Sunday, May 31, 2015

2007 Bowman, Josh Horton

#BDPP46 Josh Horton

Here is a card that I got signed in Lancaster, California in 2008. My buddy, Dustin, and I made our initial west coast trip that summer and we took in four Major League parks and four minor league parks. Five of the parks we saw were in California and the last one we visited before we started making our way home was Clear Channel Stadium in Lancaster. Back then, they were the California League team for the Red Sox. I don't think I got any cards signed by the 'Hawks palyers, but I got a couple signed by the visiting Stockton Ports. This is one of those cards.

Josh played in the A's system for seven seasons. He was taken in the second round of the of the 2007 draft out of UNC. He made his professional debut that year with the Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League. Josh did good enough there to get promoted to the Midwest League, where he finished his first pro season. In 2011, he got his first taste of AAA action as he played in 26 games for Sacremento. He hit just .218 at that level and found himself back in AA for 2012. He got two more tastes of AAA, but could only muster a .231 average at that level. The A's cut ties with Josh during the 2013 campaign and he finished the season playing for the Orioles AA affiliate. It appears that Josh retired after that season.

He finished his pro career a .277 hitter. He performed the best at the high-A level.

On the college baseball front, there were a couple of upsets last night. The number one national seed, UCLA, lost to Maryland. Bracket number one seeds TCU, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State all lost as well. All four of those teams are still in it, but they have to win three straight games to advance to the Super Regionals.

So far, only two teams that were picked to go to Omaha have been eliminated. They are Lipscomb and Clemson.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

2007 Bowman, Sam Runion

#BDPP20 Sam Runion

Here is a card that I got signed by Sam Runion while he was a farmhand for the Royals. I got the card signed in 2009 while he was with the Burlington Bees. My dad and I were on our way to St. Louis to see the Futures Game and we stopped in Burlington on the way to break up the trip and to take in another ballpark. I got a decent amount of cards signed at the game, mostly on my Bees team set I bought that day. I did take this card and one other of Sam to get signed, but I failed to make that happen before the game as I never saw him. Luckily, once the game started, someone pointed him out to me in the stands charting pitches and I was able to get the cards signed then.

Sam pitched in the Royals system from 2007 through 2013. He started his career as a starting pitcher, but he did not fair well in that role. With the Bees in 2009, he started 28 games and went 5-11 with a 6.60 ERA. He was converted to a reliever the following season and posted similar results. He then missed most of the 2011 season due to injury and came back in 2012 and had his first good professional season. In two levels, Sam pitched in 65.1 innings and went 4-1 with 9 saves, a 2.34 ERA, and 50 strikeouts. He then spent most of 2013 in AA and was 4-2 with a 3.72 ERA. He made one appearance in AAA, too, and gave up 4 runs in 2.2 innings. The Royals cut ties with Sam after that season and he joined the Rays organization in 2014.

The college baseball tournament is underway. While there have been a few upsets so far, none of the top seeds have been eliminated yet. But, there is still plenty of ball to be played over the next couple of days, so anything can happen.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

2007 Bowman, Alex Gordon

#BDP15 Alex Gordon

Here is the first of many Alex Gordon autographs that I will hopefully be posting on here for years to come. This one is one of the first ones that I got signed by him and that happened outside of the Royals parking lot in 2008. All that I remember about him back then was that he was not very talkative. He would come over and sign his one per person and look like he was not enjoying himself. You would ask him a question and he would only give yes or no answers. He seems to have opened up more over the past few years, though. While it is nearly impossible to 'graphs the Royals lot anymore, Alex has been more engaging the last couple of times I have seen him at Fanfest.

Alex Gordon is the best left fielder in baseball right now. He is a collective favorite in this household as we all refer to him as Al-Gor, our play on an A-Rodesque nickname. He has been an All Star the past two seasons and won Gold Gloves each of the last three. The one downside is that he could quite possibly be playing his final season in Kansas City. He has a player option with the club for next season, but I believe it is only for $12 million. I am sure that he could get more than that on the open market, so I hope the Royals make an effort to bring him back. For as much as they are charging for tickets this year, I would think that would not be a problem.

Alex played in the 2001 College World Series with Nebraska. While I was not running a College World Series bracket back then, I am now. So scroll down one more post and get entered. There are only three entrants so far, so it could be an easy win as of right now.

