MLB Authentic Memorabilia: Jharel Cotton 08/14/2017

I went to an Oakland Athletics game on September 26th and I picked up another MLB Authentic baseball. This time I got a ball from pitcher Jharel Cotton. The game was on August 14, 2017 against the Kansas City Royals.

I chose this ball because Jharel Cotton is one of my top two favorite pitchers on the A’s right now. He was bounced around a little bit this year between AAA Nashville and Oakland. He has started to come around as of late and I think he is going to be a solid starter next year.

This ball had a lot of “life” in it. It comes from the Top of the 6th inning and was used against three different batters. The Authentication details are below.

Cotton JC366237 Details

The first batter was Jorge Bonifacio, who struck out on a 2-2 count. Next was Alcides Escobar who hit an infield single on the second pitch. Finally this ball was popped up to second base by Alex Gordon. Both the single and the pop up was fielded by Chad Pinder. Again there are a lot of details in the Authentication which is one of the things I love about these items.

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2017 Donruss Optic Blaster Box Recap

Note: I found this recap in my notebook from a couple of months ago. I was going to post this, but I never got around to it. Normally I would add some photos, but at this time I am only going to post the recap. 

Blaster Configuration:
6 packs per box
5 cards per pack
Pink parallels average 6 per box

Breakdown:
Base cards (1-165): 17 cards, no duplicates = 10.3% complete
Prizm Cards: 4 cards
Pink Parallels: 6 cards

Oakland Athletics card:
Khris Davis – Diamond King

Notable Players:
Aaron Judge – Rated Rookie
Mickey Mantle – Diamond King
Mickey Mantle (base)
Anthony Rizzo
Trevor Story
Bryce Harper – Pink Parallel

Prizm Cards:
Mike Trout – Diamond King
Josh Bell
Nolan Arenado
Troy Tulowitski

Pink Parallels:
Nolan Arenado – Diamond King
Tyler Glasnow – Rated Rookie
Gavin Cecchini – Rated Rookie
Zack Greinke
Kenta Maeda
Bryce Harper

Insert:
Elite Series: Adrian Beltre

All-in-all this was a fun break. I was disappointed that one pack only had 4 cards in it. Always good to pull an Aaron Judge, which I have since sold. I have always liked Donruss and I like the fact they are doing a Chrome version of their base product.

With that said, I likely would not buy another blaster box at the regular retail price. I don’t feel as you get your money’s worth with this product. However, I think most Chrome product comes across this way to me.

MLB Authentic Memorabilia: Bruce Maxwell 07/14/2017

I have made it a goal for myself to pickup a piece of MLB authentic memorabilia whenever I go to a Major League Baseball game. Ideally, I would like to pick up a ball or something from that particular game that I attended. However, if that does not work out, then it should be something from one of my favorite players.

On September 23rd, I went to an Oakland Athletics game with my Brother and my Nephew. I picked up my first authenticated ball. This ball comes from a game on July 14, 2017. It was a double hit off the bat of Bruce Maxwell against Cleveland Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco.

Maxwell JC353510 Ball I chose this ball because Bruce Maxwell has always been one of my favorite players. I first met him in 2013 when he was promoted mid-season to the Stockton Ports. He has always been nice to me and my family. When Bruce was in Stockton, he would come out to the field early an talk with us for a few minutes before he had to go stretch. Even now as a Major League player he will still talk to us if we see him at a game. I know Bruce understands that things like this mean a lot to people and that is why he is a fan favorite.

The cool thing about the authentication is that you can go to the MLB Authentication Website and get details of the “life” of the ball. He are the details for this particular ball.

Maxwell JC353510 DetailsThere is a lot of information here such as type of pitch, pitch speed and the count. In this case it even includes the hit launch angle, hit speed, distance and who fielded the ball.

This is the third MLB Authentic item I own. I am really happy to have it in my collection. Tomorrow, I will post the ball I picked up at the A’s game on September 26th. My first two items are a couple of bats thatI picked up at the A’s Fan Fest back in January. I post about those at a later time.

2017 Topps Heritage High Number Hobby Box Recap

The other day I opened a hobby box of 2017 Topps Heritage High Number. Over the past couple of years Heritage has become one of my favorite series to open. I enjoy all of the Heritage including the Heritage Minor set. The nice thing about the Heritage High Number is that the set is smaller, 225 cards (including short prints), so there is a higher percentage of set completion from a single box.

