Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tribute to Mr. Padre- Tony Gwynn

Statistics only tell a very partial story when it comes San Diego icon Tony Gwynn.  Of course any baseball fan can spew the numbers from memory; 3141 hits. A .338 lifetime hitter, 15 time all-star, 5 time Gold Glover,  first ballot Hall of Famer (with 97.6% of the vote).  Perhaps the stat that has always stuck out in my mind is the one in which someone calculated that if Gwynn had zero hits in his last 1100 something at bats, he still would have a lifetime average over .300.  Mind boggling.  The problem is, these numbers only do justice to Tony Gwynn the player, not Tony Gwynn the person.  San Diego is a sports town with a history of losing teams, and few stars.  When we are lucky enough to find a great player we can get attached to, they leave for greener pastures elsewhere.  Tony Gwynn did not, and for that reason he is arguably the most beloved figure in our sports lexicon.  Everyone remembers what he did for the city.  Stopping to sign autographs so often that they probably aren't worth what they would otherwise be.  Being available to the local and national media so often that he became their go to guy even after an ugly loss or bad game by the Padres (and they were countless).  Personally, I will remember the laugh.  I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Gwynn around ten times, and literally every single time he was in a good mood and I got to hear that loud cackle.  This includes the last time I talked to him, which was at a signing event at El Cajon Ford just a couple of years ago, after many already were aware that he was ill.  The first time I met him was when I was just a kid, perhaps eleven or twelve years old.  I got to go down on the field after a game and meet Tony Gwynn as a reward for selling a certain amount of coupon books.  I wasn't the only kid,  there was probably a thousand.  To this day I remember the conversation I had with him, how genuinely he happy it made him to see all these little ballplayers beaming at the opportunity to meet their idol.  Of course being a Padre fan I was well aware of who he was, and he was already my favorite player by virtue of being great.  It became something different for me after this meeting though, I became one of thousands of people who have a story about Tony Gwynn and how we became connected to him.  He was our guy.  He was San Diego.  Here is the picture he signed for me that day, the picture that became one of my most prized possessions during my youth...

Here is a jersey I had signed by him with the 3141 inscription and an MLB baseball I had signed by him with HOF 07 inscription during one of his free public signings at El Cajon Ford.  I also have a 1998 World Series Ball signed by him that is not pictured below...

Frankly, I am going to miss the man.  San Diego has lost three icons within the last couple of years; Junior Seau, Jerry Coleman, and now Mr. Padre himself.  No disrespect to the other two, but this one hurts the most.  I'll never forget all the singles through his patented "5.5" hole.  I'll reminisce about the beautiful swing.  I'll tell my children over and over that their dad got to see the greatest hitter since Ted Williams.  More than anything else though, I will always cherish the fact that I was lucky enough to live in San Diego and root for Tony Gwynn the player and, more importantly, the person.  The truth of the matter is, our icon is better than yours.  Goodbye Tony, and thank you...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

San Manuel Casino Dustin Brown Puck Giveaway

As I've made mention on this blog before, hockey is my favorite sport.  The Los Angeles Kings have been my favorite team in any sport since I was a kid in 1988.  As such, I follow just about all things Kings on Twitter.  You can imagine then that when I saw one such Kings sponsor, the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino having a giveaway on Twitter, I did what they asked to be eligible.  I retweeted a tweet.  Took me about three seconds total to do so.  Turns out I won a signed puck from Kings captain Dustin Brown, which arrived in the mail yesterday.
This is a pretty awesome prize if you ask me.  What makes it even better is I won it the day before Dustin Brown raised the Stanley Cup over his head for a second time!  On a side note, I have been to San Manuel and had a blast.  I live in Northern San Diego County so it isn't exactly close, which shows you what I actually think of the casino.  I'd recommend anyone going if they want to go out for the night and have a good time.  At least give them a follow on Twitter @SanManuelCasino.  Check out their website here:  Maybe you can win something as well...

