Friday, December 30, 2011

2006 Grandstand Aberdeen IronBirds, Jason Berken



#26 Jason Berken

Here is a card that was sent to me last year by Ryan of the Great Orioles Autograph Project. Prior to going to Orioles Fanfest last year, Ryan did a post offering up some free autographs for a couple of players that he did not need signatures from. All his readers had to do was post a comment on who they wanted and then send him a card of that player.

There were a couple of people that I wanted autographs from, but unfortunately, I did not have any cards of them. So, I ended up working out a trade with Ryan where I would get a Jamie Quirk Orioles Crown card signed at Royals Fanfest in exchange for an autograph from one of the players on his list.

But Ryan, being the class act that he is, sweetened up the deal and I ended up getting two autographed cards for the Quirk Crown card. And as if that was not enough, Ryan emailed me which cards he had and he let me pick out which two I wanted. How cool is that?

So in the end, I ended up with this card and a Dick Hall Crown card. Thanks again, Ryan!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2006 Fleer Tradition, Ryan Shealy



#165 Ryan Shealy

Here is a card of Ryan Shealy that I got signed outside of the Royals parking lot in 2008. I am pretty sure that this is the only Shealy card that I owned at the time, so this is the only autograph that I have from him.

Ryan used to be a big name prospect that never really panned out. He was drafted by the Rockies in the eleventh round of the draft in 2002 and then tore up the Pioneer League that season by hitting 19 home runs in 69 games. He moved up to the California League the next season and he hit 14 dingers there. In 2004, he was promoted to AA and he hit 29 homers in the Texas League. He was promoted to AAA the following season and he hit 26 home runs in the Pacific Coast League. Ryan also saw some big league action that year and he hit .330 in 91 at-bats for the Rockies.

The only obstacle standing in Ryan's way was Todd Helton. Ryan was a first basemen by trade and there was no way he was going to get any significant playing time with Colorado. So, the Rockies traded him to the Royals during the 2006 season and, as a Royals fan, I was ecstatic.

In Ryan's first season with the Royals, he hit .280 with 7 home runs in 51 games. It was a good start and I am sure that most Royals fans were looking forward to see what he could do over a full season. Unfortunately, that never happened.

Ryan broke camp with the Royals in 2007 and was basically the everyday first baseman through June. By the end of that month though, he was only hitting .220 with 3 home runs. I can't remember if he was hurt or battling an illness, but the Royals shut him down and he finished up the season in AAA.

He played most of the 2008 season in AAA, only getting called up to the Majors when the rosters expanded in September. He then had a hot September for the Royals and he hit .301 with 7 home runs in 20 games. Unfortunately, the Billy Butler era had started in Kansas City and Ryan never played another game as a Kansas City Royal.

He played for the Royals AAA again in 2009 and was released after the season was over. He was picked up by Tampa Bay and he played for their AAA team before getting released in June. Two days later, he was signed by Boston and assigned to their AAA team. He did get a brief call-up to the Red Sox and he went 0-7 in the five games he played for them. Last season, he was with the Blue Jays AAA team and he hit .272 with 11 home runs in 62 games. According to Baseball Reference, Ryan is currently a free agent.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

2006 Fleer Tradition, Tim Hamulak



#69 Tim Hamulak

Sorry about the lack of posts recently, but work tends to get a little hectic this time of year. Luckily, I have today off and am able to get a quick post in.

Here is a card of Tim Hamulak that I got signed in Des Moines, Iowa in 2009. Tim was pitching for the Omaha Royals at the time and I was able to get this card signed by the O-Royals bullpen just before first pitch. In fact, it was so close to game time that I didn't think Tim was going to sign for me. He looked at all of the guys in the pen to see if he should sign or not and they were all shaking their heads for him not to sign. But, he relented and signed all three cards for me.

The game the previous night got rained out and was being played as part of a double header that day. Since I was on the road for the College World Series and didn't own a smart phone or laptop, I had no idea that I was going to be attending a double header. Because of that, I arrived at the game just before first pitch instead of at least an hour prior. So, the three cards that Tim signed for me were the only cards I got signed before the game started. Luckily, I got a few more signed between games and after the games.

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2006 Fleer, Clint Barmes



#324 Clint Barmes

Here is a card that I got signed outside of Kauffman Stadium in 2010. I went to the game because the Royals were hosting the '85 Classic that day. The Classic was a one time event that pitted some of the '85 Royals against some of the '85 Cardinals. I wanted to get to the ballpark a little earlier than usual to get some signatures from former Royals. Unfortunately, that did not work out as all of the '85 Royals showed up on a bus and did not sign any autographs while entering the ballpark. Lucky for me that I was still there early enough that some of the visiting Rockies players were still arriving and Clint was nice enough to sign a few cards for me.

I remember Clint mostly for his hot start in the 2005 season. He hit .410 through the first month of the season and became just the third player in MLB history to hit over .400 through in March/April. I was deployed to Iraq at the time and I still remember my tank commander and myself wondering how long he would be able to keep it up.

Unfortunately, he did not keep it up too long. He hit a bit of a slump after the first month was over and then he had a freak injury. He initially said that he broke his left collarbone while carrying groceries up the stairs to his apartment. But, he later revealed that he broke it in a fall while taking a package of deer meat, given to him by Todd Helton, up to his apartment. Seems like the same thing to me.

Clint finished the season hitting .289. Since then, he has only topped that average once, when he hit .290 in 2008.

Monday, December 19, 2011

2006 Fleer, Kerry Wood



#103 Kerry Wood

Here is a card that I got signed at a Royals game in 2009. Kerry was with the Indians then and he signed this card for me by the visiting team dugout right after batting practice got over.

Another 'grapher had asked Kerry to sign and he didn't respond at all. I just figured he was ignoring him as he kept on walking to the clubhouse. But, he passed up the clubhouse entrance and came over and signed for a few people. For some reason, I felt like Kerry was going to skip signing for me. That obviously was not the case, though I was the next to last person he signed for. I was even more surprised when he signed two out of my three cards.

Kerry might not be the pitcher that he once was, but he is still in the record book for striking out twenty batters in a nine inning game as a rookie in 1998. Since that season, though, it has been a bumpy ride for Kerry as he been on the disabled list many times for arm troubles. It got to the point that he was taken out of the starting rotation and moved to the bullpen. He closed for a couple of seasons, but he spent this past season as a set-up man for the Cubs.

Kerry is a free agent right now and the only rumor I have heard is that it is the Cubs or retirement. We'll have to wait and see how that pans out.

Friday, December 16, 2011

2006 Fleer, Jarrod Washburn



#9 Jarrod Washburn

Here is a card that I got signed at a Royals game in 2008. Jarrod was with the Mariners at the time and he signed this card from the dugout as his team was taking batting practice. I had three cards for Jarrod to sign, but he would only sign two of them. The guy beside me didn't have a card of Jarrod and he asked him to sign an index card. Jarrod said that he didn't sign index cards, so I offered up my unsigned card to the guy. But, for whatever reason, he wouldn't except the card. I still don't get some players refusal to sign index cards and/or the "autograph card". I asked one AAA player why he wouldn't and all he said was "identity theft".

This card is a welcome change from all of the photo shopped Topps cards. So what if Jarrod was signed by the Mariners in December. There are no pictures of him playing as a Mariner. Just put a picture of Jarrod from the previous season on the card and let people know that he is now with the Mariners. What is so wrong with that?

