Sunday, August 26, 2012

RBI (103) Jered Weaver, No-Hitter...

I think one of the best parts about baseball is how easy it is to fall in love with the game. There are times where a fun outing to a ball game becomes moment in history and everyone holds their breath as the magic of the game captivates tens of thousands of people at once. It's a game that can mean something to someone and hold you transfixed without even realizing what's happening.

I've been present for some pretty great moments and career milestones, from Ellsbury's straight steal of home against Andy Pettite, CC Sabathia's 2000th strikeout, and Jonathan Papelbon's final appearance as a starter. But the most magical would probably have to be Jered Weaver's No Hitter of the Minnesota Twins on 5/2/12.

It was a masterful start and throughout the entire game the stadium knew something special was happening. Even after his wrist was hit by a pitch and would eventually require surgery, catcher Chris Ianetta trucked on through the game to help Weave cut through the Twins lineup. Weaver only allowed 2 base runners the entire game, a reach on a passed ball after a strikeout and a walk. When he retook the mound in the 9th the stadium alternated from a pitched cheer to a collective hush as everyone held their breath. Finally the last out was recorded by Torii Hunter on a long fly ball the right field and Weaver had done what he had flirted with so many times before.

Weaver is a very tough autograph to get. As a top end starter amongst the elite of the AL he is understandably not a guy often going out and about signing autographs. He did however have a very uncharacteristic free public autograph signing. The signing was held at Pechanga Indian Casino and was very very busy.
I arrived a little late having gone to work and zoning out on the freeway and ending up heading toward the wrong casino. By the time I realized where I was and flipped around to head the right way I was behind schedule. Luckily my friends were pretty far ahead in the line and saved a spot for me. It was a big line that wrapped around the upper level in 3 sections.
There was a VIP line that was going to start at 6:00 pm and go till 7:00 with the regular line going till 9:00, but since there were only a handful of VIPs' Weaver decided to just power through and sign for the public. When you finally got your time with the man of the hour it was a pretty amazing opportunity. The signing handlers didn't let anyone take photos of Weaver while he was signing but he was pretty personable and inscribed his no hitter at request.
Weaver was signing a little inconsistently when he would sign but not always put his number or the date for the no-hitter, but considering he ended up doing more than 600 autographs that's to be expected. I was lucky enough to get a perfect signature, with his jersey number, inscription, and the no hitter date. It's definitely a highlight piece for me especially since I was at the game. I'm very happy to have this Jered Weaver autographed baseball on the sweetspot of the ROMLB with No Hitter inscription dated 5-2-12.

Interestingly this is a game used ball from the first Angels vs Ray series in the 2012 season that was given to me by an umpire.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

RBI (102) King Felix...

No other introduction is really necessary after I say those two words to bring up the Seattle Mariners ace pitcher Felix Hernandez. The 26 year old ace is the king of the Mariners rotation and literally holds court in Seattle during his starts with a special seating section in Safeco.

Felix was signed by the Mariners at age 16 in Venezuela during the summer of 2002 and started his career with Inland Empire. By 2005 Hernandez had blown through the minors and was ready to get a taste of the show barely at age 19. 8 years later Felix stands amongst the elite of the MLB. He is a 3-time All-Star, led the AL in Wins in 2009, and won the 2010 AL Cy Young Award the same year he won the ERA Title. To tidy things up and cement his dominance in Mariners history he pitched the Mariners 1st Perfect Game in team history.

In his 9th season in the MLB and still only approaching his peak years Hernandez has dominant statistics. He is a 96-72 despite pitching for a club historically short on the offensive end. He maintains that record by having a 3.17 ERA and 1438 Strikeouts. With his best years possibly still ahead of him and multiple public statements about his comfortability in Seattle and no desire to leave Felix has the chance to be a pitcher for the ages.
During the 2012 season Felix was slated to kick off a series against the Angels in Anaheim. I was able to get Felix's warm up ball tossed to me from the bullpen after he finished warming up. The following day I was able to get Felix to sign the ball for me before the next game. I told him it was his warm up ball from the previous day, but he didn't sweetspot it. I'm not sure if it's because I wasn't a little kid or because in the game itself he gave up 5 runs but either way it's a Felix Hernandez autographed baseball on a ball he threw and it'll look great forever in my collection.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Ultimate Big League Moment, Justin Masterson

During the 2012 season, the best Big League Moment that could possibly happen occurred at Angel Stadium when the Cleveland Indians were in town to play the Angels. The Indians acquired pitcher Justin Masterson from the Boston Red Sox in the middle of the 2009 season for catcher Victor Martinez. As many of you know I'm a big Red Sox fan and Masterson was one of my favorite players on the team after he debuted on the team and went the longest debut without taking a loss at home in the franchises' history.

