Wednesday, July 31, 2013

UFC World Tour Los Angeles 2013 7/30/13

If you noticed from the posts of me graphing the UFC 157 Open Workouts, UFC 157 Fanfest/the fight and the Arianny Celeste and Brittany Palmer appearance I'm a pretty big UFC fan. So I decided to go to the UFC World Tour Los Angeles press conference/media appearance hoping to graph some of the top fighters in the UFC. I woke up, made the drive into Los Angeles and found some parking by LA Live since the event was at Club Nokia. I had never been in Club Nokia so I wasn't sure where I'd be able to catch the fighters and found what I hoped to be a solid spot to catch the fighters.

My main goal was to get the autograph of Olympic Judo medalist and UFC Women's champion Ronda Rousey. I wasn't able to get Ronda to sign for me because despite everyone there being an elite fighter she was definitely the most popular and sought after. It was really disappointing to me to miss out on Ronda again with this being the 5th attempt to get her autograph. I broke down and eventually did get a Rousey autograph.

I did have a good amount of success though because immediately the first autograph I was able to get was a UFC legend, the Rush himself. I was able to get a Georges St. Pierre autographed 8x10 photo as my first signature of the day, definitely one of the best autographs I've gotten period, and I'm glad GSP signed first so I could not worry about getting him.
After St. Pierre signed my picture I was able to get the number contender in the light heavyweight division. Alexander Gustafsson autographed this 8x10 for me and laughed when I asked him to use some of his reach to grab my photo in the crowd, which he did and signed the photo for me.
A little bit after Alexander "The Mauler" Gustafsson signed for me his opponent the current light heavy weight champion and one the UFC's greatest champions Jon "Bones" Jones autographed this 8x10 photograph for me.
The next person to sign for me was someone I had missed out on at the UFC 157 fanfest, The Ultimate Fighter season 18 coach Miesha Tate. I ran into her while she was coming in but Miesha would only sign at the event table. Even though "Cupcake" Tate lost to Cat Zingano the right to coach the season and a title shot an injury forced Zingano out so Miesha gets another crack at Ronda and there is no love lost between the two in the bitterest rivalry in the sport. I've got autographs of most of the women now in the UFC's womens division with this Miesha Tate autographed photo but still no Rousey.
When Jon Jones finished signing UFC owner Dana White autographed this 8x10 photograph for me that I had printed out hoping to get signed when I went to UFC 157.
My last autograph of the day was GSP's opponent for the welterweight belt Johny Hendricks. He was the last fighter to leave the event and signed tons of autographs and took his time to pose for photographs with everyone that asked. He was nice enough to not only make it a Johny Hendricks autographed photo but to inscribe "Bigg Rigg" under his name on the 8x10.
The UFC World Tour is an awesome idea and I'm glad that I was able to get quality autographs from so many of the UFC's true elite fighters. I only missed out on Ronda Rousey, Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos' autographs which I think is reasonably impressive. It was a great event and I'm really happy that the tour started in Los Angeles since by the end of the tour I'm sure they're all going to be exhausted. Definitely a great way to add to my MMA/UFC autograph collection.

Monday, July 29, 2013

RBI (161) TTM Response after 1 Year...

The past few months I've given up on any TTM activity. I've gotten no responses or even return to senders so I could at least reuse my smaller return envelopes. Literally I felt like I was just throwing money out the window. I did finally receive a response recently and I will use it as some motivation to throw a few more letters out there into the world.

Former pitcher Carl Pavano responded to my TTM request and recharged my batteries to send some more requests out. Taken by the Red Sox in the 14th round of the 1994 draft Pavano was featured in the trade that sent Pedro Martinez to the Sox and him to the Expos, debuting in 1998. He had a strange history with the Yankees, but his career was highlighted by winning the 2003 World Series with the Marlins, and being a 2004 All Star. He retired with a wining record of 108-107 supported by 1091 Strikeouts. 
Pavano responded to my TTM request I sent to him care of the Twins after 1 year 5 months. I'm glad to add this Carl Pavano autographed 2011 Allen and Ginter card for me. It's the 28th response I got back from my 365 challenge.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

RBI (160) Fred Lynn...

I'm always happy when I'm able to get the autograph of a Red Sox player and I was extremely happy to get the autograph of former Red Sox star outfielder Fred Lynn.

Lynn was drafted by the Red Sox in the 2nd round of the 1973 MLB draft out of USC. He debuted for a cup of coffee in 1974 and then went on to have a historic 1975 becoming the first player to win the AL Rookie of the year and AL Most Valuable Player award in the same year. His career continued on for the California Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, and San Diego Padres with him hanging up his glove after 17 seasons in the bigs. His career .283 average drove 1111 RBI, crushed 306 Home Runs and supported a .360 OBP. He to go along with his AL ROY and MVP awards Lynn was a 9-time All Star and a 4-time Gold Glover.