Jarrod has been retired since the end of the 2009 season. I posted my other signed card of him about a year ago and it can be seen here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2006 Diamond Signatures, Ned Garver



#14 Ned Garver

Almost one year ago, I posted a couple of vintage cards that Ned Garver signed for me through the mail (a '49 Bowman and a '52 Bowman). I bought the cards to get signed at the Kansas City A's reunion that the Kansas City T-Bones hosted the previous summer, but I missed Ned at the event. So, I sent the two cards to him and he returned both of them signed and he even included two more cards.

The two cards he sent me were two different Diamond Signatures cards. These are the first Diamond Signature cards that I have ever seen, but I had heard about the cards before. If I am not mistaken, these cards were made to be given away to older retired ballplayers so that they would have stuff to sign for people. How accurate that statement is is unclear, but it seems like a plausible one. If anyone else knows anything about these cards, feel free to chime in.

The only problem with this card is that Ned misspelled my name. My name is spelled with an "h", not a "k". But, that is only a minor problem. If I had sent one card and it came back with a misspelled personalization, I might be a little ticked off about it. But Ned signed both of my cards I sent him without a personalization and then included two more, that he didn't have to include, with the misspelled name. How can I get mad about that? He could have made the cards out to Tom, Dick, or Harry and I would have been just as happy to add them to my collection.

Thank you, Mr. Garver!

Monday, December 12, 2011

2006 Bowman Originals, Ryan Patterson



#BO37 Ryan Patterson

Here is the second of three cards that Ryan Patterson signed for me before a Wichita Wingnuts game in 2010. You can see the first one by scrolling down a few posts.

This is the only 2006 Bowman Originals card that I own and I think that I might like the set. Obviously, it is hard to judge a set based on one card, but I do like this card a lot when compared to regular Bowman. For starters, every 2006 Bowman card I posted used a posed picture. Again, this is just one card, but it has a nice action shot one it. This could be the only card in the entire set that has an action shot, but I highly doubt that is the case.

Also, I like the white border. Bowman is renown for its constant use of black borders (except for the first year Bowmans). The white border on this card is real clean and it pulls off a different look that I do not associate with Bowman. Again, this is all based off of this one card and, for all I now, the rest of the set could look like crap.

I like how Patterson added his number to his signature. The number 5 was the number he wore while with the Wingnuts.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

2006 Bowman Heritage, Chase Fontaine



#BHP89 Chase Fontaine

Here is the second of three Chase Fontaine signatures that I got at a Wilmington Blue Rocks playoff game in 2009. The first one can be seen here.

Chase was drafted by the Braves in the third round of the 2006 draft. He played Rookie ball the season he was drafted and then spent 2007 split between A ball and high-A. He only hit .205 in high-A and then the Braves packaged him in a deal that sent him to the Tampa Bay organization. He repeated A ball and high-A again with the Rays and, again, he struggled at high-A and only hit .217 in limited action.

2009 found Chase in the Royals organization and he again repeated A ball and high-A. He did not receive much playing time, but he did hit better at the high-A level (.288). But, in the end, it just wasn't good enough and Chase found himself in the Can-Am League in 2010.

This past season, Chase played in the Frontier League and the Can-Am League.

This photo looks almost identical to Chase's regular Bowman card. The one difference is that the bat is on the opposite shoulder on this one.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

2006 Bowman Heritage, Matthew Sulentic



#BHP82 Matthew Sulentic

Here is a card that I got signed in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2010. Matt was playing for the visiting Midland RockHounds and I was able to get this card signed before the game started.

Matt was drafted by the A's in the third round of the 2006 draft. He split his first two professional seasons between rookie ball and A ball before moving up to high-A in 2008. He hit .309 in a full season in the California League and was rewarded with a promotion to AA in 2009. He then spent 2009, 2010, and 2011 playing for the A's AA team.

I posted a card of Ryan Patterson yesterday and he had a similar story of playing three strait years of AA ball before ending up in a different type of AA ball- the American Association. To Matt's benefit, he is four years younger than Ryan. So, he could still develop a bit. But, he had better pick it up before the A's cut ties with him.

This card is one of the minis that were included in this set. The set is supposed to mimic the 1949 Bowman set and to truly do that, all of the cards would be this size. I doubt Topps would ever make an entire set of cards that are not the standard size ever again. But, I think that an entire set of this in minis would be fun.

Friday, December 9, 2011

2006 Bowman Heritage, Ryan Patterson



#BHP33 Ryan Patterson

Here is a card that I got signed at a Wichita Wingnut game in 2010 while Ryan was with the 'Nuts. I went to a handful of games that year and Ryan was with the team all season long. Yet, for some reason, I was unable to get Ryan to sign this card until the last weekend of the season. It wasn't like he didn't sign at all because I had got him the year before while he was with Ft. Worth. But for whatever reason last year, his pre-game routine made him elusive for me.

Ryan was drafted by the Blue Jays in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. He reached AA in his second season in the pros, but he never advanced any higher. He repeated AA in 2007 and 2008 and the Jays released him after the '08 season. That year, he had hit a career low .248.

Since then, Ryan has been playing in the American Association. He spent 2009 with the Ft. Worth Cats, 2010 with Wichita, and 2011 was split between Wichita, Ft. Worth, and the St. Paul Saints. Even though he played for three teams this past season, Ryan was still the American Association's Star of Stars, which is MVP award for the league.

This is probably the only black jersey card in my collection that looks good. Good job Topps!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2006 Bowman, Tommy Murphy



#BDP17 Tommy Murphy

Here is a card that the former Angel, Tommy Murphy, signed for me in 2009. Tommy was playing for the Omaha Royals at the time and he signed three cards for me in between games of a double header. He didn't seem to be in a particularly good mood after going hitless in the first game, but he was still nice enough to stop and sign.

I was in Des Moines that year because of the College World Series. My dad and I found out the hard way that you can't sit in general admission for both the day and evening game and expect to see the whole game and find a seat. So, for a couple of years, we would go to the day game and then drive to a minor league game in the evening. We went Sioux City the first year and Des Moines the second year. There really isn't any more teams within driving distance, so we just went to the hotel after the day game this year. Now that the Omaha Storm Chasers are not sharing the same ballpark as the CWS, I am hoping that they will be at home this next year (they were on the road for opening weekend this year).

For some reason, I was thinking that I posted the first Tommy Murphy card about three to four months ago. Turns out that I posted it eleven months ago. It has been one of them years.

Monday, December 5, 2011

2006 Bowman, Mike Aviles



#BC114 Mike Aviles

Here is a card that I got signed at an Albuequerque Isotopes game in 2008. Mike was playing for the Omaha Royals at the time and he signed this card for me after taking infield practice.

When I got this card signed, I figured that this would be the only Mike Aviles autograph I ever got. Mike was 27 years old that season and he was spending his third straight year playing for Omaha. Clearly, the Royals didn't think too highly of him and he was basically a filler for the AAA team. Lucky for Mike, Tony Pena Jr. started to forget how to hit and Mike started to tear up the Pacific Coast League. Mike's average rose to .336 in the PCL and the Royals finally figured that they had to give him a shot in Kansas City. Mike responded by hitting .325 over the rest of the season while notching 41 extra base hits in 102 games. For his effort, Mike was named the Royals Player of the Year.

Since he then spent the next two and a half years with the Royals, I now have multiple signatures from Mike. He was always willing to sign autographs by the Royals parking lot and was very consistent by signing no more than two items.