This particular set picks up where the Topps Heritage leaves off. The base set is card number 501-700 and the last 25 (numbers 701-725) are short prints. There are 24 packs per box and each pack has 9 cards. Every hobby box comes with a topper and a hit. The topper is either a 3-card Ad Panel, 1968 Original Buyback or a Poster. The hit is either a relic card or an autograph card.

Here are some stats for this box:

Base Cards (501-700): 191 cards, no duplicates = 95.5% complete
Short Prints (701-725): 8 cards, no duplicates = 32% complete
Total Set (501-725): 199 cards = 88.4% complete

Based on the set completion percentage alone, there is no need to buy a second hobby box, unless you are chasing hits. Notable Rookie Cards in this set are: Cody Bellinger, Ian Happ and Matt Olson.

Fortunately, I pulled all 12 Oakland Athletics cards:

Notable inserts:
Chrome
Base: Koda Glover 558/999
Refractor: Kyle Freeland 453/568

Inserts
Now and Then: Aaron Judge
Now and Then: Andrew Benintendi
Nolan Ryan Highlight: Breaks Strikeout Record

2017 HHN Inserts

Parallel and Variations
Action Image Variation: Brandon Phillips
Blue Border: Josh Reddick (not serial numbered, but only 50 made)

2017 HHN Parallels

Box Hit
Clubhouse Collection Relic: Masahiro Tanaka

2017 HHN Tanaka

Box Topper
1968 Originals Buyback: Ray Culp.

2017 HHN 1968 Buyback

Other Insets (not pictured)
Rookie Performers (2): Bradley Zimmer; Dansby Swanson

Award Winners (3): Kris Bryant – MVP; Eric Hosmer – ASG MVP; Kris Bryant – Hank Aaron Award

Combo Cards (2): Carlos Correa/George Springer – Houston Hammers; Eric Thames/Domingo Santana – Brewers Bashers

Now and Then (1): Wil Myers – Triple for the Cycle

All in all, this was a fun box to break. Hertiage is known for having many variations, parallels and error cards to chase. Not all of the variations are obvious so you have to look closely at many of the cards to make sure you are not missing anything. Check out Cardboard Connections’s Heritage High Number Variation Guide for more info.

With the high percentage of set completion and the variations to chase, I believe this box is worth the money.

Have you bought any 2017 Topps Heritage Minors? Whether it is a single pack, retail Blaster Box or a Hobby Box, comment below and let me know what you think of this set!

The Highs and Lows of Graphing in One Day

When you collect in person autographs there many highs and lows. There is nothing better than when you get most, if not all, of the cards or items you wanted signed. You develop friendships with other graphers at the ballpark as you talk to kill time waiting for players.

On the other side there are low times where the freshly written autograph gets smeared. Or there are times where the player you’ve been patiently waiting for tells you, “after the game,” or a straight up “No.” There is no worse feeling than when the pen fails and the item is ruined.

Those who collect autographs have all been there. It’s all a part of the game. These are the things that will happen time and time again. You can only hope that there are more highs than there are lows.

On Wednesday, May 17th I experienced some really good highs, followed promptly by the lowest of lows. The Inland Empire 66ers were visiting the Stockton Ports. There are quite a few prospects on the 66ers that I wanted to get. Also, Rickey Henderson, who serves as a roving instructor for the Athletics Minor League System, was in town so there was a small chance of getting his auto as well.

When some of the 66ers started to come out, I noticed Matt Thaiss and asked him to come over. He was really great about it. As he came over he noticed one of the other grapher’s book had a couple cards of another player, Kyle Survance, Jr. Matt said, “Hey, you need Kyle? He’s right here. Kyle come over here.” This was the first time I ever had a player ask another player to come over and sign for us. That was a really cool experience.

I ended up getting all, but one or two of the players I was looking for, so it was a really good pre-game session. As I got back to my seat, I noticed that Rickey Henderson was signing for a few people. I had brought a card with me and as always a Major League Ball. In the last moment I decided to get the ball signed instead of the card. I hand the ball and to Rickey and he starts to sign it. Then the worst possible thing happens. The pen fails.

I was so heart broken. He got through his first name and the pen failed as he was signing his last name. I couldn’t believe my luck. This was the same pen that I used the last couple of days to get Jharel Cotton and Daniel Gossett on Major League Balls. When I got back to my seat, I promptly snapped the pen in half and threw it on the ground.

