Thursday, December 27, 2012

Autograph Collecting Essentials 2, Collecting TTM

Hi everyone, I've been getting a few questions regarding how to collect autographs Through The Mail (TTM). I thought I'd go ahead and share some of the things I've learned from my time as a TTM collector. I follow a pretty standard formula for my TTM stuff. Hopefully this will be an easy guide on how to start collecting autographs for beginners. So one more time, if you're wondering how to get autographs TTM. Here's how:

The address:

If I'm mailing a current or former player who works for the team at a stadium I address the envelope like:

Mr. Current Player
c/o the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 
2000 Gene Autry Way
Anaheim, CA

If I'm mailing a retired player at their home address it's just a standard address label:

Mr. Awesome Retiree
1234 Not Real Drive
Fake City, CA

The Cards:
I know plenty of people who send a stack of cards through the mail but I tend to keep the number at 1-2. Some people get lucky with their large number of cards while some get 1 and the rest of the cards returned. On occasion the extra cards are unreturned and the player has added to his own collection. I know many collectors don't mind or even encourage the player to add to their own collection but it really depends on if your collection size or budget can afford you sending your extras to the player.

I've run into plenty of players in person and read about their signing habits online where they enjoy adding to their own collection or will reward fans with cards they've received from other collectors. For instance I was at an in person autograph signing for a player who played in the MLB for several seasons for some popular clubs but he wasn't necessarily a superstar. He came to the signing prepared to sign anything for those who came but also had a stack of easily 150 of his cards from various teams and sets. I'm fairly certain the duplicates collectors sent him to sign he ended up signing and giving out to fans who came unprepared to meet him. Personally I have no issue with that and hope my extra Topps card can be a memory as the first piece of a collection for a kid who met his first big leaguer and walked out with not just a stadium giveaway hat signed but a nice clean autograph on a vintage Topps card.

Inside the envelope:

First a letter saying hello and explaining why I'd like the players autograph. Make it personal and prove why you're interested in that specific players autograph instead of just adding to your stack.

Second the card I'd like signed. I don't always send my best card of the player as I'd rather not lose a Bryce Harper Rookie Card to the US Postal system or water damage when I can hold it and hope to get the valuable rookie card signed in person. Once again depends on your own collection and preferences.

Third a index card next to the baseball card to help strengthen the letter to resist bends and creases. Especially useful if you're sending vintage cards or card stock products like Heritage and Gypsy Queen where the edges can bend easily.

Fourth a smaller envelope that fits inside a standard size envelope. Get the nonlick self seal ones that you only have to remove the sticker so it seals, I've learned players and especially the retirees appreciate it.

Be sure that all your envelopes sent have appropriate postage attached. I use forever stamps to ensure that the postage is always correct, especially considering how often postage has risen recently.

Some of my best TTM autographs are Whitey Ford, Craig Kimbrel and Billy Wagner.

And that's really ttm. If you have any more questions on how to collect some autographs feel free to let me know via email. If  you're interested in how to get an autograph yourself in person at a MLB stadium you can read my article with a few tips here.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

RBI (116) Vintage Prospecting...

One thing I definitely enjoy getting signed would be the prospect, rookie, or 1st cards of players. It's nice to note the beginning of a players career with their first card of note. This is especially fun for me to do for players whose cards are vintage at this point since it's more difficult to track them down than current rookies.

Jim Anderson was drafted by the California Angels in the 2nd round of the 1975 MLB Draft. He cruised through the minors to debut with the Angels in 1978. He was able to play almost every position which helped the .218 hitter play 419 MLB games from '79-81 and '83-'84. He would debut for the Angels as shortstop but appear at 3rd base, second base, catcher, and an outfielder by the end of his career.
Mr. Anderson was kind enough to sign his 1979 Topps prospect card for me as part of the Angels 50th Anniversary celebration. He had his family with him and mentioned to what I believe was his daughter that this is the card he had mentioned earlier. I'm assuming he was explaining to her which card was his rookie card. Dave Frost also appeared as part of the alumni appearances but since I didn't have any idea of how to get Bob Slater I opted to not have Frost sign the prospect card as it'd be a project I started that never finished.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Balk (15) - Rookie graphing...

