Archive for the 'Autographs' Category

Best and Worst of Spring Training 2010

BY: T.C.

Now that I’m home, I’m re-capping my entire spring training trip. I had a lot of fun and did well in terms of autographs this year. I ended up with 634 autographs (565 cards, 64 balls, 2 hats, 1 jersey, 1 magazine, and 1 mini Gold Glove Award). Below are my opinions of some of the highs and lows of Spring Training in 2010.

My favorite signed items:

1. Al Kaline on a mini Gold Glove Award and a Gold Glove ball

2. Adam Dunn on an authentic Cincinnati Reds jersey

3. Brian McCann & Jeremy Guthrie on authentic Team USA WBC hats

4. Jeff Bagwell & Lance Berkman on Rawlings Official Major League Baseballs (ROMLB)

5. Stephen Strasburg on a ROMLB

6. Justin Verlander on a Sports Illustrated

7. Josh Johnson on a jersey patch card

8. Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller dual-signed on a Topps 1952 rookie card

9. Yadier Molina on a 2006 World Series Ball

10. Daniel Schlereth and Ryan Perry on a dual-signed card

11. Cameron Maybin on a jersey and an x-fractor card

12. Tony Sanchez on a ROMLB and a card

13. Michael Bourn on two numbered Upper Deck Elements rookie cards

14. Mike Stanton on a card numbered 7/100 (I also got him on 2 ROMLB’s, but the card looks sweet)

15. (tie) Chia-Jen Lo on a ROMLB

15. (tie) Jorge Cantu on a jersey card

Best personalities:
1. Dave Collins- He is a new coach with the Florida Marlins this year. I loved watching him work with the young kids on bunting and base running. He is one of the most enthusiastic coaches I’ve ever seen at the major league level. He even took some time when he was done coaching the players to coach up the fans a bit!
2. Scott Olsen- Told us some great stories about the abuse Stephen Strasburg is taking from the veteran players!
3. Burke Badenhop- Burke loved my West Michigan Whitecaps hat and chatted with me for quite a while about his days in Grand Rapids.
4. Justin Maxwell- This was the first time I met Justin and I was impressed with his kindness. He was a willing signer and also seemed to really enjoy interacting with the fans.
5. J.R. Towles- He’s always friendly and a willing signer. I hope that he can finally play as well at the major league level as he has in the minors this year.
6. Brandon Inge- He is a fan favorite in Detroit and he consistently returns the love to the fans. On two separate occasions this spring, I saw him stay and sign autographs until he had signed for EVERYONE that wanted one.
7. Joel Hanrahan- Loves to sign and chat with fans.
8. Tony Sanchez- This kid seems truly happy to be in big league camp. He always seems happy and is a great signer.
9. Mike Stanton- Great prospect and a really nice kid.
10. Cameron Maybin- What?! Really? Yes, Cameron must have had some kind of attitude adjustment this winter and was a very pleasant kid this spring. It was a stark contrast to the personality that I had experienced when I met him before. His autograph improved significantly, as well!

Worst personalities:
1. Chris Duncan- Seems to think he’s still a superstar…wait a second-he never was a superstar! He almost always completely ignores the fans…
2. Stephen Strasburg- He came over and signed a few autographs on the day I was at Washington’s camp, but man he really seemed to hate it. This kid will be a tough autograph in the years to come.
3. Al Kaline- God knows I love Al Kaline…he’s Mr. Tiger and he’s a great signer…but would it kill him to smile once in a while? He won’t acknowledge fans at all when he signs. Everyone says thank you and Al just keeps his head down, signs, and ignores everyone.
4. Clete Thomas- I didn’t even bother asking him for an autograph, because I’ve never seen him sign. I did watch fans at the Tigers’ camp call him for 2 straight days and watched Clete ignore them for 2 straight days. He’s not very good and he’s not very fan-friendly, either!
5. Jeff Clement- Okay, he did sign and he’s not THAT bad, but he does have a touch of superstar syndrome. When asked to sweet spot a baseball, he just ignored the request and side paneled it. Dude, if your answer is “no” to a sweet spot, I really don’t want to waste a ball on your signature. Couldn’t you please just say “no, I don’t sign there” and hand it back to me?

