Wednesday, June 19, 2019

2008 Topps, Blake DeWitt

#603 Blake DeWitt

Here is the card of Blake DeWitt that I got signed at an Oklahoma City Redhawks game in 2008. That was before Oklahoma City was the Dodgers top affiliate, so Blake was playing for the visiting Las Vegas 51's. I only have one card signed by Blake, but I do not remember if he was a one-per guy or if this was the only card I had of him at the time. Considering that Blake played in 117 games with the Dodgers that season, I feel fortunate to have caught him at one of the 27 games he played in for Las Vegas.

Blake lasted in the big leagues for just six seasons, seeing time with the Dodgers, Cubs, and Braves. Over that time, he was a .257 hitter with 21 home runs and 135 RBI. His best season was his rookie campaign with the Dodgers in 2008. That year, he batted .264 with 9 homers and 52 RBI.

On an unrelated note, I posted a Felipe Paulino card yesterday. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Felipe had been pitching in the Atlantic League this season and he got signed by the Astros yesterday. So, he may be working his way back to the Major Leagues for the first time since 2014.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

2008 Topps, Felipe Paulino

#601 Felipe Paulino

Here is a card that I got signed at a Round Rock Express game in 2008. I was on my way down to my Grandma's and I made a pit stop in Round Rock, Texas to catch the Astros AAA franchise. I absolutely loved the park and I did alright on the autographing front, too.

The best part of Dell Diamond, from a 'graphing standpoint, was that the clubhouses were both in left field and the players actually had to walk across the concourse to get to the field. There was no way for them to sneak around and get onto the field without crossing it. It was great. Even if they took the back door, they still had to cross the concourse before hopping the fence to the bullpen, which I saw Burt Hooten do.

So far, that is the only AAA park that I have been to that has that configuration. Werner Park in Omaha comes close, as it too has both clubhouses behind left field. But, they get a ramp that heads under the concourse. It is still a great place to 'graph, but not quite as good as Round Rock. With Wichita getting a AAA team next season, I was hoping that they would set up the clubhouses in a similar fashion. But, they are going the traditional route and putting the clubhouses behind the dugouts.

As for Felipe, he pitched in the Majors for parts if six seasons with the Astros, Rockies, Royals, and White Sox. Over that time, he went 13-34 with a 5.22 ERA. His best season was with the Royals in 2011 when he went 4-6 with a 4.11 ERA and 119 strikeouts.

I have mentioned before that I somehow manage to get a decent amount of autographs by players that later become Royals. This is another example of that.

Friday, June 14, 2019

2008 Topps, Frank Catalanotto

#564 Frank Catalanotto

Here is a card that I got signed at a Royals game in 2008. Frank was playing for the Rangers at the time and was nice enough to come over and sign one of my cards during batting practice.

Frank played in the Major Leagues for thirteen seasons and saw time with the Tigers, Rangers, Blue Jays, Brewers, and Mets. Over that time, he was a .291 hitter that had 84 home runs and 457 RBI. He had double digit home run seasons five times, but never hit more than 13 homers in a season.

Frank had many good years in the Majors and it is hard to look at one and say that was his best season. But, if I had to pick one, I would go with 2001 with the Rangers. That was the first season that he had over 400 at-bats and he responded by hitting an impressive .330 with 31 doubles and 11 home runs. That .330 average ranked him fifth in the American League that year.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

2008 Topps, Tony Pena

#514 Tony Pena

To my surprise, this is the only autograph from Tony Pena, Jr. that I have. Since he played for the Royals for parts of three seasons, I assumed that I got him a few times. But, when I was looking to see if I needed to post this card or not, I discovered this was it.

I got this card signed by him from the Royals parking lot in 2008. The Royals were renovating Kauffman Stadium at the time and had a temporary team parking lot set up. That was my first year getting back into getting cards signed and I tore it up at that location. The players had to walk to a door that was right by the fence. Most of the guys would sign, but not all of them. When I got this card signed, Tony approached the door talking on his cell phone. Personally, it looked like a lot of players would just pull out their phone when they got out of their car and hold it up to their face so that they had a reason to ignore you. After seeing that tactic a few times, I would just ask them anyways. More than likely, they would ignore you. But, you never knew. I got lucky with this card as Tony was using the cell phone trick, but he still came over and signed my one card for me. He didn't mutter a single word while he was signing, either to me or to the phone.

Tony's Major League career lasted parts of four seasons. He came up with the Braves in 2006 and hit .227 in 44 at-bats. He got dealt to the Royals toward the end of Spring Training in 2007 and made the Opening Day roster. Nobody expected much from him that season and he exceeded expectations. While his defense was highly suspect, he hit a respectable .267 with 25 doubles and 7 triples. But the wheels fell off in 2008 and he hit just .169 in 95 games. It got even worse in 2009 and he was hitting .098 in mid-July when the Royals sent him down to Omaha for good.

