Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2009 Futures Game weekend, day two

On Sunday, it was off to St. Louis. We were back on the road before eight in the morning and we arrived in the downtown area about two hours later. After finding a place to park and stopping at the arch to use the restroom, we were at the ballpark about a half hour before the gates were supposed to open.

While we walked by Sponser Fest, we apparently walked right past the legendary basketball coach, Bob Knight. I never saw him because I was checking out everything in the Sponser Fest area. But my dad saw him and he wasn't sure who it was. Shortly afterward, a guy came up to my dad and asked him if he knew who that was. My dad said that he didn't, but the guy looked familiar. My dad was shocked when he found out and I was even more shocked since I didn't see him and since my dad didn't even point him out to me. Needless to say, the day was off to an interesting start.

When we got to the gate, there was a decent crowd there waiting to get in. Most of them were autograph collectors who were going through their cards to make sure they were all organised correctly. One guy in front of me had a clear backpack on that had at least a dozen Major League baseballs in it. So, I knew right away that it was going to be tougher to get autographs than at your average Royals game.

Here is a picture of the All-Star arch in front of the team store and statues of the Cardinal legends

When the gates finally opened (15 minutes late), it was a rush to get from the third base entrance to the first base dugout. As I was going around the home plate area, I looked over to the spot that I was heading to and was a little dismayed at the throng of people standing there already. Where they came from, I don't know. There are no entrances on the first base side of the ballpark, so maybe they came from a right field entrance? I don't know. So, I went down by the tarp and stood in the second row of people in the first row of seats. Yes, it was that packed.

It was so packed that you had to wait for a player to come to your area because there was no room to move. I couldn't have left that area if I wanted to. It felt like I was in a very tame mosh pit. So, I stood there patiently waiting. I waited while Jemile Weeks signed to my left. I waited as Brad Lincoln signed to my right. I waited while the USA team left the field and the World team took it for infield practice. While the USA team was waiting for the World to finish taking infield, I was able to get former Red Sox second baseman, John Valentin, to come over and sign. Then it was back to waiting and I waited as the teams switched again for the USA's fielding practice. By now, I was tired of waiting and started to think that getting autographs from the players was going to be impossible. I was looking for an exit out of my area as the US team left the field and headed for the dugout. Then, out of the blue, about ten of the players popped out of the dugout to sign autographs.

Most of those players started on my left and made their way down the line signing for everyone. It was pretty cool. Here are the US players that I got cards signed from- Desmond Jennings(2), TB; Jarrod Parker, AZ; Trevor Reckling, LAA; Danny Espinosa(2), Was; Josh Vitters(3), ChC; Brad Lincoln, Pit; Pedro Alvarez, Pit. A few other players were signing, but I didn't have any cards of them.

One guy that got Pedro Alvarez's signature was a little ticked off. He had a card of Pedro that had Pedro's picture on the top half of the card and a picture of another player on the bottom. Pedro signed over the picture on the bottom. The guy wasn't too happy, but I thought that it was funny.

After I got these cards signed, an usher came down to the area and told us that we had to move down because there was four people that needed their seats in the front row. The usher obviously wasn't very smart because you can't have a small group of people move over when there is a large group of people, that doesn't want to move, blocking the way. Why it was so important for these people to be in their seats an hour before the game starts in beyond me, but it seemed to be a pressing concern for the usher. Oh well.

It looked like things were starting to cool down on that side and thanks to the hard-working usher, I was able to finally leave that area. I headed over to the World side to try to get some signatures from those players. The first player to come to my area was Juan Carlos Sulbaran from the Reds organization. He grabbed my autograph book just as some lady came up from behind him and told him something. He then handed my book back to me and headed for the dugout. This lady then made her way down the line making all of the players quit signing.

So, that was that, and I headed to the team store to get an All Star game ball for my friend Dustin, who was watching my dog for the weekend. When I got out of the store, I went back out by the feild and saw that some USA players were signing on the World side. So I headed down to the field and just as I got there, that same lady came up behind all of the players and shooed them off of the field. That was the end of autographs for the Futures Game, for then.

We then made our way out to the bleachers to find our seats. I bought bleacher seats since they are hard to come by for Cardinal games and I thought that it would be fun to sit there for a game. The seats were right next to the home team bullpen and I was able to get a photo of the USA's starting pitcher, Chris Tillman of the Orioles organization, as he warmed up.