Best-looking autographs:
These aren’t necessarily the award winners for best penmanship, it’s just a list of guys that have cool-looking signatures!
1. Jeff Keppinger- This guy has one of the best signatures ever!

2. Chia-Jen Lo- You’ve got to love asian characters going vertically on a sweet spot!

3. Jesus Flores-Nice signature, and a bit artistic, too.

4. Jose Tabata- As usual, he has a nice-looking sig

5. Taylor Tankersly- Proof that a signature doesn’t have to be legible to look cool. I’m not sure what the hell it’s supposed to say, but it is quite artistic.

6. Omar Infante

7. Logan Morrison

8. Zach Duke

9. Scott Sizemore

10. Scott Cousins

11. Jake Arietta

12. Miguel Batista

Ugliest autographs:
1. Jason Heyward- This thing has really degraded over the last year. What is it?

2. Jose Valverde- Scribble circle?

3. Dontrelle Willis- Scribble scribble?

4. Matt Dominguez- What the hell? Is that an EKG reading?

5. Daniel Schlereth- D line S line. Nice guy, but terrible sig.

6. Colin Balester- C B…sort of

7. Brian Esposito- I don’t know what it is…but it matches his facsimile autograph on the card, which is nice.

8. Seth McClung- Awful.

9. Ricky Nolasco- See McClung.

10. Hayden Penn- What is that supposed to be?

Best signers:
1. J.R. Towles
2. Daniel Schlereth
3. Vinny Rottino
4. Brandon Inge
5. Shairon Martis
6. Tony Sanchez
7. Andrew Miller
8. Chris Tillman
9. Hector Gimenez
10. Chris Volstad

Toughest signers (at least for me):
1. Hanley Ramirez
2. Albert Pujols
3. Miguel Cabrera
4. Koji Uehara
5. Chris Duncan

Getting Autographs at Florida Marlins Spring Training in 2010

BY: T.C.

Although the Marlins and Cardinals practice fields are separated by only a few hundred feet in Jupiter, FL, the experiences of collecting autographs at the two camps couldn’t be any different. While it’s nearly impossible to get autographs at the Cardinals camp, it is extremely easy to get signatures at the Marlins camp. The Marlins practice fields are nice and open, and you can even walk with some of the players as they move from field to field. The experience reminded me of how spring training used to be in the 1980’s…which is a good thing!

Before and after practice is also a good time to get players to sign as the go back and forth between the player parking lot and the clubhouse. See the diagram below for good spots.

I spent about a day and a half at the Marlins’ camp and had tremendous success collecting autographs. Here is what I got signed:

Burke Badenhop x 6 Cards
Brian Barden x 5 Cards
Emilio Bonifacio x 1 Card
Jay Buente x 1 Card
Jorge Cantu x 5 Cards
Brett Carroll x 2 Cards
Jose Ceda x 6 Cards
Chris Coghlan x 1 Ball
Dave Collins x 5 Cards
Jeff Conine x 1 Card
Chris Coughlan x 2 Cards
Scott Cousins x 6 Cards
Bradley Davis x 2 Cards
Matt Dominguez x 1 Card
Matt Dominguez x 1 Ball
Fredi Gonzalez x 4 Cards
Kris Harvey x 2 Cards
Wes Helms x 2 Cards
Dan Jennings x 1 Card
Josh Johnson x 1 Card
Josh Johnson x 1 Ball
Hunter Jones x 3 Cards
Mike Lamb x 4 Cards
Osvaldo Martinez x 1 Ball
Cameron Maybin x 6 Cards
Cameron Maybin x 1 Ball
Seth McClung x 6 Cards
Dan Meyer x 1 Card
Andrew Miller x 8 Cards
Logan Morrison x 4 Cards
Logan Morrison x 1 Ball
Ricky Nolasco x 6 Cards
Leo Nunez x 2 Cards
Hayden Penn x 5 Cards
Bryan Petersen x 5 Cards
Renyel Pinto x 6 Cards
Danny Richar x 2 Cards
Cody Ross x 2 Cards
Vinny Rottino x 9 Cards
Brian Sanches x 5 Cards
Gaby Sanchez x 4 Cards
Anibal Sanchez x 1 Card
Randy St. Claire x 4 Cards
Mike Stanton x 5 Cards
Mike Stanton x 2 Balls
Taylor Tankersley x 7 Cards
Ryan Tucker x 2 Cards
Derrick Turnbow x 6 Cards
Dan Uggla x 1 Card
Dan Uggla x 1 Ball
Chris Volstad x 6 Cards
Sean West x 6 Cards
Tim Wood x 6 Cards