Monday, May 25, 2015

College World Series Contest TIme!!

It's that time again! It is time for my sixth annual College World Series Contest.

Earlier today, the NCAA announced the 64 teams that will be competing for the 2015 College World Series championship. To commemorate it, I am holding the sixth annual College World Series contest here at Autographed Cards. It is going to be a couple of weeks before the main phase of the contest starts, but you can earn some bonus points here that could make a difference when the main portion gets going. All you have to do right now is pick the eight teams that are going to be playing in Omaha. Here are the teams to choose from.

Slot One
1. UC Santa Barbara
2. Ole Miss
2. USC
3. Maryland
3. Virginia
4. Cal-Bakersfield
4. San Diego St

Slot Two
1. Oklahoma St
1. Missouri St
2. Arkansas
2. Iowa
3. Oral Roberts
3. Oregon
4. St. Johns
4. Canisius

Slot Three
1. Miami FL
1. Dallas Baptist
2. East Carolina
2. Oregon St
3. Columbia
3. Texas
4. FIU
4. VCU

Slot Four
1. Florida St
1. Florida
2. College of Charleston
2. Florida Atlantic
3. Auburn
3. South Florida
4. Mercer
4. Florida A&M

Slot Five
1. LSU
1. Houston
2. UNC Wilmington
2. Rice
3. Tulane
3. La-Lafayette
4. Lehigh
4. Houston Baptist

Slot Six
1. Texas A&M
1. TCU
2. Coastal Carolina
2. North Carolina St
3. Cal
3. Stony Brook
4. Texas Southern
4. Sacred Heart

Slot Seven
1. Illinois
1. Vanderbilt
2. Notre Dame
2. Radford
3. Wright St.
3. Indiana
4. Ohio
4. Lipscomb

Slot Eight
1. Cal St Fullerton
1. Louisville
2. Arizona St
2. Bradley
3. Clemson
3. Michigan
4. Pepperdine
4. Morehead St

All you have to do is pick one team from each slot for a total of eight teams. In the past, for every team that you picked that made it into the College World Series, you got one point. I mixed it up a bit last year and I am going to stick with that format. Now, any team you pick that makes it to Omaha gets as many points as their seed. So, if you make the safe bet and pick the one seed correctly, you get one point. But, if you pick the dark horse four seed and get lucky, you get four points for that pick. If you don't feel like participating right now, that's fine. You can enter the second phase without participating in the first, but you might have some ground to make up.

I haven't figured out what the prizes are yet, but some of the prizes from the previous years include autographs from Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew, Jim Rice, Rod Carew, and Bruce Sutter. I usually end up with some really good stuff at the College World Series. I just probably won't know what they are until I get back from Omaha on the 14th of June. Last year, I gave away signed photos of Steve Carlton and Dennis Eckersly.

This blog has been in the doldrums of late since I am lucky to post a card twice a week. So, to get a few extra contestants in the contest, you can get one bonus point just by pimping this contest on your blog. Just leave a link in the comments and I will chalk you up a point.

Here is the format that your entry (comment) should look like

Slot one: Virginia
Slot two: Arkansas
Slot three: Texas
Slot four: Florida St
Slot five: Rice
Slot six: Stony Brook
Slot seven: Vanderbilt
Slot eight: Arizona St
Link to your blog (which can be left on a separate comment, but must be submitted by Thursday night).

Make sure you specify which school you want. For instance, slot one has a bunch of California schools and slot four has a bunch of Florida schools. Make it obvious who you are picking.

If you have any questions, ask in the comments or email me at zman40 at hotmail dot com. The deadline to enter the first phase of this contest is 11:00 am (central) Friday and the link must be posted twelve hours prior to that. Good luck and thanks for playing.

Keep in mind that the main portion of this contest is filling out a College World Series bracket when that field is determined in a couple of weeks. Every year, there are a couple of people that enter the first phase of the contest that never end up filling out a bracket. Those people have yet to win this contest.

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.

Friday, May 15, 2015

2007 Bowman, Kevin Hooper

#216 Kevin Hooper

I believe that this is the fourth card of Kevin Hooper that I have posted on here. The first three all showed him as a Marlin, who he never played for at the Major League level. This is the first card of him as a Tiger, the lone Major League team he did suit up for.