I went to Fenway repeatedly after he debuted to buy a player t-shirt with his name on it, and finally got one the first day they were available. I was there for his start in 2009 when Jacoby Ellsbury stole home off Andy Petitte to get the go ahead run to give Masterson the win. When he was traded to the Indians I was always sure to try to get tickets to see his starts and would wear his Red Sox shirt to show support. Even though this normally gets me plenty of pretty rude comments from Angels fans, Justin's a favorite player so I always take it.

I wore my Masterson shirt to the game and when I was getting to my seat a guy came up to me and asked if he could take a photo of my shirt. I said sure and let him take a photo of the "Masterson 63" on the back. I asked if he knew him, and he responded yes. He was his agent and he was sending the photo to Justin's wife. I couldn't resist so I asked if he could help me get Justin's autograph. At the end of the game he let me come along to wait with him since he was picking up Justin.

It was crazy to see players walking out smiling and not be shooed away or ignored when I stood there. I said goodnight to Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Perez, and Sandy Alomar Jr. as they left. The inner grapher in me was tempted to try racking up on the players as they left, but I knew the experience was a very special one so I just nodded and said goodbye to them as they walked away. Justin ended up walking out to say hi to some friends who waited after the game and signed for all the regular graphers who were waiting to get signatures. He signed multiples, was very personable sharing stories and answering questions while he signed for everyone who asked.

When he was done talking and signing for everyone Justin's agent introduced us and I got to talk to one of my favorite players uninterrupted. I shared the story of me getting his shirt in Boston and freaking out when I saw Jacoby break for home against Petitte and he laughed saying "he stumbled home." While I was talking to him I told him how I made sure to wear the shirt even though it's unpopular and right on queue an Angels fan walked out and lightly slapped me on the chest saying "Red Sox! No wonder the Angels F***ing lost" Justin looked very shocked and responded "Well goodnight to you too lady!" and I told him it was no big deal since supporting him was worth the abuse.

He said thank you for the support, autographed a ball I got from Chris Perez during BP, and took a photo with me saying photos were better than autographs anyways. Seeing as he's 6'6 and I'm 5'10 on a good day it's a pretty funny photo. It was definitely one of the best memories I've ever had and very appreciative that he and his agent made time for me so I could meet one of my favorite players.
Nowadays fans stop caring or even being polite when a player goes to another team, and sometimes I understand (Johnny Damon to the Yankees) but if the player has no choice and is traded why stop supporting them? I'll always support Masterson's career and hope he continues to have a bright one.

I'm very happy to have this Justin Masterson autographed baseball in collection and I'm excited he was finally named to the All Star team during the 2013 season so I had Masterson autograph a jersey.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Big League Moment (8) Ian Kennedy

During the 2012 season the Angels played the Diamondbacks as part of inter-league play. Diamondbacks ace Ian Kennedy was kind enough to share a little bit about TTM while he signed a few autographs on his way into the stadium.

I said thank you for signing on his way into the stadium and Ian said no problem, so I mentioned that I was happy to get his autograph since I had mailed him a request last year at the stadium. He laughed kind of sheepishly and said "Not everything gets to me and I don't really sign during the season, but I try to get some in the off season. My wife has a big stack of it at home for me so I don't lose it. You know who does sign his mail though...but don't tell him I told you or I'll get in trouble."

I thought it was pretty awesome of Ian to be honest about his TTM signing habits and I really appreciated him passing along a tip for another player he knew who did sign TTM during the season. I can't share the player here since Kennedy asked me not, but the whole experience was cool. There have been a few readers who weren't too thrilled I didn't spill the beans on who Kennedy tipped out as a reliable signer but I've got to respect what was asked of me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

RBI (101) Er-nasty...

This home stand I decided to continue with my latest project since this is the Angels' longest home stand for the rest of the season. Having already made a custom poster for slugger Mark Trumbo, I designed a poster for Angels pitcher and closer Ernesto 'Er-nasty' Frieri.

Ernie was a less heralded but very significant acquisition made by Angel GM Jerry Dipoto during the 2012 season to help stabilize the bullpen, stealing him from the San Diego Padres for Alexi Amarista. Frieri is a native of Colombia and I reflected his heritage when designing Ernie's poster in the color scheme using the same colors used in the Colombian flag.