I'm actually very lucky that this card came out looking as good as it does. 2008 was my first year back in autograph collecting and, after a twelve year hiatus, I really had no clue what I was doing. So, I would buy whatever cards I could find on ebay and take my chances. I knew some glossy cards from 1994 did not take signatures too well, but I figured that they had fixed that problem by 2008. Therefore, the concept of prepping cards never came to mind. If I were to get this card signed today, I would give it a good dousing of baby powder to get the auto to stick and not bubble. But, being clueless, that thought never came to mind and I am just lucky this card came out this good.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

2006 Bowman, Alex Presley



#BP48 Alex Presley

Here is another card that I got signed in Wilmington, Delaware in 2009. Alex was playing for the Lynchburg Hillcats at the time and he was nice enough to sign this card for me after the Carolina League championship game. The Hillcats won the game and they went on to take the title, too.

Alex went from high-A ball in 2009 to the Major Leagues in 2010 when the Pirates called him up in September. Prior to that call-up, Alex had hit .350 in AA and .294 in AAA. Alex got a hit in his Major League debut, getting a single in his second at-bat against the Braves.

Alex started 2011 at AAA, but he was back in the Majors by June. He finished the season with a .298 average with 12 doubles, 6 triples, 4 home runs, and 20 RBI in 54 games. He even swiped 9 bases.

Alex is a little guy, especially for an outfielder. He is listed at 5'9" and 190 pounds. But, it looks like he is the front runner to be the Bucs starting left fielder in 2012.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

2006 Bowman, Nate Culp



#BP20 Nate Culp

Here is another Padrograph that Rod sent me a couple of years ago. This one features Nate Culp, the Padres fourth round pick in 2006.

Nate pitched in the Padres system through the 2010 season. That year, he made four starts in AAA and he gave up 21 earned runs in 19 innings of work. He was 5-8 with a 4.21 ERA for the rest of the season in AA, though. But in the end, it was not enough and Nate retired after the season. I guess he did not see himself advancing much further in the game. He still has a player page on Minor League Baseball's site, but his status is listed as on the voluntarily retired list.

This card is one of the thick gold parallel cards and I honestly did not think that these cards could get creased without breaking them in half. But, I was wrong as there is a noticeable crease on the middle of the right edge of the card. I guess there is a first time for everything.

Friday, December 2, 2011

2006 Bowman, Cyle Hankerd



#BP16 Clye Hankerd

Here is a card that my buddy got signed for me while we were down in Amarillo. I graphed the visiting team and I had Adam graph the home team side. This was the first time Adam had ever graphed before and it was basically a warm up for the AAA game the next day. Now that I think of it, this is the only card that he Adam got signed in Amarillo. Luckily, he picked up his game the next day.

Cyle (it feels weird spelling his name that way) was drafted in the third round by the Diamondbacks in 2006. He moved steadily up through their system and reached AA in 2008. He then repeated AA in 2009 and then again in 2010. He saw a little action in AAA in 2010 and did well in limited action. But, his .245 average over 192 AA at-bats must have done him in and the D-Backs released him. He could have been injured, too, since he only played in 85 games that season.

No affiliated team was interested in Cyle and he ended up with the Amarillo Sox to start off last season. He then proceeded to tear up the American Association to the tune of a .355 average with 10 homers and 74 RBI in just 70 games. The Phillies took notice and they bought him from the Sox and assigned Cyle to their high-A team in Clearwater, Florida. In his one month with them, he hit just .248. But he did club 6 home runs and drive in 23 in just 31 games.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

2006 Bowman, Chase Fontaine



#BP9 Chase Fontaine

Here is a card that I got signed in 2009 in Wilmington, Delaware. I was out that way visiting an old Army buddy and the Wilmington Blue Rocks happened to be hosting the Carolina League finals the weekend I arrived. Even though it rained a lot that weekend, we still ventured up to a game and did okay getting autographs.

Chase was one of the final players that signed for me before the game and I probably would have been shut out by him if it wasn't for my buddy. When Chase was walking back to the dugout after warming up, I called out his name twice and I was ignored both times. My friend didn't think that was right and he yelled out "HEY CHASE" loud enough to be heard on the opposite side of the field. That finally got Chase's attention and he then came over and signed for me.

Looking at the pre-printed signature on the card, it appears that Chase had a neat looking autograph at one time. Unfortunately, he has shortened it a great deal and all that can really be made out now are his initials.

Monday, November 28, 2011

2006 Bowman, Brian Bannister



#BDP4 Brian Bannister

Here is a card that I got signed by the Royals parking lot back in the summer of 2008. Renovations were in high gear that summer and many areas were blocked off for construction. Because of that, they had to move the players parking lot a bit. When they moved the lot, they also made another change- they fenced in the lot for the first time. While the fence was a minor inconvenience, it was short enough to easily hand stuff over to get signed.

That players lot was just a temporary lot and it moved to its current location the following year. 2008 was the first time I had 'graphed outside of The K and, to date, it was the best year. It has been a downhill slide since then, kind of like Brian's career.

But, I will say this about Brian. First, he has one of the best and most consistent signatures I have ever seen. This was one of the first cards I ever got signed by him. When I gave him my book with three cards to sign, he signed the first one so slowly that I thought there was no way he was signing more than one. But, he did sign all three and it took him about ten seconds a card to sign. He is one of the few players I have met that take their time with each and every signature.

Also, Brian was the best signer on the Royals when he was there. He was always signing for everybody and he only turned me down once. When he did turn me down, he made sure to point out that he was late for a meeting and he would get me inside the park. And he did exactly that.

I wish things would have worked out better with Brian and the Royals, but that is just the way it goes. Nevertheless, Brian is a class act and I wish him the best.

I know he pitched in Japan last season, but he left his team after the earthquake/tsunami and did not pitch the rest of the season. I am assuming that he is a free agent this year, so it will be interesting to see where he ends up.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

2006 Bowman, Edwin Bellorin



#B12 Edwin Bellorin

Here is a card that I got signed at a Wichita Wingnuts game this past summer. Edwin was the Nuts starting catcher and, on that night, I somehow missed him before the game started.

This is the game that Mike Bacsik started for the visiting team and he exited the game after just one inning of work. Since he was my main target for the game, I went to the outfield so I could be by the clubhouse in case he came out. He eventually did come out and signed all three cards for me and I got Edwin to sign my two cards for me when he got to the clubhouse. That was the first time I had ever 'graphed at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium from the outfield and it will only be a last resort spot from now on. There is tall chain link fence separating the general public from the clubhouse and it is an imposing obstacle for getting cards signed. Luckily, I found a low spot on the ground and was able to get my cards through by going underneath the fence. It wasn't ideal, but it worked.

Edwin got into eight Major League games, but none of them were with the Dodgers. He made all eight appearances with the Rockies and they were spread out over three different seasons. In those eight games, Edwin went 3-13 with a run, a strikeout, and an intentional walk.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

2006 Bazooka, Mark Buehrle



#5 Mark Buehrle

Here is a card that I got signed through the mail in 2009. I sent this card to Mark at the White Sox Spring Training compound in February and I had it back in the first week of March. I don't send out too many cards to Spring Training anymore, but it obviously pays to send them out around the reporting day. That way you can get it to them before the bulk of the mail hits and before they get into the actual games. In other words, it gets to them when they have more free time to answer fan mail.

