Friday, December 23, 2011

RBI (50) A dream Weaver...

Or at least it the level of pitching he has on the mound is the thing of dreams. Jered "Weave" Weaver, resident Angel ace has always been a tough cookie both on the mound for hitters and as a signer for collectors.

Weaver was taken in the 1st round of the 2004 draft by the Angels as the 12th pick, having slid due to clubs being wary of the ability to sign him. The Angels took a gamble on the Southern California native and Long Beach State product and it went down to the wire before they were able to sign him. The gamble has undoubtedly paid off for the Angel organization, and he has been a bargain for the level of pitcher they signed.

Despite being in a rotation featuring Dan Haren, CJ Wilson, and Ervin Santana, Weave is the undisputed ace. In six seasons so far with the Angels he has an 82-47 record supported by 977 Strikeouts and a 3.31 ERA. Weaver is already a 2 time All-Star and led the American League in Strikeouts in 2010. He finished 5th in AL Cy Young voting in 2010, and improved to 2nd in 2011, only being topped by a historic performance by Justin Verlander. Having signed a massive extension those impressive statistics and accomplishments will only continue to improve as Weaver remains with the Angels at least through 2016.

What is also impressive is the amount of charity and community work that Weaver is involved with. Weaver has long been a ambassador for the Special Olympics Southern California and makes repeated appearances in support of the organization and youth charities.

As with all players of that elite caliber, getting an autograph can be difficult but I have been able to be successful on occasion. At the press conference where Weaver and the Angels announced his extension I was able to get Weaver to sign this 2006 Topps Rookie Card.
When I was at the CJ Wilson and Albert Pujols press conference, Weaver walked over to the crowd before he spoke to the media and started to sign. Already having the rookie card signed, I opted for something more themed and asked Weave to sign this Topps 2011 All Star card since Weave had the distinction of starting the 2011 All Star game.
I'm definitely proud to have both of these cards in my collection and glad to have Weaver leading the Angel pitching staff for years to come.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

RBI (49) Memorabilia from a career 1st...

Though it most certainly will not be the last. I'm not quite sure if it's shown but I am a big fan of Angel center fielder Peter Bourjos. Not only was Pete my first TTM success (visible on the link) but he's an Angel product through and through. In person he's a great signer and I really do enjoy getting to interact with Pete at the stadium and he's been nice enough to sign a few things for me.

I'd have to say the greatest thing that I've been able to get Pete to sign is a pretty significant piece of memorabilia from his career. I was able to purchase his Game Used Jersey from his first career MLB Jackie Robinson Day. Certified by MLB and covered in dirt from US Cellular Field. Pete went 1 for 3 with a Walk in the Angels win.

I was really excited to be able to get Bourjos' jersey because in 2010 I could tell that this would be a breakout season for him. While I do think he was robbed of the 2011 Gold Glove in center field, I'm sure he's going to get plenty of hardware throughout his career.

Here you can see that Pete was nice enough to take the time and put his full signature and number on the front of the jersey number. It's awesome to have this one of a kind Peter Bourjos autographed jersey in my collection and is a piece I'll always treasure.
You can see the back of the jersey with the Angel patches for the 2011 season, the traditional "A" altered so the halo would be gold for the 50th Anniversary instead of silver.
Again you can see the anniversary gold Halo, club house Sharpied number on the inside, and the sweet dirt Pete picked up during the game.
Definitely one of the best highlight pieces I'll ever be able to have in my collection. Here's to a promising career of Peter roaming center field and tearing up the base paths Jackie Robinson Day after Jackie Robinson Day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

RBI (48) One heck of a TTM Barr...

As the holiday season rolls around I wasn't sure if there would be an increase in TTM response or a decrease as people became busy with family functions and holiday celebrations. In the case of former pitcher Jim Barr, it was speedy holiday cheer he sent me.

A California native Barr was a 3rd round draft pick by the San Francisco Giants in the 1970 June Secondary out of USC. He actually has the distinction of being able to play almost his entire baseball career for a California team since he went from USC to the San Francisco Giants to the California Angels and back to the San Francisco Giants. There was a brief stint with the White Sox farm club the Edmonton Trappers, but never a MLB appearance and California won't hold it against him.

Barr was a consistent producer for the teams he played for regardless of the role he filled. In the rotation or bullpen he was a consistent out producer, setting a record for number of consecutive batters retired in 1971 until Mark Buehrle broke his mark of 41 in 2009. By the time he finally hung up his glove he would have a 101-112 career record across 454 Games Appeared and 252 Starts with a 3.56 ERA. Of those 252 Starts he would have 64 Complete Games, an astounding 25% of his starts ending with him still on the mound. His time as an occasional closer would also be successful as he would have 12 Saves spread across his career as managers entrusted him with the game despite only modest Strikeout numbers.