Totals: 9 balls + 175 cards = 184 total autographs…NICE!

Getting Autographs at St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training in 2010

BY: T.C.

I arrived at the Cardinals camp on Monday, February 22nd at about 8:30 am. They “officially” open the gates to fans at around 9 am each day to watch workouts. To be completely blunt, attending a workout at this camp is the biggest waste of time an autograph collector could engage in. There is very limited access to the players. In 2 hours at the Cardinals camp, I managed to get 2 autographs. One was Skip Schumaker, which I had to fight a mob for. The other was Dave McKay on a card that I happened to have. Mark McGwire signed, but there was a throng of about 50 people fighting to get close to him. Screw that. 2 ‘graphs in 2 hours is not my idea of a good time! I ended up leaving at about 11 am to head to the Marlins’ camp next door (this will be the subject of a separate post). After I went to the Marlins camp, I swung back by the Cardinals camp to try to get a few players as they left the player parking lot. I used the same strategy on Tuesday, as well–Go to the Marlins early and load up on autographs, then head to the Cardinals parking lot. I was fortunate enough outside the Cardinals parking lot to get Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday, so that was at least some consolation. My advice to any autograph collector would be the same, though…unless it’s fun for you to spend 4-5 hours getting 4-5 autographs, spend the vast majority of your time somewhere else! A diagram of the facility and places to seek autographs is below.

Here is what I ended up with during 2 hours inside the Cardinals practice facility and two afternoons outside the players parking lot:

Matt Holliday x 1 Ball
Mike Matheny x 1 Ball
Dave McKay x 1 Card
Yadier Molina x 1 2006 World Series Ball
Matt Pagnozzi x 1 Card
Skip Schumaker x 1 Ball

Totals: 4 balls + 2 cards = 6 autographs…BRUTAL!

Getting Autographs at Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training in 2010

BY: T.C.

The Pirates have changed things up a bit this year at their workout fields that make it tougher for autograph seekers. A great place to get autographs used to be right next to the batting cages. You could get players in between turns in the cage, as well as snag them before and after practice (they have to walk right past the cages to get back to the clubhouse). Unfortunately, the Pirates blocked fans from this area this year. During the workouts, you can float around between the 4 practice fields and you might be able to snag a few autographs. The best place to get items signed, however, is outside the players parking lot. Most of the guys roll down their windows and sign for fans as they leave practice. For more details on locations, see the image below:

Here is what I got signed in one day at the Pirates camp (only pitchers and catchers were there):
Brian Bass x 3 Cards
Brian Burres x 6 Cards
D.J. Carrasco x 2 Cards
Jeff Clement x 2 Cards
Brendan Donnelly x 2 Cards
Ryan Doumit x 1 Card
Zach Duke x 1 Ball
Zach Duke x 1 Card
Brian Friday x 2 Cards
Hector Gimenez x 7 Cards
Joel Hanrahan x 1 Ball
Joel Hanrahan x 4 Cards
Kevin Hart x 1 Ball
Akinori Iwamura x 3 Cards
Chris Jakubauskas x 2 Cards
Jason Jaramillo x 3 Cards
Brandon Jones x 5 Cards
Garrett Jones x 5 Cards
Jeff Karstens x 2 Cards
Erik Kratz x 2 Cards
Brad Lincoln x 6 Cards
Steve Lombardozzi x 1 Ball
Javier Lopez x 2 Cards
Paul Maholm x 4 Cards
Daniel McCutchen x 4 Cards
Evan Meek x 1 Card
Bryan Morris x 3 Cards
Charlie Morton x 2 Cards
Brian Myrow x 1 Card
Steve Pearce x 3 Cards
Jeremy Powell x 2 Cards
John Raynor x 1 Card
Tony Sanchez x 1 Ball
Tony Sanchez x 4 Cards
Ray Searge x 3 Cards
Jeff Sues x 1 Card
Jose Tabata x 2 Balls
Jose Tabata x 2 Cards
Kent Tekulve x 1 Ball
Anthony Telford x 1 Card
Virgil Vasquez x 1 Card
Ramon Vasquez x 4 Card