I will be posting soon about a local hero who just passed away, Tony Gwynn.  I loved that man, he was an icon to me and I have had many interactions with him that all went well.  Thankfully, I have been able to collect some pretty cool stuff from my favorite baseball player growing up.  He was someone I emulated on the field and literally a man every Southern California kid my age playing baseball grew up idolizing.  That post will be up soon. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Colorado Rockies @ Petco Park 4/15/14

Spurred on by my relative success with the Tigers just a few days before, I decided to attend the first game of a four game series between the Rockies and the Padres.  The Rockies are pretty well regarded in the autographing community for their generosity in signing for people.  This is including the bigger names like Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, who often make a point to sign a couple of times every series.  One of my older posts on this blog actually alludes to a day I went down to Petco Park to do some pregame Rockies graphing for the first time.  It was a successful experience.  With that as a backdrop, I eagerly anticipated what type of success I might have heading into this game.

What was immediately apparent upon arriving downtown, was the lack of people in comparison to a Friday night against a marquee opponent like the Tigers.  Lawrence (who I met up with at the ballpark after his long day of pregame graphing) and I were able to get right down into the front row above the Rockies dugout.  Immediately, we were able to add both Justin Morneau and Carlos Gonzalez to our collection.  This is the second time I have gotten a ball signed by CarGo and the first time I have ever attempted to get Morneau.

As this is the second ball signed by him that I possess, I am willing to work out a trade for a ball I don't yet have.  Contact me if this interests you.

The game itself was a snoozer, the Padres winning on a passed ball and the game taking seemingly forever.  Here is a couple shots of our vantage point.
Note the relative emptiness just 20 minutes before first pitch

Chase Headley

Post game was successful for those who were willing to add anyone on the Rockies roster.  Nolan Arenado, Rex Brothers, Jordan Pacheco, Charlie Blackmon, and many others came over and signed various items.  However, I only was watching for Troy Tulowitzki who for some reason I have been unable to get anything signed from despite the fact he does sign quite often.  We waited close to two hours before giving up on finding him.  No one around the ballpark noticed him leave, which is highly unusual.  Generally, someone spots a player from one of the exits.  It was a little weird,  like there was a blood moon or something...
While still unable to add Tulo, it was another good night for the hobby in downtown San Diego.  Five good autographs, all on the sweetspot of baseballs, in two games.  On to the next!  Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Detroit Tigers @ Petco Park 4/11/14

In the first Padres home weekend series of the recently begun MLB season, the match up was versus a team rarely seen in San Diego; The Detroit Tigers.  Since this is a team that rarely visits San Diego, and having never had the chance to try and get autographs from the team before, my friend Lawrence and I decided to attend the game.  It was a Friday afternoon, so obviously traffic slowed our plans.  We had intended to get to the ballpark as early as possible to try and see who we could get during Tiger's batting practice.  We still made it in time to watch BP, but the ballpark was pretty packed.  Here is a picture of the chaos;
Only one two members of the Tigers signed during the entire course of BP, someone named Collins and Omar Vizquel.  I would have used a ball on Vizquel, but he only signed for about five or six people so by the time I got near him he was gone.  It was a big miss overall, but knowing that no one signed while you are there is better than not knowing who may have signed if you missed it.  Lawrence and I decided to walk around the ballpark and get something to eat.  It's always a great feeling when you attend your first game of a new season, even if it is the Padres you are there to root for.  Here are a couple photos I snapped of the our walk...

Pay particular attention to the second photo, as unbeknownst to me at the time of taking this picture, this is the Hilton Hotel and the hotel the Tigers were staying at.  Most teams stay at the Omni which is connected to Petco Park by a bridge that players frequently use to avoid walking through the throng of memorabilia seeking goobers like myself.  I have alluded to this situation in a previous blog post.  The picture of the hotel is taken one from the terraces in the ballpark.  Back to the ballpark stroll.  Petco Park is a beautiful ballpark.  They have made subtle little changes to it in the ten years it has been open and it remains a gorgeous destination to watch a ballgame, regardless of the product the Padres put on the field.  Eventually, Lawrence and I found our seats, with this as our view...