I have been an Oakland A’s fan since 1985. Rickey is a player I grew up watching. He is one of my all time favorites. To have this happen is heart breaking. I hope that one day I can get this ball replaced. I do have a a California League Ball signed by Rickey, so at least I have that.

At this point I have opted to not attach a picture of this ball. I might change my mind and post it later. If you do want to see a picture then comment below and I’ll likely post it.

An Incredible Experience at Banner Island Ballpark

I’ve been collecting in person autographs for about the past five years. It is something that I am very passionate about. I do not sell my autographs, occasionally I’ll trade for players/teams I can’t get on the West Coast.  I just do this for fun and to meet ball players. I don’t expect players to sign everything I have. If they only sign one, then that’s fine with me.

Every once in a while I have an experience that is truly incredible and beyond words. Last night I had one of those experiences! May 6th was the Stockton Ports Annual Alumni Night. Unfortunately the way it works they never really know who is going to come to the event until they actually show up. Some alumni will RSVP the week of the game, but some just happen to show up.

So a good friend of mine, Jesse, and I were graphing that night and the Ports were introducing the Alumni that were there and they announced a very familiar name: Dion James.

I know Dion still lives in the Sacramento area. I sent a TTM request in October 2015. I received the cards back signed in just 2 weeks. I just had no idea he would be there.

Dion was a first round draft pick in 1980, 25th overall, by the Milwaukee Brewers. He was drafted out of McClatchy High School in Sacramento. Dion played 11 seasons in the Majors with the Brewers, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees.  Dion played 124 games for the Stockton Ports in 1981 batting .304 with 43 stolen bases.

Stockton Ports MLB Wall

Stockton Ports in the MLB graphic at Banner island Ballpark. Dion James: Year Played in Stockton 1981, MLB Debut 1983

I’ve learned to always carry a ROMLB with me because you never know who is going to show up at the ballpark. We found Dion on the concourse looking at some of the graphics and banners the Ports have posted around the ballpark. We approached him and asked for his autograph. He was more than happy to do it for us.

Dion James Ball

ROMLB Signed by Dion James

He signed a ball for me and an autograph card for Jesse. Then he said “I have something special for you guys. Hold on a moment.” He pulled out a stack of his own cards and proceeded to give 3 cards to the 2 of us and signed them all. I took the one I wanted and Jesse got the other two. Dion shook our hands thanked us for asking him to sign and being a fan. He also commented to us, “you made my day.” I said to him, ” Mr. James, you made my day!”

Dion James Card

1985 Fleer given to me by Dion James

Interactions like this will always make me a fan of a person for life! He was really nice when we asked him to sign and I would have been happy with the ball. The fact that he give us some of his own cards and signed them for us is above and beyond anything I could have expected. Thank you so much Dion for the experience! I will always remember it!

2017 Spring Training TTMs Batch #1

So I sent out my first batch of Spring Training TTMs yesterday. For this batch I sent a total of 20 requests. 13 to Oakland Athletics, 2 to Houston Astros, 2 to Philadelphia Phillies, 1 to San Diego Padres, 1 to Minnesota Twins and 1 to Atlanta Braves. Quite a few of these players have a good track record for responses. A couple have no track record, so who knows if they’ll sign. Unlike last year, I’m not sending out a super long shot, like Mark McGwire. I took a chance and it didn’t work, but I only lost 1 card that I have a lot of so it’s not really a loss.

Here’s the breakdown:

Oakland Athletics
Sean Doolittle
Kendall Graveman
Jesse Hahn
Liam Hendriks
Ryan Dull
Jharel Cotton
Sean Manaea
Marcus Semien
Jaycob Brugman
Mark Canha
Jake Smolinski
Bruce Maxwell
Ryon Healy

Houston Astros
A.J. Reed
Kyle Tucker

Philadelphia Phillies
Pat Neshek
Matt Stairs

San Diego Padres
Travis Jankowski

Minnesota Twins
Hector Santiago

Atlanta Braves
Sean Newcomb

Sean Doolittle and Marcus Semien are very good at signing. I have received successes from Doolittle in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Semien in 2015 and 2016. 6 of the others on the list I have received successes from in the past. I hope to get a better success rate than what I had last year. 50 percent is a great return rate from active players, but I always hope for better.

