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!

Athletics get Jed Lowrie back

On Wednesday Jed Lowrie was traded by the Houston Astros to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Oakland’s number 30 prospect Brendan McCurry. Jed returns to the Athletics after signing a 3 year deal with the Astros after the 2014 season. He played in 290 games with Oakland during the 2013 and 2014 seasons and batted .271 with 74 doubles and 125 RBIs. In 2015 Jed was limited to 69 games with Houston.

The arrival of shortstop Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve at 2nd base, made Lowrie expendable in Houston. Barring any subsequent moves. in Oakland he will have the chance to platoon with Marcus Semien at shortstop, Brett Lawrie at second and Danny Valencia at third.

Brendan was drafted in the 22nd round of the June 2014 draft. In 2015 he split time with the Stockton Ports and Midland RockHounds. He posted a 1.86 ERA in 50 games, converting 27 out 28 save opportunities. McCurry was selected to pitch in the Arizona Fall League this year and posted a 4.73 ERA in just over 13 innings. He was selected as the reliever on Oakland’s organizational All-Stars for the 2015 season.

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.

Autograph Card Collection Acquired – July 18, 2015

On July 18, 2015, I acquired part of a collection of In-Person Autographed cards from a friend of mine.  Like me, he collected autographs from players in the California League. This collection is from the era just before the Stockton Ports became an Oakland Athletics affiliate, approximately 1999-2002. The collection I acquired contains approximately 800 cards. One aspect of this collection I find interesting is that some of the cards are from the time when Stockton changed their name to the Mudville Nine (2000-01).

There are quite a few duplicates in this collection, however that does not bother me as there are many duplicates in my collection. A couple of the better known prospect names include Josh Hamilton, Francisco Rodriguez and Jake Peavy. A couple of coaches who were retired MLB players include Tim Wallach and Manny Trillo.

It will take me quite a while to go through this collection and figure out what is in it.  After the first look through the cards I have to say it was a worthwhile investment. I will be posting some pics of the collection in the next few days.

A.J. Griffin set to make 2nd rehab start

On Sunday, June 7th, Oakland Athletics starting pitcher A.J. Griffin is slated to make his second rehab appearance with the Stockton Ports. In his first appearance Griffin was lights out pitching 3 innings, giving up only one hit while striking out three against the Lake Elsinore Storm. He is scheduled to throw 4 innings on Sunday with a pitch count around 60 pitches.

The Ports will be on the road in Modesto where they will be going to the series sweep. The Ports are winners of their last five games and have outscored the Nuts 28 to 11 in the first 3 games of this series.

The Ports will return home for a brief 3 game home stand where they will host the Inland Empire 66ers beginning on Monday.

Rehab appearances and autographs

The relocation of the Oakland Athletics’s AAA club to Nashville has been a blessing for the Stockton Ports fans. As of June 5th there have been 7 players to make rehab appearances with the Stockton Ports.

The first came on opening night, Josh Reddick rehabbed with the Ports as they opened the season in San Bernadino against the Inland Empire 66ers. Jarrod Parker soon joined the Ports for a couple of rehab starts. This was during a road trip that took them through Visalia and Bakersfield to face the Rawhide and the Blaze. Unfortunately both Reddick’s and Parker’s rehab assignments were on the road.

Coco Crisp was the first home rehab assignment for the Stockton Ports. On May 3rd and 4th Crisp played for the Ports. On Sunday, May 3rd I was able to get a MLB ball and 2 cards signed by Crisp. On Monday, May 4th I was able to get one more card signed a 2015 Topps cards (not pictured).

Coco Crisp autographed ball and cards from rehab appearance with the Stockton Ports on May 3, 2015

Coco Crisp autographed ball and cards from rehab appearance with the Stockton Ports on May 3, 2015

On May 14th and 17th Oakland Athletics’s closer Sean Doolittle made his rehab appearances with the Ports. These were home games, May 14th was a Thursday day game so I couldn’t go due to work. On Sunday, May 17th, I got to see Doolittle pitch, but I was unable to get his autograph because he did not come out to the bullpen until the 3rd inning.

A couple of days later on a road trip to Visalia second baseman Ben Zobrist joined the Ports for a couple of rehab games. On May 23rd Zobrist joined the Nashville Sounds, who happened to be on a West Coast road trip, for a couple for rehab games. I went to the game in Fresno against the Grizzlies and was able to get Zobrist to sign a ball for me.

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.

Sunday, May 31st saw the 6th different Athletic to make a rehab appearance with the Ports. Pitcher Drew Pomeranz threw 2 scoreless innings that day. Most recently former Stockton Port and current Oakland Athletic starting pitcher A.J. Griffin made his first rehab appearance coming off of Tommy John Surgery. He threw 3 innings on June 2nd against the Lake Elsinore Storm and before the game Griffin was nice enough to sign a ball for me.