For those of you interested in following a pretty hardcore grapher in the LA area I'd recommend the more recent blog MC's Autograph Signings run by a pretty talented young grapher Matt C. He covers baseball, basketball, hockey, and football so for those of you looking for more regular content than my worked induced semi-hiatus I recommend you take a glance over at his blog.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Balk (14) A work in progress

Well like I said earlier when defining my off season goals I decided that I'd use the off season to start assembling projects to work on getting signed during this coming season. I've been able to find an autograph project for the NBA (Matt Barnes' practice jersey) but it's taken some time to find something for baseball season.

Thankfully the holiday season took care of that for me. I was able to pickup a custom piece of wood from the Orange County based Trinity Bat Company on a pretty decent sale. The fine folks at Trinity have made custom bats used by Adrian Gonzalez, Tony Gwynn Jr., Hank Conger and Mark Trumbo. This is the model used by Gonzo, and I had my bat made to the specifications of a game used Trumbo bat I saw online to give it an authentic MLB feel.

It's engraved RBI Collecting and I'm sure the Trinity folks got a smile out of that thinking I was some Sunday league player being a little over anxious when naming my bat.

I'm looking forward to working on getting my first bat signed. I'm not sure what my requirements will be for to add a player on the bat, but I'll definitely collect multiple signatures on it. The chance to meet a Hall of Famer is too rare to make it a pure HOF bat, but I've seen a few out there and they're pretty impressive projects. Considering it's a legit custom bat I'm fairly certain they'd have to at the least have been named an All-Star. Anything beyond that I'll have to keep thinking about it.


Monday, November 19, 2012

RBI (115) Meeting Alien Ant Farm...

Regular readers know I have a huge soft spot for adding the hometown successes to my autograph collection. Keeping up with my offseason off topic autographs I decided to post more of the local guys who made it big.

Rock band Alien Ant Farm is pretty well known as the band that did basically the best rock cover ever of a song, turning Michel Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" into a rock anthem for the past decade. They've also however released quite a few albums and have always stayed true to their roots. For their fourth album "Up In The Attic" they released the record with a celebratory concert and autograph signing in Riverside, CA in the parking lot of the local hangout spot by UCR.

I had seen AAF live before because they kept close ties with the local rock radio station and the summer before had preformed as the headliner for a local music concert festival. I had attended events and local concerts covered by the radio station really often so through mutual friends I met the station photographer. Long story short at the record release he saw me and took me backstage to meet the band before the show. It was awesome. I'll admit I was pretty nervous as a barely graduated teenager hanging out with rockstars and their girl friends talking about how I enjoyed their music and getting tips from their guitar player on how to play on something more expensive than my life.
After I got to meet them I went back to the front to watch the show and it was great. They're actually really good live performers and can make every track really enjoyable. After they preformed there was an autograph signing inside the record store if you bought the CD. I had band members Dryden Mitchell, Joe Hill, Tye Zamora, and Mike Cosgrove sign a flyer for the CD release and the back of the CD jacket. They also signed a large poster for me but I gave that to a friend who also really likes the band but couldn't make it to the show. I figured 2 Alien Ant Farm autographs and getting to meet the band was more than enough for me and he could have the nice poster.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

RBI (114) Practice Makes Perfect...

Or at the very least it helps you kick around the NBA for a while. I went to the Clippers vs. Bulls game at Staples Center and was able to purchase Small Forward Matt Barnes' Los Angeles Clippers practice jersey.

Barnes was a 2nd round pick out of UCLA but was repeatedly cut and didn't make his NBA debut until 2004 with the Clippers. A bumpy start to his career finally leveled off and he has been able to find regular playing time since 2006. He has been a strong addition for teams playing at a high level signing with the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, and the Clippers during their time as playoff contenders.
I was happy to pick up the jersey and now need to be on the lookout for a chance to get Barnes to sign it. Since I'm still not the greatest at NBA signings anyone who spots one of Barnes please let me know. On a side note it is kind of funny that I picked up the Barnes jersey since he was the best player available seeing as the past few seasons he's been a Laker who I've actually disliked. All's forgiven as long as he keeps playing tough for the Clippers.

