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.

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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.

Card of the Week: Dennis Eckersley 2015 Topps Five Star

The Card of the Week for January 10-16, 2016 is the 2015 Topps Five Star Autograph of Dennis Eckersley. Eckersley was one of my 2 favorite pitchers to watch as a kid. The other being Dave Stewart. I began watching baseball in the mid-1980s, this was after Eckersley came to the Oakland Athletics and converted into one of the most dominant closers in the game.

Dennis Eckersley 2015 Topps Five Star Autograph

Dennis Eckersley 2015 Topps Five Star Autograph

Eckersley was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004. He is one of two pitchers with 20-win (1978) and 50-save (1992) seasons. Eckersely was selected to the All-Star game 6 times, 2 as a starter and 4 as a closer. He was also named MVP of the 1988 American League Championship Series, saving all 4 of Oakland’s victories against the Boston Red Sox.

His best season came in 1992 when he posted a 7-1 record, struck out 93 batters in 80 innings and saved a major league leading 51 games. That year Eckersley won the American League MVP and Cy Young Awards.

Fun Fact: In his 24 year career, Eckersley only pitched in the National League for 5 years, 3 as a starter and 2 as a reliever. As a starter for the Chicago Cubs (1984-86), Eckersley hit 3 home runs. 1 in 1985 and 2 in 1986. Not bad for a guy with only 181 career at bats.

Eckersley was clearly one of the most dominant pitchers in the game during the 1980s and 1990s. He was instrumental in the success of the Oakland Athletics in the late-1980s and early-1990s. Eckersley will always be one of my favorite pitchers.

Autographed Set Update

I wanted to give a brief update on my quest to get as many cards autographed in 3 different sets as I can. My primary focus are the 1987 Fleer and 1988 Topps sets. These are 2 of my favorite sets from the 1980s as they were some of the first that I collected and completed. The other set is the 1981 Fleer set. This set is a nostalgic throwback to when the baseball card business was starting to grow.

Here are the stats for each set as of 12/04/2015:

1987 Fleer – 84/660 cards signed – 12.73% complete
1987 Fleer Update – 18/132 cards signed – 13.64% complete

1988 Topps – 98/792 cards signed – 12.37% complete
1988 Topps Traded – 18/132 cards signed – 9.09% complete

1981 Fleer – 52/660 cards signed – 7.88% complete

MLB Pitcher Tommy Hanson Passes Away

On Monday, November 9, 2015 Major League pitcher, Tommy Hanson passed away. He was 29. On Sunday Tommy was rushed to the hospital because he was having trouble breathing. He passed away from catastrophic organ failure. The exact reason that led to the failure is unknown at this time.

Tommy pitched for 5 years in the majors. From 2009-12 with the Atlanta Braves and with the LA Angels of Anaheim in 2013. In 121 starts he posted a 49-35 record with a 3.80 ERA.

After being granted free agency by the Angels, Tommy tried to latch on with the Texas Rangers and the Chicago White Sox in 2014, but did not make either club. In May 2015 Tommy signed with the San Francisco Giants. In 15 starts with the San Jose Giants and the Sacramento River Cats, Tommy went 4-6 with a 4.76 ERA.

I was fortunate enough to see Tommy pitch for the San Jose Giants in Stockton back on June 30, 2015. That night he pitched well, striking out 5 in 5 innings. The only blemish was giving up a solo home run to Branden Cogswell.

After he was done pitching Tommy was nice enough to stop on the ramp leading to the clubhouse and sign some autographs for a couple fans. That night he signed the 2 cards I brought with me. Thank you Tommy.

2011 and 2014 Topps cards autographed by Tommy Hanson

2011 and 2014 Topps cards autographed by Tommy Hanson

 

TTM Success 10/26/2015: Ben Zobrist

On October 26th I received a TTM success from Kansas City Royal Ben Zobrist. I had sent a 2015 Topps Opening Day card out to Zobrist during the last week of the season. He is one of the few position players who usually has a quick turnaround time during the season.

Zobrist began the 2015 season with the Oakalnd Athletics. He came to the A’s with Yunel Escobar by way of a trade that sent catcher John Jaso along with minor leaguers Daniel Robertson, Boog Powell to the Tampa Bay Rays. Zobrist was later traded at the deadline to the Royals for Aaron Brooks and minor league pitcher Sean Manaea.

Zobrist signed 2 cards for me: 2015 Topps Opening Day (one I sent) and 2015 Testimony card (Bonus)

TTM Autographs from Ben Zobrist

TTM Autographs from Ben Zobrist

With every request Zobrist included an additional signed testimony card. The back side has a description of his relationship with God. I received this success in 28 days. Thank you Ben!

Zobrist is one of those player I have liked since he came up in the Rays organization. I just wish he could have stuck with the Athletics for more than just 67 games. I was fortunate enough to see Zobrist rehab with the Nashville Sounds when they came to the West Coast in late May. He signed a MLB Ball for me before the game I went to in Fresno.

Ben Zobrist autographed baseball from rehab appearance with Nashville Sounds on May 24, 2015.

Ben Zobrist autographed baseball from rehab appearance with Nashville Sounds on May 24, 2015.