Kevin had two very short stints in Detroit. He initially got called up in 2005 and he played in six games. He started one of those and was used as a defensive replacement in the other five. He got five at-bats that season and one hit, a single off of Minnesota's Terry Mulholland. In 2006, Kevin was a September call-up. That month, he played in eight games, all as a defensive replacement. He got just three at-bats that go around and went 0-3.

All totaled, Kevin played in 14 games with the Tigers and went 1-8 at the dish with a run, walk, and three sac bunts. He played left field, shortstop, second, and third and had just on error in 15 chances.

Kevin is currently the manager of the Wichita Wingnuts. He signed this card for me at a 'Nuts game five years ago.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

2007 BBM, Fumihiro Suzuki

NN Fumihiro Suzuki

A few years back, I saw on Japanese Baseball Cards that a major Japanese card distributor was going out of business and was having a huge sale. Having never bought a pack of Japanese cards before, I could not pass it up. The cards were very reasonably priced and the shipping was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. So, I picked up about a dozen packs. My hopes were to get some cards of guys that might make it to the States some day so that I would have cards for them to sign. So far, that has not been the case. But, I was pleasantly surprised to pull two autographs out of the packs.

This one features the light-hitting catcher, Fumihiro Suzuki. Fumihiro played pro ball in Japan for fourteen seasons with the Dragons and Buffaloes. He was mostly used as a backup catcher, though he was the main catcher for two seasons. He hit just .185 over his 501 games and had 3 home runs and 56 RBI. His best season was probably with the Dragons in 2000. That year, he hit .226 with a home run and 10 RBI in just 62 at-bats.

Fumihiro was also a member of the 2000 Japanese Olympic baseball team. He retired after the 2012 season.

How about this sticker autograph? People would freak out if Topps used something this big. But, with the Japanese script, maybe this is a must for the Japanese card companies.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

2007 Allen & Ginter, Augie Garrido

#302 Augie Garrido

FINALLY!! Here is the first card that I have to post from 2007. I was beginning to think that I would never make it here.

This is a card that I got signed at a Kansas State baseball game in 2010. Augie is the long-time coach of the Texas Longhorns. It was an interesting experience getting this card signed as Augie would not sign before the game. Then, the game ended on a bang-bang play at first, killing the Longhorns rally. Augie went out to argue, but to no avail, and the game was over. So, he obviously wasn't in a very good mood after that, but he went and did his interview with the Texas media on-field. He was right in front of the dugout, so I went down there to wait and try to get my cards signed. While I was just standing there, the K-State security guard by the gate opened the gate up and let me on the field. It was a little awkward, but Augie just grabbed my book and signed my three cards while he was doing his interview.

That was the only time I have ever been on the actual playing field to get a card signed. I wish I could do that more often as it would make it a whole lot easier for me.

Augie has been the head coach at Texas since 1997. In that time, he has lead the team to eight College World Series appearances and they won it all twice. Prior to that, he lead Cal State Fullerton to three CWS championships. He was been named National Coach of the Year five times and he has the most wins by any college baseball coach at any level.

Friday, May 8, 2015

2006 Tristar Prospects Plus, Billy Butler

#P-BB Billy Butler

Here is the first Billy Butler autograph that I have posted on here. There will be many more to come after this one, but it might be some time before the next one pops up on here again. This one happens to be the last card that I got signed by Billy. He signed it for me at Royals Fanfest last year.

I really like this card as it shows Billy with my local Wichita Wranglers. The Wranglers had a Hell of team in 2006 with Billy and Alex Gordon in the lineup every day. Plus, they were managed by Frank White, so you would think that they wouldn't have any problem putting butts in the seats of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. But, that wasn't the case as just under 178,000 fans went out to watch them that year. That season, they announced that they would move to Arkansas for the 2008 season.

I never made it to a Wranglers game in 2006. I was stationed in Georgia at the time and the one time I came home that summer, I went to a Royals game instead of a Wranglers game. But, I really wish the Wranglers were still in Wichita. I like the Wingnuts and I think they put a good product on the field. But, there is little comparison between the American Association and the Texas League.