Right now, I am planning a second Spring Training batch. I’m not sure how many I’ll send with this one. I’m always open to suggestions. So, if you know of some players with good track records, please comment below. I’m especially interested in guys who were in either the 2016 Topps Pro Debut or 2017 Topps, but I’m not limited to those.

2016 Spring Training TTM Returns

With the 2017 Spring Training getting under way (combined with my absence from this blog), I thought it would be a good time to recap my 2016 Spring Training TTM successes. Last year I sent 2 batches of TTMs to Spring Training camps. The first was on February 16th and included the following players:

Mark McGwire
Sean Doolittle
Stephen Vogt
Billy Burns
Mark Canha
Jed Lowrie
Renato Nunez
Kendall Graveman
Daniel Robertson
R.J. Alvarez
Jesse Hahn

The second batch was mailed on March 1st and included the following players:

Marcus Semien
Jesse Chavez
A.J. Reed
Eric Sogard
Joe Wendle
Chris Bassitt
Max Muncy
Ron Washington
Juan Samuel

In total I sent out 20 requests. To date, I have received back 10 successes. A 50% success rate. Not quite what I hoped. Here is the list again with the date I have received the success.

Mark McGwire (long shot, I know)
Sean Doolittle – March 7, 2016
Stephen Vogt
Billy Burns
Mark Canha – March 1, 2016
Jed Lowrie
Renato Nunez
Kendall Graveman
Daniel Robertson
R.J. Alvarez – March 18, 2016
Jesse Hahn – April 1, 2016
Marcus Semien – March 10, 2016
Jesse Chavez
A.J. Reed – April 4, 2016
Eric Sogard
Joe Wendle – June 24, 2016
Chris Bassitt – March 25, 2016
Max Muncy – March 10, 2016
Ron Washington
Juan Samuel – March 10, 2016

I will update this list should I receive any more returns.

In spite of only a 50% return rate (so far) I still plan to send out a bunch of Spring Training TTMs this year. I currently have a batch of 20 ready to go. This batch contains 13 A’s players, 2 Phillies, 2 Astros, 1 Padres, 1 Twins, 1 Braves, but those details are for another post.

Coming Back

For a while I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to continue this blog. It’s been almost a year since my last post. In that time I have met a lot of great people, mostly online through Twitter and Instagram, I’ve seen A LOT of baseball and I’ve had many amazing experiences.

I have decided that instead of using this blog for posting A’s and A’s related news, I am going to use it as a forum for my baseball experience, along with some life experiences thrown in.

I don’t know how often I’ll post. It will likely be inconsistent at best. I will try to write something at least once a week. A lot depends on my mood and if I have something to write about… who am I kidding, I have a lot to write about. It really depends on my mood, do I really feel like typing.

Here are a couple of pics from recent events and TTM returns that will serve as a prelude for some of my future posts. I hope you will enjoy!

Oakland A’s FanFest and a Curt Young game worn jersey I picked up at FanFest.

A couple of my favorite recent TTM successes. Storm Davis and Juan Gonzalez!

Spring Training TTM Batch No. 1 Ready

It’s that time of the year. Pitchers and Catchers start reporting this week and soon Spring Training will be in full swing. It is also the time where I send a couple of TTM batches to current Major and Minor Leaguers in hopes of getting their autographs on some cards.

This year my first batch is almost exclusively Oakland Athletics. Honestly this is no different than in years past. There is only one non-Athletics player and that is Daniel Robertson of the Tampa Bay Rays. As many know he was drafted by and played for the Athletics’ minor league system until he was traded prior to the 2015 season.

In the first batch there are 11 players/coaches that I am sending requests to. Usually my batches are in groups of 10, but I had a couple of extra stamps so I decided to add one more. 4 of these players are ones I have received TTM successes from in the past. 7 I have not sent to before. 1 of those 7 can be classified as “Why not? What’s the worst that could happen?” (i.e. Long Shot)

Here is the list of players in the first batch:

Sean Doolittle*
Stephen Vogt*
Billy Burns*
Mark Canha
Jed Lowrie*
Renato Nunez
Kendall Graveman
Daniel Robertson
R.J. Alvarez
Jesse Hahn

The Long Shot:
Mark McGwire

From time to time I see successes from Mark McGwire so I figured why not? What’s the worst that is going to happen? I lose 1 card. The potential reward far out weighs the risk.

*Received prior successes.