Ernie's a big favorite around the stadium because of his fan friendly attitude, generosity during BP, willingness to sign, and breakout numbers. When Frieri was was acquired he set historic numbers by not allowing a hit or run in 13 innings in his first 13 appearances. He has thrived in the big pressure situations and even made the ballot for the Final Vote for the All-Star game but didn't stand a chance against Ranger's star Yu Darvish. Ernie's one of my favorite new players for the team and is the kind of personable guy that makes me know I'll root for him the rest of his career.
I think one of the best things about hunting autographs is the story behind every signature. Some are less personal but some are just great. This is definitely one of my all time favorite stories.

While working on the poster I took to twitter and tweeted the work in progress to him (Ernesto Frieri twitter is) @ernasty49 and was excited to see him reply that he liked it so I told him when it was finished I'd bring it to the stadium. Ernie and Peter Bourjos had a free signing together but I wasn't able to make it down since the poster wasn't ready for pick up from the printer. I took the completed poster down to the stadium and showed it to Ernie when he was out for BP.

When Ernie spotted the poster he jogged over to say hi and thanked me for making the poster. He did a quick fist bump before saying he couldn't sign during BP but after he would sign one for me. When BP ended he called out to me to head to the dugout. I started to walk toward the dugout but knew I was going to hit problems since I didn't have a ticket to get behind the dug out. Now being a usual at the stadium has some downsides occasionally since a usher immediately walked to me with his hand up and kept telling me to go back to another section very rudely. I tried pointing at Ernie and saying he told me to go there, but the usher wouldn't listen. Now the part that gets me is they never asked for my ticket. I actually have very good seats but because I'm there so often they assume I have bad seats and wander the stadium instead of having a very nice season ticket.

The usher repeated again to leave his section when Ernie walked up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder and told him to get out of the way. Needless to say the usher was very surprised and not happy but moved so I could talk to Ernie. I gave Ernie a copy of the poster for him to keep and he said thank you again before signing the poster with his full signature and inscribing "Ernasty!" under his name and number. I told Ernie thank you for giving me such a great signature and am very happy with how my Ernesto Frieri autographed poster turned out.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

RBI (100) Mark Trumbo...

Most of you who are regular readers probably have a pretty good inkling that I have a short attention span. I'm one of those guys with a million different projects going at the same time to keep myself occupied. Well I've decide to try out a new project within this hobby. I tried to design custom cards, but kept feeling like I was ripping off Topps or my fellow collectors. What could I use my already existing skills to do that would be fun, challenging, baseball related, and contribute to my hobby?

Welcome to my poster project. I'm not sure how far I'll take this, but while I'm on this kick why not dive right in. He's the half of 'TnT' who hit's Trum-bombs/Trumbo Jacks, Angels slugger Mark Trumbo is one of the first results of my new project.

Trumbo was taken by the Angels in the 18th round of the 2004 draft and debuted as a pinch hitter for Mike Napoli in 2010. With Napoli traded away and Kendrys Morales not healthy from his freak injury after a walk off grand slam a strong spring propelled Trumbo to the 2011 starting 1st baseman position and his rookie season was incredibly strong with Jeremy Hellickson stealing his Rookie of the Year award in the season's final stretch.

2012 saw the addition of Albert Pujols to the Angels but this didn't slow Trumbo down as he finds at-bats playing 3rd, DH, and both corner outfield spots. He was a 2012 All-Star and selected to compete in the Home Run Derby. He's going to be a big part of the Angels' future and I'm sure he'll keep knocking Trumbo Jacks out of the Big A.
Despite being a budding young star who is very popular due to his breakout 2011 and All Star 2012, Trumbo is actually one of the best signers on the Angels, trying to do at least a few autographs almost every home game. Because he signs so much and I got him a few times last year, I've tried to avoid getting Mark to sign for me too much so he wouldn't burn out on giving me his autograph. I got this Mark Trumbo autographed custom 11x17 poster before a game at Angel Stadium.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

RBI (99) The Undisputed Champ..

I know there are several readers out there who also read David's and Zim's blog since they graph more than just baseball like I tend to focus on. One thing that I enjoy doing is seeing what other celebrity's are at the Angel game since there tend to be a random cool person at least once a home stand. LA may get it's notables but so far I've been able to meet Tommy Lasorda, Jon Daniels, and this time former WBC Welterweight Champion Victor 'Vicious' Ortiz at an Angels game.