He's an interesting person in All Star game history since he was not only MVP of the 1983 All Star game but is the only player to hit a grand slam in All Star game history. His 4 home runs playing as an All Star are second most in the game's history after only Stan Musial. He's played in the All Star Legends soft ball game and been a consistent contributor cranking out home runs for his team.
I was able to meet Fred Lynn twice. The first time I met him as part of the Angels 50th Anniversary celebration where he was only signing Angels promotional hats and no outside items. It was pretty disappointing to me about that since I knew Lynn would be there and had worn my Red Sox jersey for the occasion even though the Angels weren't playing the Sox that game.

I heard from a friend that Lynn was in attendance at an Angels game during the 2013 season and kept an eye out for him the whole time I was at the game. I caught him by myself while he was leaving the stadium and told him about the merciless heckling I got for wearing my Sox jersey to meet him in 2011 and he showed me he appreciated it by agreeing to sign my ball on the sweet spot then shaking my hand and saying a few kind words for wearing the jersey last time to meet him. Awesome. I'm really happy to have ran into Mr. Lynn again and I've very proud to have a Fred Lynn autographed baseball in my collection.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Autograph Collecting Essentials 3, How to get autographs at a MLB Stadium

Over the past few years I've often gotten many emails from readers asking how to get autographs at a Major League Baseball Stadium. Normally I'm asked specific questions about where to go before, during or after the game to get a player to sign at specific stadiums. I've never given out too many specifics because I tend to compare graphing to fishing. You may have your best friend who is a regular fisherman teach you how to cast but you wouldn't expect him to give up his best lures or favorite fishing holes would you? Didn't think so.

Here are a few essential basic tips though to help give you a leg up on the competition of the average casual fan trying to get a souvenir baseball signed though I wouldn't say they'd give you much of a lead over regular graphers like myself.

Timing: Get there so you're actually there while the player is available. Don't expect to score an autograph from someone if you come 5 minutes before first pitch. If you want to get a certain players autograph you should be inside while he's around. Common sense yes?

Ballhawk vs Grapher: Decide if you want a ball or an autograph. You can try to chase both but it's tough. Not many people are very good ball hawkers and graphers, choose one. If you want a bp ball then hit the outfield. Don't just hope for a foul ball to slice to you, go to where the balls are coming to you. And always take a glove if you think you're even going to try for a ball.

Priorities: If you want autographs, decide who you want. Pick a team and stick with them. Pick which player you want and stick with trying to get them.

Supplies: If you decide to spend the time to chase an autograph make sure you're equipped right. You can read the entire essentials article on your supplies here.

If you were expecting a step by step list of directions of how to get an autograph at Angel Stadium, where to get players autographs at Dodger Stadium, which hotel the Red Sox stay in, or any other information like that well then you need to realize this hobby is a lot like the game itself. You can read about it all you want but sometimes you need to get dirty and out there to the park. You may strikeout or you may hit a home run, you never know how it'll go. My streak of 144 consecutive Angel games with at least one autograph ended this season and it's likely I'll never be able to run a streak so high again. Even the best out there can't bat a thousand so the final piece of advice I'll throw out there is this. Be patient and if you work hard enough it'll pay off.

If that's too much work and you'd rather stick with how to get autographs TTM you can read my much more in depth article here.

For even more knowledge on the autograph craft I'd recommend you start to attend Autograph University a great resource for the graphing community run by the always knowledgeable Matt Raymond who has his own great stories and networked a large group of successful autograph hunters to share their knowledge for those already in the hobby or just learning.

Here's a random photo I took of Petco Park at the Padres 2013 Fan Fest because I like it. If you're interested in getting signatures in San Diego and want to know more inside tips on in person autographs at Petco Park read this post.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

RBI (159) Mike Napoli...

I was finally able to get an autograph from former Angel Catcher and first baseman Mike 'Nap' Napoli.

Nap was drafted in the 17th round of the 2000 MLB draft but didn't debut until 2006 when he stuck around immediately in the big leagues. After debuting for the Angels he switched to the divisional rival Texas Rangers which did him no favors with the fan base in Anaheim. After posting an All Star year and appearing in the World Series with the Rangers he moved to the Red Sox. While not known for a strong batting average with a career average in the .250's he maintains a reasonable OBP in the .340-.360 range by being a consistent power threat with his career .499 SLG percentage. He's been able to contribute solid production for the resurgent Red Sox who have risen from the ashes of the Bobby Valentine debacle to push again for baseball dominance. Most notably with his walk off home run against the Yankees to help finish winning over Red Sox fans.
I was able to get this Mike Napoli autographed baseball during a Red Sox vs Angels series at Angel Stadium during the 2013 season. Napoli is actually a good signer when he's back in town unlike some former Angels. He doesn't seem to mind stopping for the fans that remember him or signing Angel photos which is always nice since that's what most graphers in this area have for former Halos when they come back. You do run into some players that won't sign anything of their former team.