Having said that, I am looking forward to going to my first Wingnuts game of the season in two weeks. While it is unlikely that there will be the next Alex Gordon or Billy Butler at the game, there will be some former Major Leaguers playing. Wichita signed Luis Hernandez and Lou Montanez for the season. So, if anyone out there needs something signed by them, just let me know.

This is finally the last card from 2006. I posted my first 2006 card on here in November of 2011. Nearly four years later and it is now time for my 2007s.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

2006 Topps Heritage, Alex Gonzalez

#68 Alex Gonzalez

Here is a card that I got signed at Spring Training in 2013. We were at Camelback Ranch to see the White Sox host the Brewers and Alex was playing for the Brewers at the time. He signed one of three cards for me.

After a sixteen-year career, it appears that Alex's career has come to an end. During that time, he played with the Marlins, Red Sox, Reds, Blue Jays, Braves, Brewers, and Tigers. He spent the first eight years of his career with the Marlins before bouncing around the next eight years. With the Marlins, he made one All Star team and was a member of their 2003 World Championship team.

Alex finished his career a .246 hitter. His best season came in 2010, a season split with the Blue Jays and Braves. He finished that season hitting .250 while tying his single season home run total of 23 and having a career high for RBI with 88.

I like Alex's signature. You can tell that this one was a bit hurried as the Sharpie came off the card when signing the "l" in his last name. But, other than that, it came out looking good. He has a very stylish "A" to start his sig.

Monday, May 4, 2015

2006 Topps Heritage, Nate Robertson

#59 Nate Robertson

Here is a card that I got signed at a card show earlier this year. Rock's Dugout, the oldest card shop in Kansas, hosts a bi-monthly card show in Wichita. He tries to get local guys to come in and sign whenever he can and he just so happened to bring in Nate Robertson for the first show of the year this year.

Nate is retired from baseball now and is actually a part owner of the Wichita Wingnuts. Because of that, I always take a couple of cards of him to 'Nuts games just in case I ever run into him. I won't have to worry about that now, though, as I got all three cards I have of him signed at the show.

Nate actually pitched for the Wingnuts for a bit in 2012. I was hoping to make it down to a game during that time, but I was unable to. He made just three starts before signing with the Blue Jays.

Nate pitched last season with the Tigers AAA team before getting released in May. I talked to his brother last season, who just happens to be the Wingnuts GM, and asked him why he didn't pick Nate up. He said that Nate had retired. He pitched for the 'Nuts in 2012 just because he knew the Jays were needing a starter on their AAA team and he needed to be ready. But, since there wasn't anything looming in the near future for him last year, he was just going to enjoy his retirement.

Still, it would have been cool to see him pitch for the 'Nuts.

The Robertsons have quite an operation going in Wichita. Nate is the owner. Josh is the general manager. Luke is the pitching coach. Matt pitched for the team last year.

Friday, May 1, 2015

2006 Topps '52, Brent Clevlen

#103 Brent Clevlen

Here is the second card that I was able to get signed by Brent Clevlen during his time with the Wichita Wingnuts. I posted the first one earlier this year and it can be seen here.

Brent spent parts of four seasons in the Major Leagues. The first three were with the Tigers and the final one was with the Braves. He got most of his big league time in during his initial call-up in 2006. He had a good season that year as he hit .282 with a double, 2 triples, and 3 home runs. He would not get another extra base hit at that level until 2010 while with the Braves. So far, for his career, Brent is a .234 hitter over 77 at-bats.

Brent played in Wichita last year and had a smoking season. He hit an astounding .372 and hit 20 home runs and had 80 RBI. He was obviously a key component to the Wingnuts winning it all last year. He is currently playing in Mexico and hitting .307 for Puebla. Other notable names on Puebla's roster include Luke Scott, Willy Taveras, Armando Galarraga, and Miguel Tejada.

I really like rookie sets. Topps put this set out in 2006 and 2007 and, for many of the players, this was the only card ever made of them from their time in the Major Leagues (basically only non-Bowman card). But, I think Topps missed the boat on this one in two ways. First is the '52 Topps design. It is an iconic design, but it was used for the initial Topps Heritage set. Second, they put the same design out for the rookie set TWO YEARS IN A ROW. Why would they do that? Plus, to make matters worse, you practically need a magnifying glass to read the fine print on the back to see what year the card was made so you can sort them accordingly.

Topps '52- Great idea, but poor execution.