I was kind of surprised to see that Mark has never been a twenty game winner. He won nineteen in just his second full season in the Majors and has not been able to win more than sixteen since then. In fact, he hasn't even won sixteen since the Sox World Championship season in 2005. Mark has been pretty consistent over the last three seasons, though, as he was won thirteen games in each of them.

Mark is currently a free agent right now and, according to MLB Trade Rumors, there are at least thirteen teams interested in him. It seems like the Nationals have made the biggest push to land him, but anything can happen during the off-season. The Royals are reportedly in the mix, as well, but I would be shocked if that happened. Frankly, it is hard for me to picture Buehrle with anyone but the White Sox. But, that could change.

Even though I have been sending out TTMs since 1988, I really wasn't that good at it until recently. I don't know how many cards I have sent out that were so dark that the signature was almost invisible or were too glossy and the signature bubbled up. But, by 2009, I had finally figured it out. As a result, I sent this beauty to Mark and I could not be any happier with the results.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

2006 Bazooka, Charlton Jimerson



#209 Charlton Jimerson

Here is a card that Paul, from Paul's Random Baseball Stuff, got signed for me in 2009. That year, Paul had 'graphed so many Atlantic League games that he had autographs from about everyone that he needed. Being the gracious blogger that he is, he offered to get stuff signed for other people over the course of the remainder of the season. So, I sent some cards out to Paul and he did a great job of getting most of them signed for me.

Charlton has an interesting career stat line. He appeared in thirty-one games over a four year span with the Astros and Mariners. He must have been used mostly as a defensive replacement because he only had nine at-bats in those thirty-one games. But, in those nine ABs, Charlton had four hits and two of them were for home runs. That is not a bad career stat line. Four out of nine is good for .444 career average. But, if Charlton hadn't got that one at-bat with the M's in 2008, he would be a .500 hitter. I don't care if it is only eight at-bats, but four for eight would be something to brag about. Heck, I'd even brag about .444, but that is just me.

In Paul's Thanksgiving post today, he mentioned this blog as one of the things he was thankful for. Obviously, this is a two way street here and I am thankful for all the cards and autographs Paul has thrown my way.

While I am giving thanks, I also want to thank Ryan, Brian, Greg, Rod, Marck, and all of the other bloggers that help make this community what it is. I don't post as much as I would like any more. But, without you all, I probably wouldn't be blogging at all. Thanks, guys!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

2006 Bazooka, Zack Greinke



#129 Zack Greinke

Here is the third card of Zack that I have posted on here. I said that the last time I posted a card of him, but I am pretty certain that this actually is the third card of him.

I got this card signed by the Royals parking lot in April of 2009. That was the day I went to Kansas City to 'graph the parking lot and the game, but the weather was colder than I anticipated. Being under-dressed for a chilly night game did not sound like fun, so I called it quits after 'graphing the parking lot. But, I got over twenty cards signed, so it was a good trip.

When Zack signed this card for me, he was in the midst of his 38 inning scoreless inning streak. But, he was still nice enough to sign a couple of cards for me. It was misting at the time, so the "G" is a little smudged from a small drop of rain.

Zack is not the most personable guy in baseball. But for whatever reason, once the Sports Illustrated with him on the cover came out in 2009, he was signing for everybody after games. That is unusual behavior for a guy that suffers from social anxiety disorder. He didn't talk much or smile while he was doing it. But that fact that he was doing it said a lot about him.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

2006 Bazooka, Coco Crisp



#46 Coco Crisp

For some reason, I thought that this was the first Coco Crisp card I have posted on here and I had a nice write-up in my head for it. Turns out that I posted my first Coco card back in May and I used that write-up then. What's this world coming to?

In my last Coco post, I talked about how he had battled injury plagued seasons in 2009 and 2010. It looks like he stayed pretty healthy this year and he appeared in 136 games, which was the most he had played since 2007 with Boston. This season, he finished with a .264 average with 27 doubles and a career high 49 stolen bases, which tied him for the lead league with Brett Gardner. It seems strange that an Oakland Athletic would lead the league in stolen bases.

Coco is a free agent now and it will be interesting to see where he ends up next season. I haven't heard any rumors about him yet, but it is still early.

I really like these blue bordered Bazooka cards. I think they were a one per pack parallel just like Topps Total did with their grey bordered cards. The blue just accents the card better, especially if the signature is in blue as well. The fortune on the bottom is dumb, though.

This card was signed at Royals Fanfest in 2009, just like yesterdays card.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

2006 BBM, John Bale



#749 John Bale

Here is the first 2006 card that I have to post and it is one of my favorites. It doesn't feature a prominent player or even a player I am fond of. But, this card is special to me as it is my first Japanese card that I have got autographed. Actually, this is the only Japanese card that I have got signed in-person. My other two Japanese autos were both pulled from packs.

I got this card signed at Royals Fanfest in 2009. I was a partial season ticket holder that year and season ticket holders got into Fanfest an hour earlier than the general public for an extra autograph session. John was in the first session I attended and he seemed thrilled that I had this card of him. He was sitting next to Trey Hillman, who managed in Japan, and he had to show the card off to him. Unfortunately, the autograph got a little smudged, which was most likely my fault. But I am still happy with the results.

John lasted in Kansas City for three uninspiring seasons. He never accomplished much and he spent a lot of time on the disabled list. One time when he was on the DL, he punched a wall and broke his hand because he wasn't happy with the speed of his recovery. Obviously, the broken hand set him back farther.

2009 was the last time John pitched in the Majors. He spent 2010 back with the Hiroshima Carp and I think he pitched for Camden of the Atlantic League last season.

Friday, November 18, 2011

1981 Donruss, Paul Molitor



#203 Paul Molitor

I know that I was supposed to start my 2006 cards today, but I have a neat little tale to tell instead.

Last week, I started sending out my Topps Diamond Anniversary cards. I sent four out on Tuesday and nine out on Wednesday and cards have been arriving at my house daily since Saturday. Yesterday, I got home from work and I was happy to find three TTM returns in the mail box. I started to check them out to guess who was inside and then I noticed something strange. One of the envelopes did not have a forever stamp on it. I doubled checked the hand writing to make sure it was a TTM and it was my hand writing, but a weird colored blue pen was used. It then hit me. This was a TTM I had sent out a few years ago. This was back before I used forever stamps, before I used a good pen on my envelopes, and before I started tracking all of my requests sent out. So I ripped the envelope open and I was thrilled to death when this was the card that I pulled out.

I honestly have no idea when exactly I sent this card out. I looked though my autograph log and the best I could come up with is that I sent this card out at some point during the 2009 season. I had written this card off as a goner a long time ago, but it made it back home about 900 days after I sent it out (give or take 150 days). I guess the message here is to never give up hope. You just never know.

I had success with Molitor one time during his playing days, but I sent out a bad card to get signed and the signature is barely noticeable. Based off of that card, I could not be happier with the way this card turned out. It is not the best photo in the set, but at least I can make out Paul's signature.

'81 Donruss Tracker: 86/100

2006s are coming tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2005 Topps Cracker Jack, Kevin Melillo



#217 Kevin Melillo

Here is the second card that Kevin Melillo signed for my buddy in Colorado Springs over the summer while he was with the Salt Lake Bees. If you are unfamiliar with Kevin, he is one of the elites of the game as he has a 1.000 career on-base percentage. He is the second player that I have gotten an autograph from who has a 1.000 OBP (Adam Greenberg is the other).

