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!

Card of the Week: Bruce Maxwell 2014 Topps Pro Debut Magenta Printing Plate

Now that I just completed a stretch of working 16 days in a row, I can get back to some semblance of routine. This week’s Card of the Week is the 2014 Topps Pro Debut Printing Plate of Bruce Maxwell. Bruce is currently the Oakland Athletics No. 28 Prospect on MLB.com. This card features Bruce’s time on the Beloit Snappers. This is the 3rd printing plate I own. The great thing about printing plates is that they are a true 1/1.

Bruce Maxwell 2014 Topps Pro Debut Magenta Printing Plate 1/1 - Front

Bruce Maxwell 2014 Topps Pro Debut Magenta Printing Plate 1/1 – Front

Bruce was drafted in the 2nd round of the June 2012 Draft. This past year he was with the Midland RockHounds and helped them to their 2nd straight Texas League Championship. Bruce spent part of the 2013 and 2014 seasons with the Stockton Ports where I got to see him play. He was also named to the 2014 California League All-Star team.

Bruce Maxwell 2014 Topps Pro Debut Magenta Printing Plate 1/1 - Back

Bruce Maxwell 2014 Topps Pro Debut Magenta Printing Plate 1/1 – Back

Click to see the previous Card of the Week entries.

Jacob Nottingham: MiLB.com Fan’s Choice Breakout Prospect

Every year MiLB.com gives the fans the opportunity to choose their “favorites” and “bests” with the MiLBY Awards. This year the fan’s choice for Breakout Prospect was Jacob Nottingham, the No. 8 Prospect for the Oakland Athletics. In the MiLBY’s fan vote, Nottingham received 37% of the votes. This was 24% ahead of the runner up, Detroit Tigers’s No. 1 Prospect Michael Fulmer.

Before 2015, Nottingham had a couple of average years in the Houston Astros Organization where he hit .247 in 2 seasons at the Rookie level. In 2015 it all turned around for Nottingham. He ended the season with .316/.372/.505 slash line and 17 home runs with 3 teams at 2 levels. To cap off a great first half, Nottingham was selected to represent the Quad Cities River Bandits at the Midwest League All Star Game.

Nottingham’s performance was noticed by the Oakland Athletics’s Front Office as they traded pitcher Scott Kazmir on July 23rd to Houston for Nottingham and pitcher Daniel Mengden. At the time of the trade Nottingham and Mengden were playing for the Lancaster JetHawks, who coincidentally were beginning a 4 game set against the Stockton Ports in Lancaster. Both were assigned to the Stockton Ports where they finished the season.

Having watched Jacob Nottingham play the second half of the season with the Stockton Ports, I can say that he can easily develop into an impact player. While he has a good bat, Nottingham’s is defense is a little rough. I would not be surprised if Oakland moves him to the outfield at some point next year.

Vote for your AAA All-Stars

Now through June 26, 2015 you can vote for your AAA All-Stars. Simply visit the official AAA All-Star Ballot. You can vote up to 25 times per email address. Voting is easy. All you have to do is click on the icon for the Nashville Sounds and all of their players on the ballot get highlighted. Just check those players and submit the ballot.

Vote as many times as you can! Let’s get as many players from the Nashville Sounds on the All-Star roster as we can!

The 2015 AAA All-Star game will take place on Wednesday, July 15th in Omaha, NE.

Beloit Boasts 4 All-Stars in the Midwest League

On Wednesday, the All-Star rosters for the Midwest League All-Star Game were announced. Among the representatives for the Western Division are 4 Beloit Snappers. The Midwest League All-Star Game will take place on June 17th at Fifth Third Ballpark, home of the West Michigan WhiteCaps.

Outfielder Boog Powell was named to the starting lineup for the Western Division. Boog is batting .350 with 2 home run, 14 RBIs and 11 stolen bases to go along with his .462 OBP. He was drafted in the 20th round of the 2012 June Draft.

Shortstop Luis Baez made the All-Star team after beginning the season with a .256 average 17 doubles and 16 RBIs. Baez was signed by the Oakland Athletics as a non-drafted free agent in April 2008.

2 Snapper pitchers made the All-Star roster. Andres Avila has been string out of the pen this season posting a 3.04 ERA while notching 7 saves and striking out 21 batters. Andres was signed by the Oakland Athletics as a non-drafted free agent in April 2010.

Kyle Finnegan is the other pitcher from the Snappers who made the team. He is 5-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 11 starts. On May 16th Kyle pitched a complete game shut out against the Clinton LumberKings. Kyle was drafted in the 6th round of the 2013 June Draft.

For a complete list of the Midwest League All-Stars click here: 2014 Midwest League All-Stars

 

Bruce Maxwell and Seth Streich to Represent Stockton at All Star Game

On Wednesday morning the California League announced the All Star roster for the 2014 California/Carolina League All Star Game. The game will take place on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at the Daniel S. Frawley Stadium, home of the Wilmington Blue Rocks, in Wilmington, DE.

Two of Oakland Athletics’s Top 20 Prospects will represent the Stockton Ports. Catcher, Bruce Maxwell (No. 16) and Pitcher, Seth Streich (No. 18) will be making the trip to Delaware.

This season, Bruce Maxwell continues to show why he is a top prospect in the Oakland organization. He is batting .282 with 4 home runs and 19 RBIs in 48 games. Bruce has also thrown out 43% of all would-be base stealers.

Seth Streich has picked up right where he left off in 2013. On the 2014 season he is 6-4 with a 3.41 and 67 strikeouts in 63.1 IP.

For a complete list of California League All Stars click here: 2014 California League All Stars.