I, for one, take a little pleasure in the irony in what is being shown on the scoreboard at the time I snapped this photo.  The Padres seem to be in an eternal state of injury with key players always missing time.  The game itself ended up as a surprise, when Andrew Cashner threw a one hit shutout, the Padres amassed 13(!) hits, and Chase Headley had two clutch hits.  Thirteen hits for the Padres is like two or three games worth, and I'm only being slightly facetious.  Here is definitive proof that I am not in fact lying;
It was such a rare sighting that when I more closely reviewed my pictures of the game, and realized I captured this image in one of them, I merely shrugged...
Anyhow, since this is a blog about the hobby of collecting autographs, I can assure you that Lawrence and I did make an attempt to get some autographs post game as well.  When we walked out to where the PAdres player garage is, we noticed the Tigers had a team bus waiting, meaning they were not staying in the Ominous Omni.  This was a very good sign.  Turns out, the Tigers were staying at the Hilton as mentioned before, and the players almost always walk out and to a long bridge that leads directly to the hotel.  You can see said bridge in the photo I provided earlier.  The distance players have to walk from where they exit the ballpark to where they get to the bridge is probably a little under 100 yards.  Here is a photo to kind of show what my view was going to be the next two hours.
At first, almost all the main targets walked out without signing.  Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Austin Jackson all declined and hurried past.  Miguel Cabrera came out, signed for a fan wearing a Venezuela World Baseball Classic jersey, then declined everyone else.  I heard from some fellow autograph hounds that he was real cool on the way into the ballpark earlier that afternoon and had signed a bunch at that time.  In this hobby, it's ALL about timing.  At this point, I was really starting to doubt our luck.  Thankfully, Nick Castellanos came out and the young kid with a bunch of potential signed a baseball for me.
I have decided to be more aggressive in going after the young players who ooze potential this season.  Often, the best time to get players is when they first get called up, as they have not yet developed a huge ego and treat the fans well.  If the player pans out, it makes the autograph even more satisfying.  Here is hoping young Nick becomes a hell of a ballplayer.

Immediately after putting this ball away, Torii Hunter walked out with family.  I have heard almost nothing but good reports about Torii, and he did not disappoint.  He signed for everyone as he walked towards the bridge leading to the team hotel, and struck up conversations with everyone.
I started feeling a lot better about my day at this point.  I got a very good player and a player with a lot of potential.  The night got even better though, as the last Tiger player to walk out was All Star second baseman Ian Kinsler, who stopped and signed for everyone as well.
It ended up being a good night overall.  I added two all stars plus a kid who has the ability to turn into one sometime down the line.  Before calling it a night and heading to the car for the drive home, I wanted to take one last photo of Petco Park.  Good night Petco, and I'll be seeing you soon....

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

TOOL Concert 3/16/14

Up to this point, this has been a blog entirely dedicated to obtaining autographs in the realm of sports. I do, however, have some items signed by actors and bands, and I added to the latter collection over the past weekend. The band TOOL was in town, playing in San Diego at the Valley View Casino Center, fka the San Diego Sports Arena. TOOL is one of if not my favorite band and I never miss an opportunity to go to their shows when they are around.
Here are a couple of shots I took during the performance.  My friend Lawrence and I were seated right down the middle up high, allowing for an excellent vantage point.  Obviously I am biased, but not only does TOOL have incredibly complicated and great music, the shows themselves with images in the background and lasers are just a sensory overload...

Of course, this is a blog about memorabilia so of course I did pick a little something up while attending the event on Sunday.  Keep in mind I am a huge fan of Maynard James Keenan and the three bands he is in, and I already have two signed posters from MJK on Puscifer tour posters.  I really wanted to add TOOL to those two, so I picked this up...

