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!