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 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 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.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

1996 Leaf Signature Series, Quilvio Veras

#230 Quilvio Veras

Here is another card that I picked up from for cheap. This card set me back all of ninety-eight cents.

I remember Quilvio for two reasons. The first reason is because he lead the Major Leagues in stolen bases in 1995 when he stole 56 in his rookie season. But, the main reason why I remember Quilvio is because his name begins with a "Q".

Back in my high school years when I was playing American Legion baseball, we would always play "The Name Game" (TNG) while we were criss-crossing Kansas in vans. TNG was a simple game that helped pass the time in the days before smart phones and laptop computers. It was really easy. The first player would name any baseball player. Let's say George Brett. George's last name begins with a "B", so the next player had to think of a ballplayer whose first name began with a "B", like Bret Saberhagan. Each player had about a thirty second time limit to come up with a name that hadn't been said or he would be eliminated. The object of TNG was to be the last person standing and I quickly learned that if you wanted to win, you had better have a decent stockpile of ballplayers whose first names began with "Q", "Y", and "Z". That is where Quilvio Veras came in handy.

This is the first card that I have posted on here of a player whose first name begins with a "Q". Unfortunately, Quilvio's signature didn't meet my expectations as the first letter he signed looks more like an "O" or even a "D".

Friday, October 7, 2011

1996 Leaf Signature Series, Ben McDonald

#151 Ben McDonald

Here is another bargain that I could not pass up. I was able to add this Ben McDonald autograph to my collection for just one dollar. How could I pass this one up?

Ben was a stud college pitcher for Louisiana State in the late '80s. He won the Golden Spikes award with them in 1989 for being the best college player in the nation. For his efforts that season, the Orioles rewarded him by making him the number one pick in the draft that year.

Ben made it to the Major Leagues in the same season that he was drafted, making six relief appearances for the O's that September. After making ten minor league starts in 1990, Jeff moved up to the big club for good. Again, he started out in the bullpen before he was eased into the starting rotaion. He finished up that season 8-5 with a 2.43 ERA.

Unfortunately, Ben could not maintain that level of success in the Major Leagues. His record dipped to 6-8 the following year while his ERA rose to 4.84. He posted slightly better numbers in 1992 before having a career year in 1993. His record was only 13-14 that season, but he had career highs in ERA (3.39 [20 or more starts]), complete games (7), and strikeouts (171).

Back to back seasons of more than 220 innings caught up to Ben as he made only 24 starts in 1994 and 13 in 1995. After that season, the O's and Ben parted ways and Ben signed with the Brewers.

For some reason, I do not remeber Ben ever playing for the Brewers.

Ben had a strong 1996 with the Brewers. He went 12-10 that season with a 3.90 ERA in 221.1 innings. But the arm problems caught back up with him the following season, limiting him to just 21 starts.

The Brewers traded Ben to the Indians after that season was over. But, when the Indians learned that Ben wasn't going to be able to pitch at all that season, they traded him back to Milwaukee. Ben then retired from baseball.

For his career, Ben was 78-70 with a 3.91 ERA.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

1994 Ulta, Chris Bosio

#417 Chris Bosio

Here is my third and final Chris Bosio card that I got signed in Des Moines, Iowa this summer while Chris was working as the Nashville Sounds pitching coach. You can see the first card here and the second card here.

In my last Bosio post, I talked about his days in Milwaukee where Chris won fourteen or more games three times. After the 1992 season, he hit the free agent market and ended up with Seattle. Unfortunately for the M's, Chris didn't achieve the same level of success that he had had with the Brewers.

Chris spent four seasons in Seattle and, during that time, he made more than thirty starts once and less that twenty starts twice. He posted a decent ERA of 3.45 in his first season, but it ballooned each year after that. It was 4.32 his second season, 4.92 his third season, and then 5.93 in his fourth and final season. Also, he only reached double digit wins once with the M's and that was in 1995 when he won ten games.