Totals: 97 cards + 8 balls = 105 total autographs

Getting Autographs at Orioles Spring Training in 2010

BY: T.C.

The Orioles moved up to Sarasota this year to replace the Reds (who left for Arizona). The camp was laid out the same way the Reds’ camp was. While workouts are going on inside on the practice fields, a savvy collector can manage to get a few autographs from players as they move from field to field. The place to really clean up at this camp, however, is at the player parking lot as they leave the complex each day. See the picture below for best locations for autographs:

Here are my totals for the Orioles camp (I had a little help from the wife, too):
Jake Arietta x 1 Ball
Jake Arrieta x 3 Cards
Brad Bergesen x 5 Cards
Brad Bergesen x 1 Ball
Jason Berken x 1 Card
Terry Crowley x 1 Card
Jeremy Guthrie x 1 Card
Jeremy Guthrie x 1 Team USA WBC hat
David Hernandez x 4 Cards
Jim Johnson x 3 Cards
Caleb Joseph x 1 Card
Brian Matusz x 3 Cards
Brian Matusz x 2 Balls
Cla Meredith x 5 Cards
Kam Mickolio x 1 Card
Kevin Millwood x 3 Cards
Kevin Millwood x 1 Ball
Chad Moeller x 2 Cards
Troy Patton x 3 Cards
Dennis Sarfate x 3 Cards
Gary Thorne x 1 Ball
Chris Tillman x 5 Cards
Chris Tillman x 1 Ball
Dave Trembley x 1 Card
Matt Wieters x 1 Card
Matt Wieters x 2 Balls

Totals: 47 cards + 8 balls + 1 Team USA WBC hat = 56 total autographs

2009 Florida Spring Training Tour, Day 8 (Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros)

BY: T.C.

My original plan on this day was to go to Viera to see the Nationals play the Astros.  However, after 7 straight days of driving all over Florida, I just didn’t feel like getting up early and making the drive all the way over to Viera.  Instead, I woke up and headed back to the Braves’ camp, which was only a 5 minute drive from my hotel.  The Braves were playing an away game that day, so I was hoping to get a couple of the stars that didn’t make the trip.  Unfortunately for me, most of the stars DID make the trip on this particular day.  There was one lucky occurrence, though.  This happened to be one of the days that Phil Niekro was in town as a guest instructor.  After spending a couple of hours there, I was able to get a few ‘graphs…including Phil Niekro on a ball!

Once I got Niekro’s autograph, I considered my day at the Braves camp to be a success (even though I only got a couple of other autographs).  I then decided to head over to the Astros’ camp to see if I could get a few ‘graphs as guys that didn’t make the trip to Viera left practice.  I ended up getting there just as practice was ending.  A lot of the Astros’ big guns stayed back (Berkman, Lee, Oswalt, Tejada), but they didn’t sign.  I did get a few ‘graphs, but nothing great.  Honestly, I really didn’t care that much.  I was ecstatic that I got Niekro earlier in the day!  Here is what I ended up with for the day:

Tim Byrdak Card x 1
Mike Hampton Card x 1
Tommy Hanson ROMLB x 1
Latroy Hawkins Card x 1
Jair Jurrjens Cards x 3
Phil Niekro ROMLB x 1
Russ Ortiz Cards x 6

2009 Florida Spring Training Tour, Days 5,6, and part of 7 (Minnesota Twins)

BY: T.C.