RBI (158) Yoenis Cespedes...

Even though he's still relatively new to the game I'm not sure I need much more of an introduction for Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes. After putting on an absolute clinic on his way to winning the 2013 Home Run Derby everyone is taking note of the Oakland A's hard hitting outfielder.

Cespedes defected from Cuba successfully in the summer of 2011 after multiple attempts to reach the United States. After his defection he signed a 4 year 36 million dollar contract with the Oakland A's. He debuted in the 2012 season and if he hadn't come onto the scene at the same time as divisional rival Mike Trout he would have easily won Rookie of the Year after powering the A's to relevance. It had often been wondered what Billy Beane could do with the A's if he had a little more money to throw at a bat and his savvy trades and big investment in Cespedes paid off for a 2012 Divisional title and a contending 2013 team.
I was able to get this Yoenis Cespedes autographed baseball during the 2013 season when the A's played the Angels at Angel Stadium. Yoenis was really nice to the fans, posing for photos while signing a healthy number of autographs. I was really surprised that he was so willing to sign at the first series since winning the 2013 Home Run Derby since many players would hold off until they could get a payday for it. I'm not sure if he'll be in the derby again considering the wrist injury he suffered immediately  when he returned to action for the A's so it's nice to get him to sign so soon after winning the derby against Bryce Harper.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mid Season Review and 2013 MLB All Star Game...

Well so far it's been a pretty outstanding first half of the season for me when it comes to graphing. I definitely haven't had too shabby start to the season and would say I'd go ahead and put myself at least on a Final Vote position for the Southern California graphing All Star team.

Highlights have been:

David Ortiz autographed baseball

Dustin Pedroia autographed jersey

Mariano Rivera autographed baseball

Kendrys Morales autographed game used baseball bat

Mike Trout autographed baseball

Of the 2013 All Star Roster I have been able to get in this year or previous years:
Mike Trout
Adam Jones
David Ortiz
Dustin Pedroia
Torii Hunter
Felix Hernandez
Justin Masterson
Max Scherzer
Mariano Rivera
Joe Nathan
Chris Tillman
Greg Holland
Grant Balfour
Clayton Kershaw
Craig Kimbrel
Edward Mujica
Sergio Romo
Jordan Zimmerman

AL Manager Jim Leyland

18 of the 78 All Stars, including the starting pitcher for the American League Max Scherzer autograph on a ball. Not a terrible number but not too great in total numbers, but I've gotten about half the American League roster and should be able to cross the 50% barrier by the end of the season. Hopefully I'll be able to knock a few more of them out this year and work on some of the National League All Stars.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

RBI (157) More Mike Trout...

One nice thing about being a grapher based in Southern California is the amount of signings in the area and the quality of team demanded by the fan bases. Right now the Angels are loaded with talent and sought after autographs, none more than rising superstar and now two time All Star Mike Trout. I've posted before about getting a Trout autographed 8x10 photograph and pulling my Trout Bowman Platinum but I was able to add another Trout autograph to my collection.

Even though I had gotten him on my 2011 team ball I needed to add a solo signed Mike Trout autographed baseball. I'm not sure you can ever really have enough Trout considering only two full seasons into his career he's a multiple time All Star, American League Rookie of the Year, and won a Silver Slugger. That's more hardware than some guys get their entire career and he's barely starting into his.
I was able to get this Mike Trout autographed baseball on the sweet spot at Angel Stadium before a game during the 2013 regular season.

Friday, July 12, 2013

RBI (156) A Holiday Josh Hamilton...

Previously I was able to get a Josh Hamilton autographed World Series baseball when he was with the Texas Rangers. Since coming over to the Angels I hadn't been able to get Hamilton to sign for me, which was really disappointing seeing as I like the former AL MVP and heard he was a reliable signer. I was however finally able to get Hamilton's autograph on the 4th of July. He signed for a good number of fans taking the time to switch to the appropriate pen or marker for people who came up to him asking for an autograph. He actually took my pen and knocked out a few autographs before he signed my baseball since the people asking for him to sign were trying to hand him a sharpie. I always like when I see a player doing that to make sure their autograph comes out nicely for the fan, and it's even nicer when the player signing is a player of that caliber.
Hamilton is known for signing for the fans and inscribing a bible verse when he gives out an autograph, on this sweet spot baseball he inscribed "Psalm 18" I was glad he put the inscription on the ball since the World Series ball didn't have one and it's a big part of his signing habit so I felt like my collection needed an inscribed Hamilton to be more complete.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

RBI (155) Dustin Pedroia...