I was glad that I was able to find a card of Chris that wasn't a Brewers card. But, I do have issues with this card. Whenever I display a horizontal card in a binder, I always have the bottom horizontal edge on the right side of a nine pocket sheet. Basically, it would look like this.

With the strange layout of '94 Ultra, the card now appears to be in the pocket upside down and I do not put cards in binders upside down. That would just be dumb. If I rotate the card 180 degrees, the name and team become readable again, but now the card is facing a different direction than every other horizontal card in my collection. So, instead of looking upside down, it now appears to be backwards. What should I do?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

1994 Topps, Bret Saberhagen

#245 Bret Saberhagen

You didn't think I was going to get all of these cards signed by Bret and only get Royals cards signed, did you? No way, Jose. I had to get at least one Mets card signed and I would have gotten cards signed by him as a Rockie and Red Sock if I could have found some.

The eleventh of December, 1991, is still regarded as one of the saddest days in Royals history. It was on that day that the Royals traded two-time American League Cy Yound Award winner, Bret Saberhagen, (and Bill Pecota) to the Mets for Gregg Jeffries, Keith Miller, and Kevin McReynolds.

In hindsight, though, the trade does not look as bad today. It seems like the Royals traded Saberhagen at the right time. It would have looked a little better if the Royals had gotten some better players in return, but that is said of just about every single trade made.

Kevin McReynolds had two average seasons in Kansas City before being dealt back to the Mets. Gregg Jeffries spent just one season in KC before he was traded to St. Louis. Keith Miller lasted four seasons for the Royals, but he missed most of the last three because of injuries.

On the other hand, Bill Pecota played just one year for the Mets before leaving for Atlanta via free agency. Bret Saberhagen only lasted with the Mets for three and a half seasons and he was hurt for much of that time.

So in the end, this trade was pretty much a bust for both sides.

Monday, October 3, 2011

1994 Fleer Procards, Doug Sisson

#3402 Doug Sisson

Here is the second card of Doug Sisson that I was able get signed at the Royals last home game of the season. The first one can be seen here.

I wrote a good deal about Doug on his previous post, so I am going to write about something different this time around. For this post, I am going to write about my experience autographing at that final game. And I will say that it certainly was a new experience for me, both good and bad.

For starters, my plan for the final game was to get to the park early enough to get autographs as the players arrived at the ballpark. I hadn't made it up to a game this year to 'graph the parking lot and I was hoping for a large haul as I have always done well there in the past. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to leave early enough to take full advantage of that, but I was there early enough to catch some of the late stragglers.

As soon as I got to the park, I saw Melky Cabrera about to enter the park and I asked him to sign. He just ignored me and went on his way. No big deal. But then, a Royals parking lot attendant came up to me and told me that I was in a "no autograph zone". I gave him my best "are you serious?" look since I have gotten 'graphs there more than a few times over the past couple of years. He kept talking a bit, but I just ignored him and waited for him to leave on his golf cart.

The next thing you know, a cab pulled up and out walked the Tigers Will Rhymes. I went up to him and asked him to sign and he signed my two cards for me. By the time he entered the park, a Royals employee came out of the park dressed in suit and tie and said to me "you do realize this is a no autograph zone, don't you?". I was just like "wow, they are serious about this".

He gave me a map of the two spots that were allocated as "autograph zones" and went on to tell me that it has been this way for a few months. I asked him why they changed things and he said it all happened during the Red Sox and Yankees series because they had some issues, but he wouldn't get into any specifics. So, I just said whatever and went to hang out with the guys in the "autograph zone". It then dawned on me why I was the only person trying to get Will Ryhmes' autograph.

Over in the "autograph zone", I started to get some feedback from the other 'graphers about what had happened. They said it all started with someone tying to get Melky Cabrera's autograph. When he declined to sign, one person started talking smack and bringing up a past DUI infraction or something. I guess Melky got kind of heated over it and that is what started it. The same guy then pulled the same stunt with a couple of other players and rather than dealing with the problem, the Royals got all drastic and divided up the outside of the park like a post Desert Storm Iraq.