A.J. Griffin autographed baseball from rehab appearance with the Stockton Ports on June 2, 2015

A.J. Griffin autographed baseball from rehab appearance with the Stockton Ports on June 2, 2015

In addition to all of the prospects that Ports fans get to see on a regular basis, we have been treated to quite a few Oakland Athletics rehab assignments this season. I want to thank the Sacramento River Cats for not wanting to be an Athletics affiliate anymore. Without their desire to switch Ports fans may not get to see as many rehab assignments.

 

Post-Draft Top 20 Prospects

Now that the signing deadline for the 2014 June Draft has passed the Top 20 Prospects have been updated by MLB.com. There are many new faces on the Oakland Athletics list as well and a few that have moved up the ranks based on their performance so far this season.

New to the list are 2014 Draft Picks Matt Chapman (No. 4), Brett Graves (No. 13) and Daniel Gossett (No. 14).  Also new to the list are Ryon Healy (No. 18) and Jaycob Brugman (No. 20). Aaron Shipman (No. 19) makes a return to the list for the first time since 2012 with his breakout season under the radar in Stockton.

Notable jumps on the list are Bruce Maxwell who moves from No. 14 to No. 10. Chad Pinder makes the jump from No. 15 to No. 6. Seth Streich makes the biggest jump moving from No. 18 to No. 8 with his All-Star season with the Stockton Ports.

Off the list are B.J. Boyd, Dylan Covey, Chris Kohler, Miles Head, Arnold Leon and Dustin Driver. Boyd and Covey are having strong seasons, so they are not far off the list. Meanwhile Kohler and Head have been battling injuries and could possibly make a return to the list in the next season or so as they return to form.

1. Daniel Robertson
2. Matthew Olson
3. Renato Nunez
4. Matt Chapman
5. Dillon Overton
6. Chad Pinder
7. Raul Alcantara
8. Seth Streich
9. Max Muncy
10. Bruce Maxwell
11. Bobby Wahl
12. Nolan Sanburn
13. Brett Graves
14. Daniel Gossett
15. Tucker Healy
16. Michael Ynoa
17. Billy Burns
18. Ryon Healy
19. Aaron Shipman
20. Jaycob Brugman

To be eligible for the list the player must have rookie eligibility.  Players cannot exceed 130 at bats or 50 innings pitches with a Major League club.  Also the player cannot be on the active roster for more than 45 days during the 25 player limit period.

Player Profile: Seth Frankoff

Seth Frankoff, relief pitcher
Sacramento River Cats

2014 Stats (through 7/15)
2-2, 4.31 ERA, 15 saves, 31 games, 39.2 IP, 50 strikeouts

Seth Frankoff was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 27th round of the 2010 June Draft. Since that time he has been making a slow, but steady climb through the Athletics’s farm system.

Seth began the 2014 season with the Midland RockHounds (AA). A couple of weeks into the season he established himself as the closer of the staff. Seth notched 15 saves in 27 games en route to a Texas League All-Star selection. In his All-Star appearance Seth pitched a scoreless 8th innings striking out one batter.

His success in the closer’s role during the first half of the season for the RockHounds, earned Seth a promotion to the Sacramento River Cats (AAA).

Since his promotion he has pitched in 4 games for the River Cats. He has struggled posting a 15.00 ERA in 6 innings. However if history is any indication, we will see Seth’s ERA drop over his next few outings.

During the 2014 Spring Training, Seth made one appearance with the Oakland Athletics. That came on March 6th where Seth pitched 1 inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He gave up 1 hit, struck out 1 batter and earned the win.

After the 2013 season, Seth was selected to pitch in the Arizona Fall League for the Mesa Solar Sox. In 12 games he posted a 1.42 ERA with 3 walks and 15 strikeouts.

2013 was a breakout season for Seth as he spent the entire year with the Stockton Ports (A Advanced). In 48 games he posted a 2.78 ERA with a record of 2-0 in 48 games. In 74.1 innings for the Ports, Seth struck out a career high 93 batters.

In 2012 Seth pitched the entire season with the Burlington Bees. This was where he made the conversion from being a starting pitcher to a relief pitcher. It was in this transition where Seth really found his place on the pitching staff. That season Seth started in 9 games and was 1-3 with a 9.17 ERA. After the transition he pitched in 27 games posting a 4-4 record. What was significant was that his ERA for the rest of the season was 2.51, giving him a 4.83 ERA on the season.

Seth’s first full season in profession baseball was 2011. He started the season with the Burlington Bees (A Full Season). He pitched in 5 games tallied a record of 0-1 with a 11.25 ERA. He came back in June with the Vermont Lake Monsters (A Short-Season). In 14 starts he was 6-3 with a 2.34 ERA and struck out 63 in 73 innings. Seth pitched 2 complete games that season both against the Connecticut Tigers. One was on June 23rd where he gave up only 1 run notching his first victory of the season. The other was a shutout that came on August 26th.

Seth earned the New York-Penn League Pitcher of the Week honors for 2 consecutive weeks on August 29 and September 6, 2011.