Genuwine sang the National Anthem before the game. It was a little unusual, but it wasn't bad. As soon as the game started, the rain moved in. Chris Tillman got beat around a bit and ended up surrendering two runs in the top of the first inning. It got to the point that Ozzie Smith, the USA manager, had a pitcher warming up in the middle of the inning. But Chris worked his way out of the inning. As soon as the top half of the inning was over, the grounds crew came out and pulled out the tarp. What came next was a four hour long rain delay.

If it was a normal game, it would have been called. But since it was a special game, they wanted to do whatever it took to get the game in. So, I walked around a bunch during the delay and grabbed some lunch as well. I also got some shots of the tarp-covered field from many angles.

Here is a shot of the field from the left field line.

Here is a shot of the field from the second level.

Here is a shot of the field from the thrid level.

Here is a shot of the field from the upper deck.

Here is a shot from the left field line, three hours later than the first one.

Shortly after that last picture was taken, a couple of USA pitchers (Brad Lincoln and Kyle Drabek) came out of the bullpen and started throwing a frisbee back and forth. But, this wasn't your average frisbee. It was one of those thin ones with the big hole in the middle, like a halo, that can be thrown extremely far. They were having fun playing with that and drawing some cheers from the fans until the frisbee landed on the tarp. Brad Lincoln had to retrieve the disc and, being the respectable ballplayer that he is, he removed his spikes. And his socks.

It was an unusual sight for a ballgame and was a good distraction from the non-stop rain. Luckily, the rain let up shortly afterward and the grounds crew took the tarp off of the field. Here is the river that was created after that.

After the rain stopped, I went down by the field on the World side. Jesus Montero, a catcher form the Yankees organization, started to head to the bullpen. But he got blocked by the tarp right in front of me. I asked if he would sign while he waited and he did. Next thing I know, I am surrounded by people that want his autograph. I was able to get out of that area and I moved closer to the infield so that I was by myself again. About that time was when the players started to come back out to warm up and play catch

Here is a picture of Tyson Gillies playing catch with Brett Lawrie.

I had never heard of Tyson before and I didn't have any cards of him. But he has got to be one of the best signers in baseball. During the rain delay, he stood outside of the dugout for at least an hour signing autographs. He had a towel over his head for most of the time until someone finally got him a poncho. I thought that that was very cool. As for Brett Lawrie, I called him over to sign and he went straight to the area that I was standing when I got Jesus Montero's signature. I guess he would rather sign for a group than a single person and I have no problem with that (although there would have been a group by me had he come over).

The only other player from the World team that I got to sign for me was Alex Liddi. Alex was the lone Italian on the team and I'm pretty sure that he is the first player born in Italy that I got a card signed from. Alex was real nice and had a thick Italian accent. I was able to get a picture of him while he signed.

After that, it was back to the bleachers to watch the game. As soon as the game started back up, it starting raining again. It wasn't bad, but it was bad enough that I couldn't keep score. So, I don't have a score sheet to do a game recount from. All I know is that the USA blew a 5-3 lead and lost 7-5.

Here is a picture of the game from the right-center field bleachers.

As soon as the game was over, we headed for the car. No celebrity and legend softball game for us. We had a six hour drive home and both of us had to work the next day. Because of the rain delay, we were already going to be getting home later than we anticipated. So we said screw it and headed home. We were both looking forward to the game and were obviously disappointed that we had to skip out on it. But, it was better than falling asleep while driving home and cheaper than getting a hotel for the night and missing work the next day.

But, all in all, it was a great weekend, and a quick one at that. The entire trip lasted less than 41 hours and 17 of those hours were spent driving. But, I came home with 43 autographs which means I averaged over one an hour.

I wanted to thank Phungo for giving me the idea to go to this event and Cards in the Attic for convincing me to drop $12 on a minor league team set.

Here is the best saying that I heard at the Futures Game:

"The World sucks!!"


Brian said...

That's a lot of driving....and a lot of 'graphs. Congrats on getting so many!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a nice trip.

deal said...

Great synopsis - glad you were able to get a fair amount of autos out of such a tough day.

Also as a frisbee enthusiast, it is great to hear that Phils prospect Kyle Drabek is a fan.

Tom said...

Sounds like you had a great time. I wonder what was up with the lady that made the guys stop signing...must have been from the Autograph Gestapo or something!

unclemoe said...

Good stuff! Thanks for sharing!


Dave said...

Awesome story. Those autographs might really turn out to be something too. I was looking at old Future Game rosters and couldn't believe how stacked they were. It seemed like 1 in every 3 or 4 guys turned out to be a star (or is a star in the making).