This is the first card from the 2005 Cracker Jack set that I have got signed. I was deployed in '05 and the only cards I saw that year were the Donruss, Topps, and Topps Total packs that my dad sent me in care packages. I really liked the '04 Cracker Jacks cards and I must say that I was extremely disappointed when I first saw the '05 cards. I'm sure the cards mirror an original Cracker Jack set, but I cannot get over what looks like a cinder block wall in the background. I'm too lazy to look up what one of the original cards looks like, but I really hope that there is not a cinder block wall in the background. Get rid of the wall and this set may be better than the '04 set.

This is the last card from my between years recap and I will dig into my 2006 autographs on my next post. I've got about sixty cards from that year and at the pace I am on, it will take me about four months to get them all posted. Since the Royals decided to cancel Fanfest (BOOOOOOO) this year so that they can focus on the All Star Game, it might be a quick transition from 2006 to 2007. About the only cards that I will have to post between the two years will be my Topps Diamond Giveaway cards that I get signed through the mail. I've got about half of those cards sent out already and three of them are back home. If I can keep it up, it should be a mildly entertaining off-season despite the one year loss of Fanfest.

Monday, November 14, 2011

2005 Topps, John Gibbons



#296 John Gibbons

Here is a card that I was supposed to post back in April, but I somehow forgot to scan the card. This card features the former Blue Jays manager, John Gibbons.

I got this card signed at the Metrodome in 2009 during the last regular season series played there. The Royals were in town and John was the bench coach at the time. I got this card signed prior to one of the games over by the bullpen. I had to wait a while for him to get off of his cell phone to get him to sign, but my patience paid off.

That was the last time that I got John to sign for me. After that season, I got one more card of him that I wanted signed and it never happened. And it may not happen now that the Royals released him of his coaching duties. The Royals didn't give a full reason as to why John was let go, but they did say this. The Royals bench coach is their catchers coach and they wanted a catcher's coach that spoke Spanish, since their top three catchers are all Latino. Maybe they should have just bought Rosetta Stone for him.

The Royals new bench coach is Chino Cadahia who came over from the Braves. I know very little about Chino, but I do know that he didn't play in the Majors. That means there are not very many cards out there for him to sign for me. Checkouotmycards.com only has the 2009 Topps Heritage short printed coaches card that is going to $3.60 and two over priced minor league coaching cards.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

2005 Throwback Threads, Jason Jennings



#32 Jason Jennings

Here is the first of three cards that Jason Jennings signed for me in Amarillo this past summer while he was playing for the Grand Prairie AirHogs. Prior to the game, Jason was out on the field doing his workouts. He was wearing shorts and a t-shirt with no number on it, so I was unsure whether that was him or not. Eventually, I asked one of his teammates who the guy on the field without a uniform on was and he confirmed to me that it was Jason. So, when Jason finally left the field for the clubhouse, I asked him to sign and he was happy to do so.

Like I said in the last Jennings post, this card came out looking great. The wide white border and minimal background leaves plenty of room for a signature. Because of that, I may need to start looking for more cards from this set in the future.

Yesterday, I got my quickest TTM return ever. I sent the card out on Tuesday and I had it back on Saturday. I probably would have had it back on Friday, but that was Veteran's day and there was no mail. It obviously helped that the card only had to travel about one hundred miles from my home. But nevertheless, this is one turnaround that I will probably never beat (unless I move to Florida).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

2005 Midwest League Top Prospects, Kevin Melillo



#12 Kevin Melillo

If you have never heard of Kevin Melillo before, don't feel bad. I hadn't either. But, after checking out his career stats, I found that Kevin has an interesting stat line. For his career, Kevin has a 1.000 on-base percentage.

On June 24, 2007, the A's were in New York during an interleague series against the Mets. The Mets were cruising along with an 8-2 lead when the A's came to bat in the eighth. With the pitcher's spot due up to lead off the inning, A's manager Bob Geren inserted Kevin Melillo into the lineup as a pinch hitter. Kevin worked the count full against Guillermo Mota before taking ball four. Kevin ended up stranded at first and he was replaced by a pitcher in the bottom half of the inning. To date, this is the only Major League action that Kevin has experienced.

My buddy, Adam, got this card signed for me when we were in Colorado Springs this summer. Kevin was playing for the Salt Lake Bees at the time and he signed this card before the game started.

I bought this card from checkoutmycards.com, so it is the only card from the set that I own. But, I wonder if all the cards in the set have the same strange shaded area along the border of the card. I thought at first that the shaded area might have been set to kind of outline Kevin's batting stance. But it goes too far out in front of him and then both of his feet are in shaded areas, so I doubt that is the case. If only I had another card from the set to compare it to.

Kevin is playing for the Kane County Cougars in this card. The Cougars are still around, but they are now affiliated with the Kansas City Royals.

Friday, November 11, 2011

2004 Upper Deck Vintage, Jason Jennings



#127 Jason Jennings

Here is a card that I got signed at a Wichita Wingnut playoff game a few months ago. That's right. The 2002 National League Rookie of the Year was pitching in the American Association this season. He was the ace of the Grand Prairie AirHogs staff and, although I got to see the Hogs play twice, I wasn't lucky enough to see him pitch. I did get some cards signed by him both times, though.

I got three cards signed by Jason in July when I made the trip down to Amarillo. But when the Wingnuts made the playoffs and I decided to go to a game, I couldn't find the stack of Jason Jennings cards I had in July. So, on short notice, this was the only card that I could find of him and I am not that thrilled with the results. I never realized it before I got this card signed, but purple jerseys and signatures do not work well together. I was debating whether to get this one signed in blue or black and I doubt that black would have came out looking any better. But that is okay. The next Jennings card I will post looks much better.

I hope everyone is having a great Veteran's Day!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

2004 Upper Deck National Pride, Eddie Rodriguez



#NPJ-ER Eddie Rodriguez

Here is a card that I got signed prior to the Royals last home game of the season. That day, I took advantage of the "Early Bird Special" stadium tour and I got to go in and watch the Royals take batting practice an hour before the gates opened. It worked out really great as I was finally able to land a few Royals signatures that I had not had yet.

One of those new additions was Eddie Rodriguez, who has been with the Royals since 2009. I've had plenty of opportunities to have Eddie sign for me, but there has been one problem. It is extremely had to find cards of him. Eddie never played in the Majors and his minor league playing days took place in the late '70s and early '80s when minor league cards were less prevalent. He managed in the minors and coached in the Majors, but there were not any major issue cards made of him. He has a few minor league cards from team sets, but I have never seen any of them show up on checkoutmycards.com. I'm sure that I could find some on Minor League Singles, but I am lazy and comc.com is so much easier.

Eventually, though, this card appeared on comc.com for less than two dollars and I was more than happy to pick it up. I like getting jersey cards signed and this one came out looking good.

When I originally got this card, I just assumed it was from the same set that my Luke Hochevar jersey card was from. Turns out that I was off on that assumption. But, to my defense, if you check out the card of Luke, you will be able to see why I thought that.

Monday, November 7, 2011

2004 Topps Total, Joaquin Arias



#819 Joaquin Arias

Here is a card that I got signed in Omaha over the summer. Actually, my buddy, Dustin, got this one signed for me. That's right. If you go to a ball game with me, I'm probably going to put you to work.

