Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Seattle Mariners pregame @Petco Park 5/29/13

First, let me wax nostalgic on this Seattle team.  I have had a very good history with this ball club dating back as far as the mid to late 90's when I first began my excursion into the realm of autograph collecting.  It's rather odd really, considering Seattle is an American League team one would not usually associate with playing the Padres, until you realize that the Mariners are actually the Padres "natural rival".  Being a natural rival in MLB essentially means you are in opposite leagues and forced to play an inter league series annually, which to me seems nothing more than an ill disguised attempt at contriving a rivalry out of none that exists.  Sometimes it works (see: Mets/Yankees, Cubs/White Sox), but in this case it does not.  That all being said, having the Mariners show up in San Diego has lead me to collect some of the biggest luminaries in the history of the Seattle ball club.  I'm talking Ken Griffey Jr, Alex Rodriguez, and Randy Johnson types...all of which I will post pictures of at the end of this post.

In terms of today's events, this was the first time I have done any pregame autograph collecting with any team this season.  My schedule has not been real conducive to doing so this season quite yet, so I was excited at the prospect of trying to get Felix Hernandez.  I arrived at the ballpark at my customary time of right before noon and camped out at the spot I like that allows me multiple views of possible entrance points for the players.  There was a surprising number of people already waiting (I'd guess between 20-25) which was unusual in that the Mariners are not a star studded team.  Too many people is not generally looked upon positively by people in the autograph "community" since it causes players to try and avoid the group more than if it was only a few.  I, however, don't mind as much because it just means more eyes to spot players that we might otherwise miss.

Having arrived in San Diego at 2:30 in the morning, only a few players and coaches straggled out in the first hour or so.  Among them were Alex Liddi, Danny Farquhar, and Raul Ibanez.  All three signed for everyone, though I only had something for Ibanez to sign.  He signed a Major League Baseball for me on the sweet spot...
Later on I was the only one to spot Justin Smoak, who signed a baseball on the sweet spot for me as well.
There was not a whole lot of action going on after this, though someone did spot Kyle Seager walking into the ballpark, and when they stopped him he signed everything everyone had for him to sign.  I happened to have a Topps card on me to hand him.  I made a rookie mistake by not checking the ink on it, thus it came out a little dry and pretty light.  It s what it is though and I still did not have him in my collection yet.
In the past I have made reference to a sky bridge that more and more players are starting to use as a means to get into the ballpark and pretty much circumvent all the autograph seekers below.  This unfortunately was a tool many of the Mariners were using to their advantage today, severely limiting the amount of chances any of us had of obtaining some more memorabilia.  I have included a picture of that bridge here so readers can see exactly why it makes it tough on us.
If you notice, there is a man that is standing on the right side of the bridge, and he happens to be an Omni Hotel security guy who escorts players across the bridge.  What you can't see is there is another guy on ground level who kicks any autograph seekers off the corner of the street, citing the fact that it's Omni Hotel property.  All of that is fine and dandy but lately the Omni security has actually been encouraging the players to take the bridge and avoid us below, even going so far as to walk them back upstairs and across the bridge after they were already on street level!  What makes it more flabbergasting is that the security guys then stare at us for minutes on end trying to perform some sort of pseudo intimidation on us or something.  A rivalry has developed between the autograph crowd and the hotel security...brace yourselves everyone!  I believe that hotel security is just happy to finally have found a crowd even geekier than they are...so congrats to you, hotel security men!  I bet you all can't wait for Comic Con.

That rant being over, there really isn't much else that happened for me in the way of autographs today.  I never even actually saw Felix Hernandez enter the ballpark, and left to beat the north bound traffic before I could even see what happened with him.  I'm hoping in a selfish way that I did not miss out on him signing due to my impatience, I guess I will find out another time.