Kansas City then tried to convert TPJ to a pitcher at the end of the season. He did well as a pitcher, but never made it back to the Major Leagues. He pitched in AAA from 2010-2013 with three different organizations, but couldn't get that call-up. After the 2013 season, he took his craft to Mexico where he would pitch through the 2017 season.

Monday, June 10, 2019

2008 Topps, John McLaren

#463 John McLaren

Here is a card that I got signed last year at a Wingnuts game. John was the manager of the visiting Texas AirHogs and I was able to get him to sign for me prior to the game starting.

Last year was John's only season with the AirHogs and it was an interesting one to say the least. Prior to that season, the team partnered with a the Chinese National baseball team and brought about thirty players from that club over to the States to get a taste of American baseball. There were still the normal minor league castoffs on the team and they were always shuffling their roster to get all of the Chinese players some action. Needless to say, but the team did not fare too well and they finished the season 25-75.

At the game I attended, I thought it would be cool if my kid could get some autographs from some of the Chinese players. We had a baseball and got about five of the guys to sign it. Then, Casio Grider, an American, saw my kid and asked for the ball. He then took it into the dugout and made everybody sign it. It turned out really good and even has John right on the sweet spot. It might be just a signed team ball from an American Association team, but, with the mixture of Eastern and Western signatures, it is probably the coolest looking signed ball you will ever see.

As for John, he got to manage 159 Major League games. He took over the Mariners gig after Mike Hargrove abruptly resigned midway through the 2007 season. The M's went 43-41 under John and finished the season 88-74. He was brought back in 2008 and was 25-47 before being fired. He then got to manage three games with the Nationals in 2011 as their interim manager and was 2-1. For his 159 games, John had a record of 70-89.

Monday, June 3, 2019

2008 Topps, Gavin Floyd

#293 Gavin Floyd

Here is a card that I got signed at a Royals game in 2009 while Gavin was still with the White Sox. That game was a Sunday day game, so the only real chance of getting autographs that day was from pitchers. I had three cards of Gavin to get signed, but this was the only one he did for me. After his successful 2008 season, I was more than happy to just get him on one.

Gavin pitched in the Majors for parts of thirteen seasons with the Phillies, White Sox, Braves, Indians, and Blue Jays. Over that time, he amassed a 74-76 record with a 4.37 ERA. He never made an All Star team and he only pitched in the postseason once. He reached double digit win totals with the White Sox in five straight seasons from 2008-2012. Unfortunately, he only had a winning record during one of those seasons.

Those five years were a great stretch for Gavin. During that time, he had a 4.12 ERA and averaged 151 strikeouts a season. But, then 2013 came and he was only able to make five starts that season before getting shut down and having Tommy John surgery. He would go on to pitch in 44 more Major League games before calling it a career after the 2016 season.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

2008 Topps, Brandon McCarthy

#156 Brandon McCarthy

Here is a card that I got signed by Brandon McCarthy at a Rangers game in 2008. At the time, my grandparents were living in southern Texas and I went to visit them in early September. Since it was still baseball season and a fairly long drive, I took my time getting there and back by stopping at some ballgames. For that trip, I believe I caught games for the Round Rock Express, San Antonio Mission, Grand Prairie AirHogs, and the Texas Rangers. Brandon signed this card for me at the Rangers game.

Brandon pitched in the Majors for thirteen seasons and it looks like he called it a career after last year. Over that time, he pitched with the White Sox, Rangers, A's, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Dodgers, and Braves. He finished with a 69-75 record and a 4.20 ERA.

It looks like the toughest part of Brandon's career was staying healthy. Minus a full season out of the the Sox pen in 2006, he only pitched in 30 games once in his career. Coincidentally, that was the only season that he ever reached double digits in wins. Once he became a full time starter in 2007, he only averaged 17 starts a season.

Brandon had his best season in 2011 with the A's. That year, he finished the season 9-9 with a 3.32 ERA and a career-high 123 strikeouts. The crazy part is that he missed all of the 2010 season to a shoulder injury, but came back in 2011 and threw five complete games with one being a shutout. Had his team given him some run support that season, he probably would have had only one complete game (the shutout). Three of the complete games were on the road with the A's losing, so Brandon only had to toss eight innings to get credit for it. The fifth complete game was in Kansas City where Brandon took the mound in the ninth inning of a tie game before losing on a sac fly with one out. So, that was an 8.1 inning shutout. For his five shutouts, he was 1-4 and his offense averaged 1.8 runs a game while being outscored by two runs over the five contests.