In Omaha, both the visiting and home clubhouses are located behind the right field fence. Therefore, both teams take the field from the same spot. To make it easier on myself, I put my buddy in charge of graphing the home team and I took on the visiting team. It only took a couple of minutes to realize that Dustin was not quite up to the task of identifying players, asking them to sign, and then finding the cards of that player. So, to take a little burden off of him, I took on the identifying and asking part and Dustin just had to worry about finding the cards.

The reassigned tasks were working out great until Joaquin Arias came out. Just as Joaquin appeared, I realized that I had let Spike Owen get by me. Since Spike was with the visiting team, I asked Joaquin to sign and then ran over to where Spike was signing. I get over to Spike and was waiting for an autograph when Joaquin came up to me to sign. Dustin was still in his original spot, so I had to explain to Joaquin that that was the guy that needed his autograph. He had a confused look on his face, but went over and signed all three cards without any complaints. I must say that I'm not used to having players track me down to sign for me.

I have no idea what is going on with Joaquin's signature. He might be pulling a Joakin Soria by only signing his last name.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

2004 Topps Clubhouse Collection, Jonathan Fulton



#JF Jonathan Fulton

Here is another card that I was able to get signed in Amarillo over the summer. Jon was playing for the Grand Prairie AirHogs and he signed this card for me prior to the game.

Jon's career is kind of similar to the last guy I posted that signed in Amarillo- Van Pope. While Van might have risen through the ranks faster than Jon, both ended up converting to pitchers in the minor leagues. The main exception, though, is that Jon is still trying to make it as a pitcher while Van converted back to the infield.

Jon was drafted by the Marlins in 2003 and made his professional debut that year in Rookie ball. Through five seasons, Jon hit just .236 and never made it out of high-A. So, the Marlins converted him to a pitcher and they got some mixed results from him. In his first season as a pitcher, he posted a 3.04 ERA in the Gulf Coast League while notching 5 saves. He was bumped up to high-A the next year and he had an ERA of 2.42 over 22.1 innings. He repeated high-A the following year and his ERA grew to 4.43. But, he did get his first taste of the AA level that season and he had a 10.80 ERA in just 1.2 innings of work. The Marlins released him after the season and no other Major League team wanted him.

So, he ended up signing with Grand Prairie and he did pretty well with them. In 53.1 inning of work, he posted a 2-2 record with a 2.53 ERA while striking out 41 and walking just 16. Plus, he was a member of the 2011 American Association championship team.

I wish I could tell you more about Topps Clubhouse Collection, but this is the only card that I have from it and it was purchased off of checkoutmycards.com. All I know is that if Topps hadn't issued the set, I would not have a Jonathan Fulton autographed card in my collection.

Friday, November 4, 2011

2004 Topps, Jack McKeon



#649 Jack McKeon

For some reason, I never had any desire to send Jack McKeon any cards to get signed. But when Jack was brought back to manage the Marlins this season, I couldn't resist sending him some cards. I have no idea why I suddenly had the urge when he got back with a Major League team, but I did. Nevermind that he was already a good signer from his home address before he was brought back. But, I sent him three cards in August and all three came back signed three weeks later. And, to further illustrate my sudden quest to get Jack's signature, it was the only TTM request I did all summer.

I picked this card to send to him since it was the only Marlin card that I could find that seemed suitable to send out. I'm not positive, but I think that Jack is sitting front and center in the first row. I usually never do anything with team cards like this, so it was nice to be able to put one to use.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2004 Topps, Jason Phillips



#118 Jason Phillips

This is the second and final card that Jason signed for me prior to a Royals game this past April. Jason was working with the Mariners as their bullpen catcher at the time.

Jason Phillips' Major League career lasted seven seasons with the Mets, Dodgers, and Blue Jays. He spent a majority of the time with the Mets and he had a career year with them in 2003. That season, Jason had career highs in at-bats (403), hits (120), doubles (25), home runs (11), runs (45), and RBI (58).

For his career, Jason finished with a .249 average with 30 home runs and 168 RBI.

I don't know about you, but I will always remember Jason for the glasses that he wore on the field. They are hard to see in this photo, but you can get a better look by checking out the first card that I posted of him. The glasses are kind of unique and they make him stand out like Kareem Abdul Jabbar did in the '80s. Too bad Jason wasn't quite as good as Kareem.

I like the way this card turned out. Jason has a large signature and the horizontal layout provides ample room for him to sign. The picture probably could have been cropped a little better to get the back of the pitcher's leg out of the photo. But, other than that, it is a good-looking card that now looks even better with Jason's signature on it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

2004 Donruss, Ramon Santiago



#124 Ramon Santiago

Here is a card that I was able to get signed in Minneapolis over the summer at the one Twins game I went to. The Tigers were in town and Ramon was nice enough to sign all three cards for me.

By looking at this card, I just assumed that Ramon had to be the longest tenured Tiger on the club. This card is from 2004, so you know he was with the team in '03, too. But you know what happens when you assume. Turns out that Ramon was traded to the Mariners straight across for Carlos Guillen before the '04 season started. So I guess that might make Carlos the longest tenured Tiger?

It is funny that Ramon played for the Mariners and I had no clue. All this time, I had thought he was a life-long Tiger. Turns out that he didn't play much for the Mariners, though. In his two seasons there, he only played in 27 games and he hit just .170 in that limited action. The rest of the time was spent with Seattle's AAA club.

I honestly have no clue what is going on with Ramon's signature. I can kind of make out his number (39), but just barely. The rest is a mystery to me.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

2004 Bowman Heritage, Paul McAnulty



#294 Paul McAnulty

Here is another card that I was able to get signed in Colorado Spring over the summer. Paul was playing for the Salt Lake Bees and he was nice enough to sign two cards for me after their loss.

At that game, my buddy was graphing the Bees side of the field before the game for me. As soon as he got to his station, I see him walking back around the concourse towards me on the Sky Sox part of the field. He gets to me, hands me the book of cards he had, and says "I gotta go to the bathroom". Great. Of course, Paul happened to be one of the first Bees to take the field, so my buddy missed out on him because of his restroom break. But, to my friends credit, he did end up getting more cards signed before the game than I did so I can't give him too much grief over it. Plus, it worked out since I was able to get Paul after the game anyways.

I really love this 2004 Bowman Heritage set and I wish that I was collecting cards when this set was out. The cards look great and they look even better signed. This card is one of the thick ones that Topps loves including in Bowman packs and I guess that is why it is black and white instead of color. In a standard Bowman pack, this card would have a gold border instead of a black one. But even Topps know that you can't mess with the border of the iconical 1955 Bowman set, so they messed with the photo instead.

Friday, October 28, 2011

2004 Bowman Heritage, Zach Jackson



#237 Zach Jackson

Here is a card that I got signed in Omaha over the summer while Zach was playing for the Round Rock Express. The story of me getting this card signed is identical to the story of getting Kevin Cash to sign for me. The Express pitchers were working out on the field when I got to the ballpark. When Zach left the field for the clubhouse, I didn't recognize who he was until it was too late. But, I then had a picture in my head of what he looked like in person and I was able to get him on the way out.

Zach made his Major League debut with the Brewers in 2006. Since then, he has only appeared in 22 Major League ballgames- 10 with the Brewers in '06 and '08 and 12 with the Indians in '08-09. Over that stretch, he has a 4-5 record with a 5.81 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 105.1 innings of work. He took on his biggest workload with the Indians in 2008 when he made nine starts for them and went 2-3 with a 5.60 ERA over 54.2 innings.