Earlier I mentioned getting some superstars from the Mariners.  The first is a Randy Johnson signed baseball I got during batting practice at Petco Park while Randy was a member of the Diamondbacks.  He side paneled the ball and did his quick, ugly signature.  I don't care though, it's still the Big Unit...
The next ball was signed for me by Alex Rodriguez when he was a rookie.  I honestly don't remember much about the background story since I was a lot younger, but I know I got it during batting practice at Qualcomm Stadium, when I was hanging over the Mariners dugout.  You'll notice the signature is a lot different than the way he signs now.  This is actually on an American League baseball, before they went to one uniform ball for both leagues.
Lastly, this is greatest Mariner of them all.  Ken Griffey Jr. signed an American League ball for me when I was a kid as well.  This also happened at Qualcomm Stadium during batting practice but it happened down the left field line as "The Kid" was heading to his dugout to hit in the cage.  I am told that it is extremely rare to get a Griffey autograph, and even rarer still to get one on the sweet spot, but hey what they heck I was only a kid and did not know the importance of the guy at the time.  You'll notice some aging on this ball, which dates it a little bit.
Lastly, I would like to point all of you that made it this far down the blog to a cool Youtube page that deals with the genre of old classic video games.  A friend of mine, Aaron, and his friends work on this and it's quite entertaining and interesting if you're into the video game and old school game thing.  They are called RetroLiberty and here is the link; http://www.youtube.com/user/RetroLiberty.

Thanks for reading...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Random Ponderings of the Collector's Mind

I thought I should share with those who live in the Southern California area that Orange County Sports Cards is having quite a few upcoming signing events.  http://www.ocsportscards.com/servlet/the-Autograph-Signings/Categories

I highly recommend this place, as I have actually had quite a few things signed there in the past.  It is a relatively painless process, you purchase the ticket for the type of item you want signed by the player you want it signed by, show up where the event is occurring (many times in the OC Dugout), and wait in line.  You get to meet many stars and have any type of memorabilia you want signed, so long as you are willing to pay some money.  Mike Trout is making his only public signing appearance this year with these guys, but there are many more players lined up with them right now as well.  Speaking of Trout, here is a ball I had signed by him last year...
A couple years ago, I attended a dual signing event at the OC Dugout where both Ervin Santana and Rod Carew were signing. The funny thing about signing events is that often times more people are going after the active player rather than the retired player, even when the retired guy is a Hall of Famer.  This is better for collectors like me that prefer the stars, it makes the process faster.  That being said, Santana had just recently thrown a no hitter so I decided to have him sign a ball with his no hit inscription on it, after I got the ball signed by Carew with his HOF '91 on it.  An interesting side note to getting the autograph from Carew was that I had my four year old son with me.  When it was our turn to meet him, Mr. Carew shook both our hands and struck up a conversation with my four year old. Mr. Carew asked him if he played ball and which team he liked to root for, and even told him that maybe some day he would wait in line to get my son's autograph when he became a ballplayer.  After this exchange, my son looks Rod Carew right in the eye and asks, "Are you a basketball player?"  Mr. Carew started cracking up and told my son "Why yes, I sure am". It's memories like these that make this hobby very fulfilling to me a sports fan like me.





















There was an event later that year at the OC Dugout as well in which Bert Blyleven was going to sign autographs, and I wasn't going to be able to make it.  I asked my brother to go for me since he was in Irvine anyway, and he did.  Thanks Cody...
I have attended three more events hosted by Orange County Sports Cards in which Eric Dickerson, Dennis Rodman, and Gary Payton signed autographs.  I know I have included the Dennis Rodman photo I had signed on a previous post in this blog, so here are the photos of the other two 8 x 10 photos I had signed by Payton and Dickerson.  If you notice, after I get a photo signed I like to find a matte that corresponds to the color of the jersey the player is wearing in the photo.  I believe that after adding the frame, the ensemble is quite appealing when on display.

Again, I can't stress enough how nice it is to have places like Orange County Sports Cards in the So Cal area that host events such as these.  I really recommend that anyone in the sports collecting hoby check these guys out as they often have some HUGE names signing.  Last year they had events for both Kobe Bryant (though it was a private signing and not a public appearance by Kobe) as well as Albert Pujols.  Names like these are often difficult to add to a collection so take advantage of what is out there.

Thanks for reading I should be posting about Petco Park autograph experiences again soon!