 This poster is one of a series created for this tour, with artwork done by Adam Jones of the band itself.  Each city on the tour had their own uniqueness on these posters with different color arrangements, etc.  The black is matte and the TOOL is glossy.  The skull and artwork is texturized so slightly raised above the matted part.  It is an excellent lithograph with good, clean signatures of each band member.  I am going to get this a yellow matte and frame it, then hang it somewhere people who come over will see it.  Here are each individual's signature up close;

The top two are drummer Danny Carey and singer Maynard James Keenan.  Maynard signs differently for TOOL than he does for Puscifer.  The next one down is guitarist Adam Jones, who also designed the posters.  The last one is Justin Chancellor, the bassist.  As always, the concert was outstanding and I look forward to the new upcoming album.  I was also thrilled to add this piece to my collection.  Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dodgers FanFest 2-1-14

Yesterday I delved into my first autograph excursion in quite some time.  During the offseason of baseball, I tend to take long hiatuses from my hobby to better recharge my batteries for the upcoming season.  It sounds kinda peculiar to hear that having a professional athlete sign autographs for you can be tiring, but it really is.  A lot of preparation goes into getting ready for each event.  When you add travel time and a lot of standing/walking with a backpack on to the equation, by the end of the day you feel drained.  However, after a long idle time, I was rearing to go and heard a couple weeks ago that Dodgers FanFest was going to change its procedure when it came to obtaining autographs from the team at the event.  I have heard that in the past the FanFest was pretty disorganized, though to be honest, I had never attended one.  This year was going to be the first year that you had to purchase tickets to each signing "session" that you wanted.  In essence, there were four lines with a group of two signers at each table, and 6 different signing times.  So if you wanted to get Nomar Garciaparra, then you had to purchase his autograph session at 10 AM in line 1.  A breakdown of the signing schedule can be found on this link, Fan Fest Autographs.  The hard part about purchasing tickets to the player you wanted was that the tickets went on sale to the general public at noon on January 27th, after the season ticket holders had two hours to purchase what they wanted.  With that in mind, I prioritized a list of the players I would want, then tried to purchase those first.  The tickets to the major targets like Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Mark McGwire, were gone in a matter of seconds.  I think I made out pretty well by picking up a McGwire ticket, along with Dan Haren, Carl Crawford, and Kenley Jansen.

Yesterday my friend Lawrence and I headed up to Dodger Stadium at 6:45 in the morning.  We live in Northern San Diego County so Dodger Stadium is not a short commute, and we wanted to make sure we got there in time.  We ended up getting there early and sitting outside the parking lot in a line of cars for close to an hour, since the gates did open to the parking lots until 9:30.  This was our view...
This picture proves two things.  One, as I stated earlier, collecting signed memorabilia is time consuming.  Second, I have to wash my windshield.

Once the stadium lots were open to the public, people drove in and parked then immediately lined up outside of the FanFest event entrance until 10.  The first thing Lawrence and I did was walk quickly to the ticket window, where we heard there would be a limited amount of autograph tickets on sale in addition to the quickly sold out tickets online.  This was a shrewd move, as I was able to pick up both Don Mattingly and Hyun-Jin Ryu tickets.  This meant that I was able to land tickets to six of my top 8 targets.  The first guy to sign was Dan Haren, who was in a great mood and talked to me for a minute or so about the traffic on his way up from Orange County.  I told him my friend and I came from San Diego so we were up early, so he thanked us for our support. Lawrence and I were third in line for his autograph and only a few people were behind us which allowed for the chat time.  He was in a great mood.

