Thursday, May 21, 2015

2007 Bowman, Jeff Fiorentino. Plus a Billy Ripken sighting and Eli Manning?

#217 Jeff Fiorentino

It has been a while since I posted last and that has been because I have been down south for the annual company meeting. Working for a sporting goods retailer has it benefits for this sports minded individual. Some of our speakers included former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands (one intense dude!), former Cowboy Darren Woodson, and, finally on the last night, former ballplayer Billy Ripken.

None of these people are announced in advance, so it is impossible to bring specific things to get signed. I learned after the last meeting that I attended, where Cal Ripken spoke, that I needed to bring at least a ball. I had to scrounge up a ball at the last one and ended up getting Cal to sign a Jugs ball for me.

When I heard that Billy Ripken was going to be one of our speakers, I was a little let down. That seemed like a huge drop from Cal to him. But Billy was a very good speaker and he had a good message. When was done, he opened it up for questions from us. Nobody had anything right away, so I asked him to tell us what really happened for his '89 Fleer card fiasco. After all, as a card collector at that time, that card defines Billy Ripken for me. He seemed a little taken aback by the question and was like "really, you are going to ask that here?". He then explained that this wasn't the place for that, but if I find him at the after party after he had had a couple, he would tell me all about it.

Fast forward to the after party, and when Billy appeared, people started to congregate around him to get pictures and autographs. When the initial wave died down, someone asked him to tell us what happened and he obliged. Apparently, that year a case of bats arrived. He blurted out a model number that nobody knew anything about and then told us it was a really heavy bat, one that was too heavy to use in a game. But, he grabbed one anyway and used it as his batting practice bat. Right away, he wrote those iconic two words on the knob and he did it for a reason. He wrote it on there so the bat would be easier to find among all the other bats in the bat racks.

Then one day in Boston, he finished his first round of batting practice and made his way around the bases. He then grabbed his bat to get ready for his second round and a photographer from Fleer approached him and asked to take his picture for the company. He said sure and history was made.

I had never heard that story before. I guess since the event happened way before the internet, I had heard a collection of myths. So, it was really cool to hear in-person. I ended up getting my ball signed by him as well. Here is a picture of it.

New Era, the on-field hat of MLB and sideline hat of the NFL, hosted a luncheon for us and they talked about their product. To make it more fun, they showed some videos and then asked questions about them. If you were lucky enough to get picked to answer a question, they gave you a hat. Most of the hats were signed. I got picked towards the end and I ended up with a Buffalo Bills hat signed by Sammy Watkins. Not being a big football fan, I had no clue who Sammy was. So the guy sitting next to me offered up his Eli Manning hat in exchange for mine. I took him up on that immediately as I figured I would have an easier time flipping the Manning hat for one of the baseball hats.

The first guy I went up to had an Andrew McCutchen hat. He turned me down because Cutch was from Alabama like himself. The next guy had a Curtis Granderson hat. He turned be down because he is more of a baseball guy like myself. The third guy had a CC Sabathia hat. He pondered it, but ultimately decided to keep it. The fourth guy had a Brett Lawrie hat, but Lawrie is a bum and I decided to just keep my Eli Manning hat. Even though it is not baseball, it is still very cool.

I almost forgot that there was supposed to be a snippet about Jeff Fiorentino in here. I got that card signed at an Orioles game in 2009. I was at the game with Ryan, from The Great Orioles Autograph Project, and we were 'graphing by the O's dugout before the game. Jeff came out of the clubhouse and came over without anyone even asking. It was pretty cool.

Jeff played in 58 games with the O's and A's. He was a .258 hitter with a home run and 21 RBI. His lone home run came off of Randy Wolf. Jeff retired after the 2013 season.

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