Box Break: 2013 Elite Extra Edition

One of my favorite products over the past few years is the Panini Elite Extra Edition. This set features over 100 of the top draft picks from the previous draft. Each blaster  box contains packs each containing 5 cards. In addition each blaster box promises 2 autographed cards. This interests me as one of my focuses in my collection is autographed cards.

2013 Elite Extra Edition Blaster Box

2013 Elite Extra Edition Blaster Box

Here are the hits I pulled from this box.

Inserts

Insert Hits: Jonathan Denney, Scouting 101; Keaton McKinney, Game Jersey; Chris Anderson, Aspirations Die Cut #108/200; Tim Atherton, Status Die Cut #042/100

Insert Hits

There are several subsets, or inserts, in this year’s set including: Scouting 101, USA Game Jerseys (15U & 18U), Elite Series, Aspirations Die Cut, Status Die Cut and Historic Picks. I pulled 4 inserts from this box. The first was Jonathan Denney (Boston Red Sox), Scouting 101. I also pulled an 18U Game Jerseys of Keaton McKinney (Akeney High School, Iowa). The other 2 inserts were die cuts.  One is of Chris Anderson (Los Angeles Dodgers), Aspirations #108/200 and Tim Atherton (Minnesota Twins, now Oakland Athletics), Blue Status #042/100. I’m sure Jesse from Section 117 @ BIB would like the Chris Anderson card.

Photo Variant

The first 10 cards of the base set also has short printed photo variations. I pulled the variant for Marco Gonzales (St. Louis Cardinals).

Photo Variant: Marco Gonzales, Card #6

Photo Variant: Marco Gonzales, Card #6

Here is the base along side the variant. I had the base card from the previous box I purchased.

Photo Variant and Base Card: Marco Gonzales, Card #6

Photo Variant and Base Card: Marco Gonzales, Card #6

Autographs

The outside of the box promised 2 autographed cards inside. It did not disappoint. I actually pulled 3 autographed cards from the box.

Autograph Hits: Carlos Salazar #607/625, Andy Burns #273/399

Autograph Hits: Carlos Salazar #607/625, Andy Burns #273/399

The first is of pitcher Carlos Salazar (Atlanta Braves) serial numbered #607/625. The next autograph I pulled was of third baseman Andy Burns (Toronto Blue Jays) serial numbered #273/399. The third was an absolute bonus…

Autograph Hits: D. J. Baxendale, Green Status Die Cut #04/25

Autograph Hits: D. J. Baxendale, Green Status Die Cut #04/25

I pulled the Green Status Die Cut Autograph of pitcher D. J. Baxendale (Minnesota Twins) numbered only #04/25.

All in all a very successful box. It was worth the $29.99 price point to me. So far I hae purchased 2 of these blaster boxes and each time I have pulled 3 autographs in each box. The one slightly disappointing thing this that I have not pulled an Oakland Athletics card. The closest is the Tim Atherton Blue Status Die Cut. He was drafted by the Minnesota Twins, but was a Rule 5 pick (AAA round) in December 2013 by the Athletics and is currently on the Stockton Ports pitching staff. So, of course, I will be getting this card signed soon!

 

Former All-Star and Manager Jim Fregosi Dies at 71

On February 14, 2014, 6 time All-Star and former Manager Jim Fregosi passed away.  He died from complications from a stroke he suffered while on a MLB Alumni Carribean cruise six days earlier.  Fregosi was a 6 time All-Star as a player and is probably remembered for being a part of one of the more infamous trades.  The New York Mets sent future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and 3 other prospects to the California Angels for Fregosi.

After his playing career ended Fregosi became a manager. In his first season as a manager (1979) he led the California Angels to an AL West title. Fregosi also managed the Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Philies and the Toronto Blue Jays. Fregosi’s best year as a manager was in 1993 as he led the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series. They were defeated by the Toronto Blue Jays in 6 games.

On a personal note: On January 25, 2014 I received 3 autographed cards back from Jim Fregosi. I feel very blessed and grateful that I received these cards only a few weeks before his passing. He even accidentally signed the penny sleeve that was on the 1981 Fleer card. Fortunately he realized the mistake and signed the cards as well. Thank you Jim for the cards! You will be missed.

TTM autographs of Jim Fregosi received January 25, 2014.

TTM autographs of Jim Fregosi received January 25, 2014.

 

California League Playoffs Update

2013 California League Playoffs

Round 1

North –  Visalia Rawhide defeat Modesto Nuts 2-0
Game 1: Visalia Rawhide 4, Modesto Nuts 3
Game 2: Visalia Rawhide 3, Modesto Nuts 2, 12 innings

South – Inland Empire 66ers defeat Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 2-1
Game 1: Inland Empire 66ers 6, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 3
Game 2: Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 8, Inland Empire 66ers 5, 10 innings
Game 3: Inland Empire 66ers 7, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 6

Round 2

North – Visalia Rawhide leads San Jose Giants 1-0
Game 1: Visalia Rawhide 4, San Jose Giants 2
Game 2: Visalia Rawhide @ San Jose Giants
Game 3: San Jose Giants @ Visalia Rawhide
Game 4*: San Jose Giants @ Visalia Rawhide
Game 5*: Visalia Rawhide @ San Jose Giants

South – Lancaster JetHawks leads Inland Empire 66ers 1-0
Game 1: Lancaster JetHawks 4, Inland Empire 66ers 1
Game 2: Inland Empire 66ers @ Lancaster JetHawks
Game 3: Lancaster JetHawks @ Inland Empire 66ers
Game 4*: Lancaster JetHawks @ Inland Empire 66ers
Game 5*: Inland Empire 66ers @ Lancaster JetHawks

* = If Necessary