UPDATE: I was able to get the Barnes jersey autographed at an in store appearance.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Balk (13) 2012 Awards

Well I think it's pretty interesting that the guy behind this season's "The Catch" didn't win a Gold Glove. Frankly I thought he was a lock for the Center Field Rawlings Gold Glove considering how many highlight reels he made this year. Personally I think it's good for the Angels he didn't win his first yet seeing as it makes it easier to put Peter Bourjos in center with less fuss seeing as Bourjos is an overall better center fielder. Yeah yeah Trout's more exciting, but Pete makes plays look boring because he gets better reads and is fast enough to be sitting waiting for the same balls Trout has to dive for. In right field Trouty will earn plenty of awards.

One thing Trouty did collect though was the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year award. I've gotten a few Trout's signed and I think I'll just post the link to the 8x10 he signed here. Okay I can't just do that to you guys, I'll have to repost this 2010 Bowman Platinum autograph of the ROY Flying Fish.
I'm sure that people are more surprised by Bryce Harper collecting the NL Rookie of the Year since Wade Miley put up such a strong finish. Sorry guys, but hype machines do end up working on occasion and Harper was red hot to help clinch the Nationals bid for the playoffs. I don't have a Harper autograph, so I settled for a graded 10 rookie card of him. I'd post a photo of it, but this post belongs to the fish. Sorry Bryce, but I'm going to be a clown bro.

Now on an unrelated note, I'd like to bring notice to this post at Baseball By The Letters regarding Virgil Trucks. Those of you familiar with TTM know he is an all star veteran signer. Or was. Health issues has unfortunately made it so Mr. Trucks is no longer able to correspond via mail. Mr. Trucks has been an amazing ambassador for baseball, and I as a fan owe him much for his kindness.

Per his request I am going to not only write a letter to Bud Selig, but also will be writing a letter and email to the Detroit Tigers trying to gain more support for at least a nice letter to Mr. Trucks offering their best wishes. We collectors owe him that much, or at least I do.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Balk (12) Off Season Goals

Well now that baseball is over it's time for some off season goals for myself.

Now that work has lightened up I'm hoping to power my way through a closer attempt at my 365. That's goal number one, first and foremost.

Secondly I'd like to pick up my other sport graphing by finding at least 2 events that can increase my collection of NBA and NFL autographed photos.

Third I'd like to track down some more memorabilia to have as goals to get signed during next season. It was satisfying finally being successful in getting my Erick Aybar to sign his Spring Training jersey, so I need to find some more things along those lines to work on.

Fourth I want to continue my poster project and design more ahead of time for specific visiting players so I'm not in a rush to design and print them. I'd like to have at least 10 posters designed for incoming players.

Well see how that goes. It's a process.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

RBI (113) An Odd Giant...

If you haven't noticed I'm starting to get a bit more free time so I'm trying to stay current with baseball as the World Series begins. Pitching tonight in a historic Game 1 where Pablo Sandoval hit at least 3 Home Runs and is 4-4 so far in the night is a giant amongst Giants, but they still call him "Tiny" Tim "The Franchise" Lincecum.

Timmy was taken multiple times in the MLB draft but only signed after he was taken 10th overall by the San Francisco Giants in 2006. He made his debut for the Giants in 2007 as a 24 game starter. From 2008 to 2011 Tim was beyond dominant for the Giants being named a 4-time All Star, winning back to back Cy Young Awards and helping the Giants franchise win their first world series in San Francisco. 2012 hasn't been kind to Timmy as evident by him pitching in Game 1 of the the 2012 World Series out of the bullpen opposed to starting the game like in 2010. His ERA, inning pitched, and strikeout number are well below his career norms, likely due to a decline in velocity to his fastball.

While some are wondering if the franchise can ever be the same, I wonder if he even has to be. Veteran pitcher Tim Hudson had some advice that I believe to be quite true and reflects the idea Steve McCatty recently talked about while discussing his Washington Nationals pitching staff. Strikeouts are attractive, make highlight reels, and fill stat books. They also raise pitch counts and don't necessarily win games. Outs do.