Zach had a surprisingly good record this year for the Express despite posting a 5.51 ERA. He finished the season 13-5 while striking out 78 and walking 56. He must have had a ton of run support to have had such a good winning percentage.

Despite Zach's lack of Major League success, he has been a part of two big trades. In 2005, the Blue Jays traded him to the Brewers for Lyle Overbay. Then, in 2008, the Brewers packaged him in the deal that landed them CC Sabathia.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

2004 Bowman, Van Pope



#BDP120 Van Pope

Here is a card that I got signed in Amarillo, Texas over the summer. Van was playing for the Amarillo Sox this past season and I was able to get this card signed before the game started.

Van was drafted by the Braves in fourth round of the draft in 2004 after playing at Meridian Junior College. He progressed steadily through the Braves system and hit AAA in 2009. He struggled at the AAA level and only hit .202 over 106 games. But that is not surprising. If you look at Van's stats year by year, he has struggled with every advancement. But after repeating the level a second year, he has always done better. But rather than have Van repeat AAA, the Braves had other ideas. They decided to convert him to a pitcher.

So, in 2010, Van was sent down to high-A Myrtle Beach to work on becoming a pitcher. He appeared in only nine game there and he had an 0-2 record with a 6.35 ERA over 11.1 innings while striking out 5 and walking 16. Ouch. It would appear that the Braves gave up on him then and released him.

So, the Amarillo Sox were more than happy to have him this season and they signed him as a third baseman. No more pitching for Van Pope. This past season with the Sox, Van ended up hitting .299 with 10 home runs and 61 RBI. Maybe another affiliated team will take a flier on Van next season.

Monday, October 24, 2011

2003 Upper Deck 40 Man, Jason Phillips



#624 Jason Phillips

Here is a card that I got signed earlier this year at a Royals game. The Mariners were in town and Jason works for them now. No, he isn't still playing and he wasn't actually a coach for them. His job title for the M's is bullpen catcher. Can you believe that? Four years ago, he was a backup catcher for the Blue Jays and now he is warming up Mariner pitchers in the bullpen. Technically, a good bullpen catcher conducts himself as a coach, so maybe this is his first step in getting into coaching. Either way, I thought it was kind of strange when I saw him on the M's roster in that role.

At the game I was at, Jason was catching for Dave Aardsma, who was on the disabled list at the time. When he came out of his crouch and started talking to the other coaches, I thought he was done warming up Aardsma. I asked him to sign and he told me he would when he was done. He looked done to me, but I waited patiently nonetheless. About five minutes later, he got back into his crouch and caught some more pitches from Aardsma. As soon as that barrage was done, he took off some of his gear and came over and signed like he said he would. While he was signing, I asked him if that was a simulated game that Aardsma was throwing. It was, of course.

The blue Sharpie looks really good on top of that orange Mets warm-up jersey.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

2003 Upper Deck 40 Man, Brandon Inge



#273 Brandon Inge

Here is a card that I got signed prior to the Royals final game of the season this year. Brandon was nice enough to have his cabbie drop him off at the "designated autograph zone" (for more on that, see this post) and he signed everything for everybody, including all three cards that I had. All of us 'graphers were wishing him the best of luck against the Yankees in the ALDS, and he really seemed to appreciate the good wishes.

In case you didn't notice, Brandon had an off year this year. He is only a .235 career hitter, but he failed to reach .200 this year for the first time since his rookie season. It was so bad for him that the Tigers traded for Wilson Betemit a few weeks before the deadline and sent Inge, a 2009 All Star, to AAA.

Inge tore up the International League for 29 games before getting called back to Detroit for the final month and a half of the season. He did raise his average twenty points after being back with Detroit. He even had his average above the Mendoza Line for a bit before slipping over the final week. So, it would appear that the demotion might have helped him out a bit.

Since I have gotten back into collecting autographs, I have taken this card with me every time I have 'graphed the Tigers. I like this card because it is the only card of Inge that I have that shows him as a catcher. Inge began his career as a catcher, but he switched to third base in 2005. Then, being the team player that he is, he went back to catcher in 2008 after the Tigers traded Ivan Rodriguez to the Yankees. He has been playing third ever since.

Friday, October 21, 2011

2002 Upper Deck 40 Man, Eric Junge



#907 Eric Junge

Here is a card that I got signed in Colorado Springs this summer. Actually, my buddy Adam got this card signed since he was 'graphing the Salt Lake Bees side of the field. Junge was the starting pitcher for the Bees that day, so it is kind of surprising that Adam was able to get this card signed since a lot of starters don't like to sign before games they are starting. Adam doesn't collect autographs, or usually try to get them, so I guess that it was his lucky day.

Eric Junge only has ten Major League appearances under his belt and they all came between 2002 and 2003. Prior to that, he advanced quickly through the minors and reached AAA in just his fourth professional season. That fourth season happened to be in 2002 and Eric was a September call-up for the Phillies that year. Eric made the Phillies Opening Day roster in 2004 and he made five relief appearances before hitting the disabled list. He came off the disabled list a month later and made one appearance before going back on it.

Whatever injury Eric suffered really seems to have derailed his career. He made just ten appearances the rest of that season in AAA and, the following season, he made just sixteen appearances at three different minor league levels. At that point, the Phillies must have realized that he was never going to be the same pitcher again and they released him.

Since then, it has been a whirlwind experience for Eric. He has since played for four different organizations as well as playing in the Atlantic League, Japan, and Korea. After making all of those stops, it is kind of amazing that he was pitching at the AAA level in 2011.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

2002 Donruss Rookies, Kevin Cash



#61 Kevin Cash

Here is an autograph that I was able to pick up this summer at an Omaha Storm Chasers game. Kevin was playing with the Round Rock Express at the time and I was able to get this card signed when Kevin was making his way from the clubhouse to the dugout.

When I made it into the ballpark that day, some of the Express pitchers were out on the field getting their work in. Most of the guys were in shorts and t-shirts, so it was a little difficult telling who was who. When they walked back to the clubhouse, none of us 'graphers could figure out who the players were until it was too late (if we even figured it out at all). Kevin was part of that group and I didn't figure out who he was until he was entering the clubhouse. But, I knew the face and I figured that I would get him on the way out.

Obviously, I did get him on the way out, but I fealt kind of bad about it. When he left the field, all he had with him was his glove and mask. But when he left the clubhouse for the dugout, he was carrying his big equipment bag with all of his catching gear, bats, and batting helmet. I still asked him to sign and I would have completely understood if he didn't want to. But he set all of his stuff down and signed for me with no problem at all.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2002 Donruss Originals, Darin Erstad



#382 Darin Erstad

Here is another Darin Erstad card that I got signed at the Kansas State baseball game last spring. Did I mention that the K-State football team in undefeated right now? Anyways, Darin is an assistant coach with the Nebraska baseball team and was nice enough to sign a few cards for me.

I guess when Topps started rolling out their Heritage releases, Donruss felt a little left out. Luckily, they came up with their Originals set and they redid most of their sets from the '80s. At least that is how I think they did it.

In 2003, I graduated college and I started started buying a few random packs at Wal-Mart. For some reason, I had no clue that Wal-Mart carried so many baseball cards when I was in college. So when I got out, there was a plethora of cards available that I had never seen before. I bought a little bit of everything and never really knew what I had until I got out of the Army and really started getting into cards again.