Now, when a Royals player parks in the players lot, he has two options. The first option is to take the underground tunnel into the park. This seems like the longer route and it is usually utilized by the early arrivers. In this scenario, the player walks by the first designated "autograph zone", but he can still be about fifteen feet from the fans if he doesn't want to sign.

In the second scenario, the player parks in the lot and then walks across a small public lot to the park. At least that was how the scenario used to play out. Now, when they leave the lot, they are picked up by the lot attendant in the golf cart and are dropped off at the "no autograph zone" main entrance. From what I could gather from the other disgruntled 'graphers, the Royals encourage the players to ride the cart rather than walking.

So all in all, my experience outside of Kauffman Stadium was rather unpleasant and not at all fan-friendly. I hope that they can get something figured out in time for the All Star game next year or they are going to be in a world of hurt.

So, while I was all bummed out by that experience, another 'grapher told me about the "early bird tour". He said that it was basically a trimmed down ballpark tour, but it is usually dominated by 'graphers who just went down to the dugouts for Royals batting practice. It cost ten dollars a head, but it got you into the ballpark an hour earlier than everyone else. So, I went ahead and bought a pair.

For some reason, I had never heard of this option. But, even though it cost as much as tickets to fanfest, I enjoyed the "early bird tour". For one, I got to see the Royals entire batting practice. It has been some time since I have been able to see that at home.

But more importantly, it allowed me to get some much needed Royals autographs that I wouldn't be able to get if I waited for the gates to open (like this card). When the gates usually open, Royals batting practice is almost finished and I always head to the visiting team side. But with the "early bird tour", I was able to 'graph the Royals while I had my dad saved me my spot on the visiting team side. I'm not sure if it was really worth twenty dollars, but it was the final game of what has been a crappy autograph season for me and it turned out for the best.

Here are my rankings of the new autograph policies at Kauffman Stadium.

Autograph Zones: Thumbs down. Hopefully, they will come up with a happy compromise before next year.

Early Bird Tour: Thumbs up, as long as you are not expecting an actual tour.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

1993 Fleer Procards, Erik Bennett

#314 Erik Bennett

Here is another card that I got signed in Colorado Springs this past July. Erik was the pitching coach for the visiting Salt Lake Bees and he was nice enough to sign this card for me after the game.

Colorado Srpings has a nice setup for graphing the visiting team. The visiting team clubhouse is behind third base, but on the same level as the concourse. In order for the players to get to the field, they have to go down the same steps that a fan sitting in the first row would go down to get to his seat. That makes them very accessable to the fans. Surprisingly, very few people were taking advantage of this fan-friendly environment. Most of the people that wanted autographs were hanging out on the Sky Sox side of the field where there was a direct route from the clubhouse to the field.

As far as I can tell, Erik Bennett has only one Major League baseball card and it is from the 1996 Leaf Signature Series set and it is, of course, already signed. Lucky for me then that I was able to find this card on for less than a buck and then get it signed. Of course, I could have just bought his signed Leaf card for just four cents more and then saved money by not going out to Colorado Springs this summer. But, what fun would that have been?

Erik pitched in the Major Leagues for parts of two seasons and that is putting it genorously. In 1995, Erik pitched one third of an inning for the Angels. The strange part about it is that his Major League Debut came in May and not September. He came into a game against the Twins with two runners on with two outs in the bottom of the eigth and got the pinch hitter to fly out to center. That was the only game he got into as an Angel.

The Twins must have liked what they saw that game because they signed him to a deal after the season was over. With the Twins, Erik got into 24 games and he went 2-0 with a save and a lofty 7.90 ERA in 27.1 innings of work.

After that, it was back to the minors for Erik. He continued to pitch until 2001, spending his final three seasons in the now defunt Western League.

Erik dosn't have much for an autograph, but at least he dots his imaginary "i" and crosses his "t's".

Erik is playing for the Midland Angels in this card. While Texas League ball is still being played in Midland, they are no longer called the Angels or even affiliated with them. The team is now called the Rock Hounds and the A's are their parent club.