Lincecum has outstanding off speed stuff that can crush opposing batters so long as he throws his slower fastball with control instead of trying to blow through guys and still missing the strike zone or giving up hits. Establishing the strike zone with more control so he can pull the string for weak groundouts with his deceptive off speed stuff will make Timmy's career rebound. Tiny Tim's coming up for a Giant rebound I think and just by the floor of this year and the massively high ceiling he has if he starts to control his fastball more can set him up for a steal of a Comeback Player of the Year award.
Lincecum signed this for me during interleague play during the 2012 season at Angel Stadium. I was really excited to get his autograph and when he saw the Gypsy Queen he was shocked at how nice it looked and he thought it was one of his best. I was surprised he didn't know what it looked like and asked if he didn't see his cards. I guess Topps doesn't show the players what they're going to look like because he responded "No man I never see my cards." I asked if he wanted to see his All Star card from 2011 and he said yeah after I sign for the rest of the crowd. Tim signed down the line and then signed back up to me and took the card to check it out. He thought it was a funny photo of him and signed it for me. It was a quick encounter but definitely awesome.

Congrats to Tim Lincecum for throwing his no hitter and it makes these Tim Lincecum autographed baseball cards even more awesome to have in my collection.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

RBI (112) A Post Season Regular...

It struck me as unusual that this October Johnny Damon was no where to be found. Damon has easily been one of the more popular players in the MLB as he bounced around team to team throughout his remarkable 18 year career.

Taken in the 1st round of the 1992 draft by the Kansas City Royals, Damon debuted quickly in 1995. After 6 years in Kansas he was sent to Oakland where he had a strong year that netted him a large contract with the Boston Red Sox. He left the Sox after 4 seasons infamously to cut his trademark locks for the New York Yankees for 4 seasons before being a gunslinger for Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland. He is a 2-time All Star and won 2 World Series Championships, one of the most memorable in sports history with the 2004 Red Sox and then one with the Yankees.

He sits at 2769 hits, 235 Home Runs, 1668 Runs scored, 1139 RBI's driven in and 408 Steals. His career .284 average goes along with a robust .352 OBP. While his home run numbers aren't overly impressive for having a 18 season career his 522 doubles and 109 Triples means 631 of his 2534 non-home run hits were for extra bases. For someone who batted leadoff or in the upper end of the order for most of his career Damon was hitting for extra bases at a clip of 1:4 hits or basically almost one a night. Not too shabby and it could be one reason that helped his teams appear in October for almost half his career.
Interestingly I wasn't the one to get this autograph. I was out in the outfield hunting for baseballs and had forgotten this team card and sharpie with my parents. Seeing him hanging out around the fans my mom actually went down the line and got Damon to sign this 2011 Topps team card for me. I was definitely excited when I found out she got it for me seeing as his importance to the '04 Sox.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

RBI (111) Johnny Cupcakes...

Continuing on with my little bit of off mainstream sports hit I decided to post another autograph I got from the world of clothing. Johnny Cupcakes is a Boston based designer who has done collaborations with top notch companies like Nickelodeon, Hello Kitty, and always manages to add a whimsical component to every piece.

The signature logo of the company is a cupcake with crossbones underneath. It's playful and gives plenty of different spin off ideas to have a pretty fun line of t-shirts. They've opened stores in Boston, Los Angeles, and London all the while maintaing a sense of exclusivity by limiting the number of shirts produced and hand numbering various products. A regional theme is kept with the shirts at each store as playoff seasons typically result in local teams colors being produced for sports fans.

The owner Johnny is a pretty amusing prankster who likes to leave presents for his customers so an in store purchase may result in opening your box to reveal a classic 90's TV show trading card or free stickers and buttons. His fun personality is probably why bands such as Gym Class Heroes and Four Year Strong are supporters of the brand, showing up randomly to visit the stores, events, or appearing in internet commercials/promotional photos.
I had Johnny Cupcakes autograph this postcard advertising the grand opening of his store in Los Angeles when I ran into him while at the Boston store for the release of a new limited shirt. It's a little tough to see since he carried a silver sharpie and signed across part of the grey background but he also drew the cupcakes logo under his name. It's random but I do enjoy little postcard prints like this or the KIC Spacey print since they're fun to frame and quickly interchangeable.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

RBI (110) HUGE Hit...

That's not just my opinion over this autograph either. I know we all have our different niches in the autograph community and one of mine happens to include the owners of various companies. It's not just your run of the mill company that I'm interested in though.