The Twins camp is one of those classic Florida experiences.  The players are generally very accessible, they have Hall of Fame guest instructors (Molitor & Carew), and the Twins fans were very friendly.  I enjoyed my experience so much here that I decided to stay an extra day and a half.  

Here is a quick overview of the best areas to ‘graph at the Twins’ camp (click to enlarge):

twins

On the first day, I watched the Twins practice and was able to get a ton of ‘graphs.  I also met a couple of cool ‘graphers from Mankato, Minnesota (named Sean and Dean).  I started chatting with them and we found out that we were all members of Pat Neshek’s message board.  I ended up hanging out with them most of the next couple of days, which made the stay in Fort Myers a lot more enjoyable. 

On the second day, the Twins had a night game.  We figured that we’d head over to the park early to see if we could watch some morning practice.  Bad decision.  Little did we know that the first players wouldn’t be reporting until about noon.  If I had it to do over again, I would have headed over to the other side of town to catch the Red Sox morning practice.  Oh well, live and learn, I guess!  The ‘graphing activity wasn’t that great on this day.  I probably got about 25 throughout the day.  I must say that the Twins’ park is NOT GOOD for autographs during games, especially for the visiting team.  You have NO access to the visiting players, as the bus drops them off in a fenced-in area.  You might pick up a few ‘graphs down by the field before the game, but generally speaking, I wouldn’t recommend going to Twins spring training games to ‘graph.  Stick with the practices. 

During the game, I stood next to the bullpen and ended up chatting with a really cool guy for about 5 innings.  After chatting for a couple of innings, we asked each other what we did for a living.  It turned out that this guy was a ballplayer in the Twins’ minor league system.  He played high-A ball last year and was hoping to jump to AA this year.  The guy’s name was Juan (although he goes by Quentin) Portis.  He was a helluva nice kid and was fun to talk to.  He actually gave me a lot of insight about the minor leagues and some of the political elements that determine who gets promoted and who doesn’t.  I’ll definitely be following him and hoping he makes it to “the show” someday.

After ‘graphing the Twins for two days, I was ready to head up to Sarasota to catch a Reds game on Thursday.  However, before I took off, I decided to hit the Twins camp early in the morning to see if I could pick up a couple of more ‘graphs.  This turned out to be a GREAT decision, as I ended up having the best haul out of any day I was there (at least in terms of quality).  On this particular morning, I was able to get Denard Span, Justin Morneau, Francisco Liriano, Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, Rod Carew and Paul Molitor.  I ended up with well over 100 autographs during my stay in Fort Myers.  Here is the breakdown:

Richard Anderson Card x 1
Scott Baker Card x 1
Nick Blackburn Cards x 3
Brian Buscher Cards x 6
Rod  Carew ROMLB x 2
Alexi Casilla Cards x 4
Joe Crede Card x 1
Michael Cuddyer Cards x 2
R.A. Dickey Cards x 2
Brian Duensing Cards x 3
Ron Gardenhire Card x 1
Toby Gardenhire Card x 1
Mike Gosling Card x 1
Brendan Harris Card x 1
Luke Hughes Cards x 3
Philip Humber Card x 1
Ben Julianel Cards x 4
Tom Kelly RMLB x 1
Corey Koskie RMLB x 1
Jason Kubel Cards x 7
Francisco Liriano Card x 1
Francisco Liriano ROMLB x 1
Alejandro Machado Cards x 5
Dustin Marting Cards x 3
Paul Molitor ROMLB x 1
Justin Morneau Card x 1
Justin Morneau ROMLB x 1
Kevin Mulvey Cards x 5
Joe Nathan Cards x 2
Pat Neshek Cards x 12
Brock Peterson Cards x 5
Wilson Ramos Cards x 3
Deibenson Romero Card x 1
Kevin Slowey Card x 1
Denard Span RMLB x 1
Denard Span ROMLB x 1
Denard Span Cards x 7
Anthony Swarzak RMLB x 1
Anthony Swarzak Cards x 4
Matt Tolbert Cards x 5
Danny Valencia Card x 1
Jerry White Cards x 3