With a professional record of 29-4-2, Ortiz is a top contender winning the Welterweight title in ESPN's fight of the year over Andre Berto in 2011. He then had a very controversial fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. where the fierce southpaw lost the title by a KO that split boxing fans over the fight's outcome. His follow up fight for the vacant WBC Silver Welterweight title against Josesito Lopez was stopped as Ortiz's jaw was broken and he couldn't come back out of his corner to continue the fight.

Vicious was actually really nice and was taking photos and signing autographs for any fans that come by to wish him well and meet him. I had him sign my ticket from the game since I was out of balls and didn't realize he would be at the game so I didn't bring a photo or anything for him.
Ortiz is a top contender and I'm sure when he's healthy he will get another shot at the title. I'm actually a big fan of boxing so this was definitely a pleasant surprise to meet him and score his autograph. He was cool enough to inscribe "Vicious" under his name.

Friday, August 3, 2012

RBI (98) Jon Daniels

Once again a post with no fancy title for a guy who really needs none. Texas General Manager Jon Daniels is in all honesty a GM that I admire a lot and find inspiring. Hired by Texas as the youngest GM in MLB history at the age of 28 in 2005, Mr. Daniels has turned the ragtag Rangers into a contender.

Daniels began his baseball career as an intern for the Rockies in 2001 and at the end of the that season was hired by the Rangers as Assistant Director of Baseball Operations.  By 2004 he was promoted to Assistant General Manager and when the current GM John Hart stepped down became GM.

Daniels' style is aggressive and he is known for making plenty of headlines with big and unexpected trades and acquisitions. He has made landmark trades moving stars such as Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira, and Adrian Gonzalez while landing Josh Hamilton, Cliff Lee, and Mike Napoli. He has been managing a farm system that has developed or produced Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Elvis Andrus, and Ian Kinsler. His moves have paid off after years of setting the stage to be a team that has had consecutive World Series appearances and is one of the most dangerous line ups in baseball.
Mr. Daniels was in Anaheim to watch a recent Angels-Rangers series and I was able to get him to sign this ball tossed to me during BP by Tanner Scheppers when I saw him during the game. The sweet spot was a little rough and I thought it was a cool idea to have Daniels sign under the MLB logo since he is a GM and not a player.

This is one of my favorite autographs since I really do think it's amazing what he has accomplished at such a young age and now works alongside Nolan Ryan to churn out consistently strong teams.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

RBI (97) The Price Was Right...

Well Ray's starting pitcher David Price was right on awesome when he came out to sign autographs before a game against the Angels. Price was a stand up guy and very fan friendly when he came over before pre-game warm ups to sign.

Price was taken by the then Devil Rays with the 1st pick of the 2007 MLB draft. He has been a top of the line starter since he broke into the Majors with an electric debut making headlines in the 2008 postseason with dominating appearances. So far into his career he has continued that dominance being a 3-time All-Star (starting the 2010 game for the AL), and finishing 2nd in the 2010 AL Cy Young race while winning the Warren Spahn Award given to the top lefty in the bigs.

His career numbers so far have shown the Ray's 1st pick was a perfect one as he has a 55-30 record supported by a 3.23 ERA and 661 Strikeouts. Price continues to improve with every season and is only at his age 26 season in 2012 despite being a standout leader for the tough Rays staff. The Rays will have some difficult decisions to make as he approaches the 2013 off season with his first year of arbitration.
I was able to get David to sign this 2012 All Star Game ball right below the logo. I'm really getting into having commemorative balls signed and really liked this year's design. The blue stitching on the ball looks nice and I prefer the blue inked logo over the years it's black since I've seen some logos fade over time. Plus I think it's neat to have an All Star ball from the year that he won the Cy Young Award. Having an David Price autographed baseball is definitely something I'm very happy to have in my collection.
David Price also autographed this 2012 Allen and Ginter What's In A Name insert card for me. I'm a really big fan of these inserts because I think they're a perfect card. You have a almost full copy of a mini, the player's full name, and a nice font type with a good looking border on the sweet A&G card stock. It'll be tough to get a lot of these signed since they're mainly superstars but it'll be cool to see what I can get done.

Edit: Congrats to Price winning the 2012 AL Cy Young award, it makes me even happier I was able to get him this year especially on the 2012 All Star ball since it's the year he won the Cy Young. It's also the first time a Rays player ever won the Cy Young so congratulations to the franchise for scouting and developing such a strong player.