So, I bought one (or maybe two) packs of '02 Donruss Originals and those pack(s) are what I am basing my description of the set on. However, I do not recall seeing a card with an '81 border. I hope that there are some of those included in the set and if there are, I may have to look into getting a few of those signed.

The border for this card is obviously from the 1988 Donruss set. It is kind of cool seeing a modern photo and logo on a card style from the '80s. At first glance, this card looks just like a real '88. But one you compare it to an actual '88 Donruss card, you can see a few discrepancies. The while border around the photo is a little thinner on this card than on the real '88 and the fonts are different between the two. The team logo may be a little bit smaller, but it is hard to tell when you only have one card to go by. Either way, it is still a good looking card.

Monday, October 17, 2011

2001 Topps Gallery, Mike Jacobs



#126 Mike Jacobs

Here is a card that I got signed in Colorado Springs over the summer while Mike was playing for the Sky Sox. I asked him to sign when he was coming out of the tunnel and he said that he would after he set his things down (he was carrying his glove, helmet, and a couple of bats at the time). He went into the dugout, set his stuff down, and then came out and signed for everybody. Mike seemed like a good signer during his one year with the Royals and it looks like that has not changed, even though he is not in the big leagues. I wish I could say that about his teammate this summer, Dexter Fowler.

I got more than a couple of cards signed by Mike during his short stint in Kansas City. But, I was unable to get this card signed because I acquired it in a trade a couple of weeks before Mike was released by the team. I was so bummed out about the whole thing that I took my want list down and have never put it back up. I did finally get this card signed, though, and I now feel better about the trade.

After belting 32 home runs with the Marlins in 2008, it surprises me that Mike cannot find a Major League job. I know he really struggled against left-handed pitching while with the Royals. A team just needs to find someone that mashes lefties and than platoon that person with Mike at the DH spot.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

2001 Fleer Showcase, Ben Sheets



#21 Ben Sheets

Here is a card that I picked up from checkoutmycards.com for cheap. It wasn't nearly as cheap as most of the '96 Leaf Signature Series cards that I usually acquire, but I could not pass it up for $4.99. It doesn't say anything on the card about the piece of wood being from a bat Ben used, so it is more than likely just a signed piece of wood. But, it is still much better than a sticker autograph.

Ben had the stuff to be a top tier pitcher in baseball if he could have stayed healthy. In 2004, Ben had a career year and posted career bests in ERA (2.70) and strikeouts (264). Plus, he only walked 32 batters. The Brewers rewarded him with a four year contract and, because of various injuries over those four years, he was only able to make 94 starts while he had made 127 starts over the previous four seasons.

After the 2008 season, Ben became a free agent. But, because of arm issues, no one was willing to take a chance on him and he did not play in 2009. The A's, though, signed him to a contract in 2010 and Ben went 4-9 with a 4.53 ERA over 20 starts. A torn flexor in his elbow shut Ben down at the end of July of that season and he has not pitched in the Majors since.

Ben still has a player page on the the official website of Major League Baseball, so I guess that means that he has not officially retired. He is only 33 years old, so a comeback might not be too far fetched. It only depends on if his body can handle the demands of pitching in the Major Leagues.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

2000 Bowman, Mike Bacsik



#357 Mike Bacsik

Here is a card that I got signed at a Wichita Wingnuts game back in May. Mike was pitching for the Ft. Worth Cats at the time and I was able to get this card signed after the game was over. Mike started the game I attended, so he spent all of his pregame time in the bullpen. I tried to get him to sign right before the game started, but he was in game mode and said he would sign afterwards. He came through on that, despite just pitching one inning and giving up five runs. I did have to go to the clubhouse area after the game, but Mike came straight over to me without me asking and signed all three cards like he said he would.

Mike's unfortunate claim to fame is that he gave up Barry Bond's 756th home run in 2007 while pitching for the Nationals.

Friday, October 14, 2011

1996 Signature Rookies Autobilia, Darin Erstad



#B3 Darin Erstad

Way back in March, I attended my first baseball game of the year. Unfortunately, it was not a Spring Training game. It was just a college game. But one of the teams involved was Nebraska and the newest addition to the Nebraska coaching staff was none other than Darin Erstad. So, rather than being "just" a college game, it was one of the few college games played in my area where a former big leaguer was a part of the coaching staff. Not only did I leave the park with my first ballpark autographs of the year, but I also got to see a Kansas State victory. It was a good day all around.

I took this card with me to get signed for two reasons. The first reason is because I like this card. If I remember correctly, this card was a preview card that was inserted into a Signature Rookies football set. The set it was previewing never came out, so I would think that this card might be harder to find than most other Darin Erstad cards.

The second reason why I took this card is because it shows Darin in his old Nebraska uniform and that is the team he coaches with now. Plus, it was nice getting a non-Angel card signed even though it technically is an Angel card.

I was surprised to see the other day that Nebraska is coming back to Manhattan again next season. That surprises me because Nebraska is no longer in the Big 12. So, if anyone needs a Darin Erstad autograph this spring, let me know and I will see what I can do.

Here is a fun Nebraska themed fact- Darin was the punter on the 1994 Nebraska National Championship football team and he was the fourteenth best punter in the nation, based on average punt.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

1996 Leaf Signature Series Extended, Jorge Fabregas



#50 Jorge Fabregas

Here is another COMC purchase that I bought for no particular reason besides the fact that it was only a buck. The only other reason I could think of buying it is because Jorge was the backup catcher for the highest scoring Royals team ever- the 2000 Royals.

Jorge was your standard journeyman backup catcher. He was a first round pick by the Angels in 1991 and he made his Major League debut with them in 1994. He stayed with the Halos for a few years. Then, after a 3-38 (.079) start at the plate in 1997, he was traded to the White Sox.

With the Sox, Jorge experienced the best season of his career. He played in 100 games for the only time and he had career highs in nearly all of the offensive categories. It was a short-lived tenure with the team, though, as the Diamondbacks selected Jorge in the expansion draft after the season.

He then played in 50 games for the D-Backs before being traded to the Mets mid-season. He then caught on with the Marlins in 1999 before being released at the end of August and signing with the Braves. He spent 2000 with the Royals and put up some decent numbers in limited action. In 2001, he was back with the Angels and he stayed with them until he was traded to Milwaukee in 2002. That was the last season that he played in the big leagues.

For his career, Jorge played for eight teams in nine seasons and he hit .241 with 23 home runs and 211 RBI.

If I remember correctly, Jorge was behind the plate for the Angles when Cal broke Lou's consecutive games streak.

Monday, October 10, 2011

1996 Leaf Signature Series Extended, Archi Cianfrocco



#29 Archi Cianfrocco

Here is yet another checkoutmycards.com bargain bin find. This autograph from former Expo and Padre, Archi Cianfrocco, set me back a whole dollar.

I am really not sure why I thought that I had to have this card. The only thing that I can come up with is the name- Archi Cianfrocco. That has got to be one of the coolest names for any ballplayer. It doesn't really roll off the tongue, but it sounds pretty cool when said correctly.

Archi played in the Majors for seven seasons. He never played in a hundred games in a season and was mainly used as a utility guy. In his seven seasons, he played every position except for pitcher and center field. None of his seasons stand out against the rest, but he did finish his career with a .241 average with 34 home runs and 185 RBI.

Based off of his signature, I never would have guessed that his first name began with an "A". But, it is a cool looking signature.