the whole way, and fortunately was able to stop at Ryan Expressway.  Crisis averted.  In hindsight, I should have walked it again.  Arron and his mom could have driven me back.

Anyways, I got in quickly, got my Nolan Ryan bobblehead, and went for the A's side.  I missed out on Tom Milone and Curt Young while watching to see if any Rangers' pitchers signed (only Justin Grimm while I was there), but got to their side just as Bob Melvin was conducting an impromptu interview/press conference in the dugout.  Broadcaster and former Cleveland Indians backstop Ray Fosse was there.  He came over and signed for the few of us who knew who he was.  Got him on my 1972 Topps card that I've had forever.

I got the card when I was about 9 or 10 years old from a guy at my old church in Ohio.  His son had been a card collector, and gave him permission to give away whatever he still had stored at their house.  That's how I got most of my 1972 Topps and 1981 Donruss cards, splitting the haul with my friend Sean.  This would have been about 1994 or so.

Anyways, we waited as the pitchers ran out to do their throwing, and one of the first ones in was the previous night's starter, Bartolo Colon.  Now from years of hounding, I knew Colon wasn't one of the better signers out there.  As we all called out to him, I figured there was no way he was going to do it.  But just like with Prince Fielder, we were in for a real shock.  Colon signed for all the kids first, and we thought that's all he would do.  But he soon started grabbing others' items.  The woman next to me helped by passing my notebook down, and the biggest shock was yet to come-- Colon signed all three cards I had with me.  Arron said afterward he wishes he had left his all in his book instead of passing a single card down.  A friend of mine who I told about it is wondering if maybe this is Colon's last season, so he's going on a bit of a signing spree.

From there, the A's pitchers were great signers, but that was about it.  Jerry Blevins signed the lone card I had of him, laughing at the Sean Doolittle card I had from when he was a first baseman.  Doolittle came next, signing that plus one other.  A.J. Griffin was next through, signing both cards I had.  Nice guy, very chatty with the fans.  Catcher Derek Norris was the final signer during the abbreviated (or in this case, non-existent) batting practice, doing one-per down the line.  Jarrod Parker signed too, but I missed out on him.  Apparently Yoenis Cespedes signed the night before for everyone.

Before the start of the game, Luke Montz signed as well, doing both cards I had just before the national anthem.  I tried to ask Curt Young as he was walking back from the bullpen, but gave a sort of "Sorry, not now" look and wave.

Post-game at the tunnel, Arron and I got Phil Garner-- the reason I stopped home to pick up cards, so at least that paid off.  Unfortunately, I missed out on Chip Hale in the process, and we never saw Gallego, Melvin, or Young.  Melvin drove in with them, so we were hoping.  No luck.  The A's come again though, so I'm sure I'll have plenty of chances.

Next up: Jose Canseco this weekend in Fort Worth, the Diamondbacks Wednesday, and the Royals Saturday and Sunday.  Arron is getting the Omaha Storm Chasers and Oklahoma Redhawks Friday.  Hopefully he can get some done for me.  I pulled a bunch out for him.

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