This is definitely going to be one of my all time favorite pieces. I haven't gotten many autographed jerseys but the ones that I do have are all of players who are personal favorites of mine. When I went to college Boston I picked up a few extra shifts at my job to work my way up to a nice jersey to wear when I went to Fenway park for a game. All my hard work paid off when I was able to afford a Dustin Pedroia jersey that has become a Dustin Pedroia autographed jersey.
I was able to get Dustin to autograph my jersey when he was in Anaheim with the Red Sox to play the Angels during the 2013 season. It's a great autograph to add to my collection and made even better when you compare it to some of his others you see that it's his tough to get full signature that isn't so scrunched up and includes the dots with his jersey number. Getting this jersey signed the same weekend I was able to get a David Ortiz autographed baseball on the sweetspot made this an awesome series for me this year.

As some of you know I've been working on getting autographs on my authentic Fenway Park seat, unfortunately the powers that be at Angel Stadium decided that my seat was no longer something I could take into the park. This is only going to make working on the piece even harder and I'm concerned I won't be able to get any worthy signature on it this season. Thankfully I already got Pedroia's autograph on it so now I have two great pieces signed by him as well as a autographed Topps card I picked up at the 2010 All Star Game Fan Fest as a souvenir.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

RBI (154) David Ortiz

Big Papi. There's only one and he really doesn't need too much of an introduction. I was able to get a David Ortiz autographed baseball, and am thrilled about it. As a big Red Sox fan this is definitely going to be one of my all time favorites and something I always hold on to.

He's had countless All Star appearances, Silver Sluggers, the Hank Aaron award, the Edgar Martinez award, won the Home Run Derby in 2010 at Angel Stadium, and been a key part of the Red Sox 2 World Series championships in 2004 and 2007. I'm proud to say I was able to be there in person for Game 1 of the 2007 World Series and watched him win the 2010 Home Run Derby. Since leaving the Minnesota Twins for the Red Sox he's become a fan favorite and a dominant force in baseball as one of the most effective and feared Designated Hitters in the game.

With over 400 career Home Runs and closing in on 2000 career hits he's going to be an interesting case when it comes time for Cooperstown voters to make a decision on David Ortiz in the Hall of Fame. He's decidedly one of the top sluggers of the game, been a key to a decidedly historic ALCS and World Series run. He's popular with the media and fans so it'll be interesting how long he remains on the bubble to go in and what the final decision is.
I was able to get this David Ortiz autographed baseball when the Red Sox were in town to play the Angels during the 2013 season. Stay the same forever Papi.

Monday, July 1, 2013

RBI (153) A Character Guy...

If you've never had the opportunity to interact with starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, you're definitely  missing out. Guthrie is without a doubt one of the funniest most interesting characters in the bigs. He's not shy from clowning around with fans even though not everyone gets his sense of humor, but he's definitely one of my favorite MLB players to see around.

Guthrie was taken in the first round of the 2002 MLB draft with the 22nd pick by the Cleveland Indians who he debuted for in 2004. He stuck around the bigs after the 2006 season and has been a reliable arm to put in a rotation. More than 700 Strikeouts support his 60+ career Wins, and he's a known innings eater to keep teams in the game with a career ERA hovering around 4.20. He's pitched for the Indians, Orioles, Rockies and Royals. He's been extremely reliable for the Royals and is part of their rebuild from irrelevance.
Jeremy was nice enough to autograph this 2012 Topps Heritage card for me after an Royals vs Angel game during the 2013 season. It was pretty cool because after Jeremy kindly knocked out signing for every one that asked him he hung out catching up with some of his friends a few feet away from the rest of us graphers hanging out catching up with each other. It just goes to show you that if you're polite to a player and don't mob them they probably won't mind doing a few signatures and can act like a normal person with their own friends without having to run away. Though as a side note I have seen Jeremy run away from a kid running in a little circle until he caught him and signed for him, and yes it was funny and good natured not him being a jerk.

On the walk away from the stadium I called out to Jeremy and asked him what was the absolute worst piece of trash stadium he had ever played in. Immediately he responded "This one." Sorry Arte Moreno, but seeing as Guthrie pitched in Cleveland and Tampa Bay it sounds like the Angels have some work to do off the field.

For more hilarity to follow Jeremy Guthrie's Twitter is @TheRealJGuts