Mr. Barr is known to be a very active in helping youth grow an appreciation for the game. For 16 years he was the pitching coach for Sacramento State University helping mold young pitchers with his strong work ethic. He's kindness and passion for the game is clearly evident in his responses to my letter:

What was it like to get your 100th Win with the Giants?
For some pitchers the milestone is fleeting and a big focus, for Barr he demonstrates why he was such a great clubhouse guy throughout his career, "I never knew I was at that mark until reading about it - I was trying to focus on my next win an how the team did."

How did you prepare to transition from starting to closing?
Most starters have their pre-start ritual every 5th day, but as a reliever there's no luxury of having time to prepare to come into the game. Barr not shutted between the rotation and bullpen throughout his career but did it effectively, "The biggest difference is mental. You prepare yourself to pitch every day as a reliever."

What do you consider to be your career year?
Consistently a club focused player he writes, "1976 was good but I think my most productive year to the team was 1972" selecting his 8-10 record with a 2.87 ERA over 44 games and 18 Starts with 2 Saves over the 15-12, 2.89 ERA, 252.1 inning full year he spent in Giants rotation.

What was your favorite city to play in as a visitor?
Surprisingly despite all his years in the MLB's western divisions, "Chicago probably was my most favorite."

How were you able to consistently throw Complete Games?
Of his 252 starts not only were 64 Complete Games but 20 of those games were Shut Outs, "Being able to focus till the end - Not just till I get tired. Pitching well to the end was more important than just 5-6-7 good innings."

Jim Barr autographed my Topps 1981 card I got through the Diamond Giveaway and respond to the accompanying letter sent to his home address in only 7 Days.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Pujols-Wilson Press Conference...RPS (1)...

Well folks it's been a long time aspiration for me to get a better camera to help document my adventures in the baseball collecting world. I figured there's no better debut to the RBI Photo Series (RPS) than the epic Angels press conference introducing Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson as members of the Angel organization.

I arrived at Angel Stadium at approximately 9:00 AM and made my way to the press conference set up in front of the stadium between the two famous hats. The stadium crews were setting up the stage area still and I was able to get a decent spot by the rail.

When things were finally ready to start the special guests came out from inside the stadium and owner Arte Moreno emerged to the waiting throngs of fans. He came out and took a well deserved victory lap around the barricades giving fans high fives and shaking their hands.

There were plenty of Angel notables on hand including Dan Haren, Torii Hunter, Jered Weaver, Bobby Grich, Mark Gubicza, Dino Ebel, Steve Soliz, and Mickey Hatcher.

There were remarks and introductions by multiple organization members from Victor Rojas, Arte Moreno, Mike Scioscia, and Jerry Dipoto.

CJ Wilson was the first player introduced followed by Albert Pujols.

Just one big happy Halo family for the next 5-10 years. Not too shabby.
I hope you all enjoy the photos and the future photo series that will make guest spots here on the blog. I do request though if you do share or use these photos you use them for personal use and not for any commercial purposes. And please don't edit the RBI tag from the image.

I was able to get autograph's at the press conference, scoring a Mike Scioscia autograph, Jerry Dipoto and Jered Weaver autograph on their way out.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

RBI (47) This TTM Bell finally rang...

And it appears he also rang the cash register and will take whole truckloads of millions from the Miami Marlins in the coming season. Of course I'm referring to closing stalwart Heath Bell, who is quietly known as a reliable signer in person and TTM.

The Southern California native Bell was signed by the New York Mets as an Amateur free agent in 1998. He wouldn't make it to the big show until 2004 and would shuttle between the minors and Major League club for 3 seasons. Finally the Mets opted to trade the little used Bell to the San Diego Padres where he would become setup man for likely Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman.

As a member of the Padres he became a quick fan favorite known for his energy and antics. From his trademark Yoda Star Wars backpack to carry gear to the bullpen to his running full speed to the mound to lock down a save, Bell is definitely a presence in the clubhouse and on the field. During the 2011 All-Star Game weekend Bell was quoted as saying he was barred from signing autographs during the on field activities and gave a replica of his bag filled with previously autographed cards and balls to young fans in the stands asking for his autograph.

When Hoffman departed Bell became the Padres closer and he demonstrated the dominance he learned from watching Hoffman for two seasons. By the end of his tenure in San Diego he would have 134 Saves with a 2.53 ERA as his Padre career line. So far he has been elected to 3 consecutive All-Star games and twice been the NL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year.  While he does have markedly dominant stats at home in San Diego, his road numbers are still very strong and I'm sure Bell has the intensity to work to make the best of his new home park to continue his success as a closer. After watching for so many seasons Trevor Hoffman's career reaching it's pinnacle I'm confident that Bell will apply the same work ethic and be as dominant for the Marlins.

Mr. Bell was kind enough to autograph both of these 2011 Topps cards that I sent to him at Petco Park. Normally I don't send out multiple cards to players, but the second is a team card of the Padres and I liked his signature celebratory yelling face too much to not include it with my request. Heath's not just quick to the mound as he signed both of the cards and mailed them back to me in only 22 Days during the season.