After getting his signature it was literally about 10:02 and I had some time to kill before getting in the line for Ryu.  The Dodger Foundation had a tent in which they were selling grab bags of jerseys, photos, and baseballs.  I bought one of the grab bags for $20 and pulled a Jae Sao.  Right after this happened I ran into David from  First off, let me tell all of you to check that blog out.  It is outstanding.  David has an amazing collection and goes to just about all the cool signing events in SoCal.  In my opinion, he has the best blog on our hobby in this area.  I happen to know from following David's blog that he likes to collect signatures from Asian ball players.  Since this is the case, I approached him and offered the Sao ball as long as he mentioned where he got it.  He accepted that deal, then went above and beyond and handed me his grab bag ball as well.  He didn't need to do that, but I appreciated the gesture and accepted it.  Graphing with people like that makes it a far better experience.  That ball ended up being Dioner Navarro.
Later, I got in the line for Ryu, and was again among the first 25 people in line or so.  Ned Colletti the Dodgers GM was also in this line.  I didn't have anything for him to sign, so I just asked him to sign one of the little cardboard cards they have.  I chatted him up about hockey and mentioned that I saw him on NHL Network being interviewed prior to the Kings/Ducks outdoor game.  Here are pictures of Ryu and the ball he signed...

After obtaining this ball, Lawrence and I had a large gap of time before Don Mattingly signed at 1:00, so we decided to check out all the booths and take in what really was a gorgeous afternoon.  The Stadium was open so you could walk around and relax and take photos, which is where the one at the top came from.

When it was time to get Don Mattingly's autograph, we got back in line and were close to the front again.  We met "Donny Baseball" for the first time, and added him to our collection.  He was also in a very good mood and thanked everyone for coming out.

At this point, we had back to back to back autograph tickets so we basically ended up getting out of one line then back in another to get the next guy.  Next up was Mark McGwire who signed with Rick Monday.  I had a ball that was semi blotched and since I considered Monday borderline ball worthy, I decided to use that ball to get him.  McGwire was absolutely my number one target heading into the day.  So I was incredibly happy to add him to my collection, especially considering I have heard he is usually a tough guy to get.  When it was my turn to meet him, he was very talkative about hockey.  I had my Kings shirt on so he asked if I was going to Tip-A-King which was actually occurring shortly after Dodgers FanFest.  I told him no because I live down south and that would be a long day away from the family and he called me a good man for that.  I told him I remember exactly where I was when he hit his 62nd and record breaking homer in 1998, and he said I was going to make him feel old!  It was a pretty cool little exchange that lasted close to a minute, and I am thankful for that.  Here are some pictures.

And the Monday ball...

To be honest, Mr. Monday wasn't exactly in the friendliest of moods so my exchange with him was short and consisted of a couple guttural noises that I am going to assume meant "Thank you for coming out today" and "You're welcome".

Next up was Carl Crawford, who I have never really had much of a chance to try and get an autograph from since he spent most of his playing career in the American League East and I have never tried graphing at Angels Stadium.  Therefore, I was very happy to finally add him into my collection as well.  At this point in the day, the sun was angled right into the faces of the players in the booths and it was pretty warm, hence the towel on Carl's head in the following photo;

Finally, it was time to get the final autograph of the day, and it's fitting that it was the Dodgers' closer Kenley Jansen.  Kenley is a big dude and was signing in another booth at the same time as Crawford, so as soon as I got Carl's autograph, I went back around and got Jansen's autograph.  When I got to the front of the line I told him good luck this season and that 50 saves was something he can achieve.  He said how about 60?  I like that mentality from a fantasy baseball perspective as he is on my team, but as a Padres' fan?  Not so much Kenley!  He was a cool guy and signed a Major League Baseball on the sweetspot like everyone else above.

I would like to thank the Dodgers for putting on an excellent event.  As stated above, I had never been to one of the Dodgers FanFests, but I fully intend to go again in upcoming seasons if the autograph ticket situation is similar to this set up.  I added a lot of good pieces to my collection today, and it was an awesome way to start the new season.  Hopefully this was a harbinger of things to come for this season.

And a thank you also to David for the Navarro baseball and for mentioning me on your blog.  Keep up the good work sir.

Thank everyone for reading, and I should be posting again soon!