I am a fan of the clothing brand The Hundreds. Those of you who read my blog and are younger probably already know the brand from personal experience, and those sports fans a little out of that demographic have more than likely seen it's designs somewhere or may recognize their little logo. One of the owners of the brand is actually from my home town and graduated from a rival high school. So not only do I like the clothing, but I always tend to root for the local guys.

As the brand expanded they added to existing stores in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and opened one in Santa Monica. Many people questioned opening a second store in the LA area, but personally I think it makes sense since Southern California residents can testify stores and residents in Fairfax and Santa Monica are nothing alike. I had the day off of work on the day of the Grand Opening for the Santa Monica store so I went. I picked up a few store exclusive pieces and a copy of their latest magazine issue (that's right they print a magazine too). Local boy Bobby Hundreds was there and I had him autograph a copy of the magazine after we talked for a few minutes about home.

I think we can all agree it was a pretty decent issue to get signed. I also think it's funny that the "Adam Bomb" he drew isn't in it's normal pose and the eyes are looking up to stare at models Holly Madison and Angel Porino showing off the summer bikini line. I wonder if this is the magazine equivalent to sweet spotting a baseball or him having some fun with it? I mean how often does someone get an excuse to doodle on a hot picture of Holly Madison's bikini body? Seeing as both of them are in the LA area fairly frequently I may try to finish the cover, but I'm not sure I really want to.
You can follow Bobby on twitter @BobbyHundreds he's actually a pretty entertaining writer and talented photographer if you're interested in that sort of thing from the streetwear scene. This Bobby Hundreds autographed magazine may be one of the best visually appealing autographs I have to I may have to frame this one up with my KIC Spacey print from the Set Up The Upset tshirt package.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

RBI (109) 2012 Season Summary

Well folks the regular season is over and it's time for my autograph season summary since the Angels, Padres and Dodgers missed the post season.

64 Games attended at Angel Stadium this season which combined with the 72 last season means a running total of 136 consecutive games at home with at least one autograph. My total consecutive streak ended at Fenway when I opted to attend early but didn't graph and instead enjoyed 100 years of baseball in the hallowed ballpark.

3 Parks visited: Angel Stadium 64 games, Fenway Park 2 games, and Petco Park 1 game.

I had more precise numbers until my iPhone died so I'll say I got approximately 140 autographs this season at a stadium plus a few through other autograph signings.

The highlight pieces of the year. Some are because of what's signed and others because who the signer is.

The AL Rookie of the Year and possible MVP Mike Trout autographed 8x10 photograph I took.
One of my favorite players of all time Dustin Pedroia on my Fenway Seat.
Mark Trumbo on the custom poster I designed for him to sign.
Yankee Captain and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter autographed all star baseball.
Ranger superstar and former AL MVP Josh Hamilton autographed World Series baseball.
And the final highlight piece of the year would be the custom poster designed for Ernesto Frieri that he autographed and inscribed for me.
It was a great season and I definitely enjoyed the experience graphing with everyone. There are some more key pieces that I picked up but these are some of my favorites on the year and I'm excited to see how I can top myself in 2013.

Stay tuned for a follow up posting about the worst autographs that I was able to get this year...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

RBI (108) Orioles Magic...

The Orioles are in the midst of a remarkable 2012 season fueled by an incredible streak of wins when the game comes down to 1 run or reaches extra innings. They're continuing a legacy of Orioles Magic that 3rd baseman Doug DeCinces is credited with helping bring to bear with a game winning 2-run shot he hit off the Tigers.

DeCinces was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1970 amateur draft by the Baltimore Orioles. He debuted in '73 and for 3 seasons had minimal big league playing time until '76 when he became a fixture in the line up and Orioles lore playing a career that eventually would have him inducted in the Orioles Team Hall of Fame. He would go on to be an Angel after the Orioles traded him to make room for Cal Ripken Jr. He would play for the halos and St. Louis before retiring after 15 seasons.

When he retired from the game he was a 1 time All-Star and Silver Slugger award winner. His career average would stand at .259 with a .329 OBP and .445 SLG that was boosted by the 237 Home Runs he smacked throughout his career.
I got this Doug DeCinces autographed 1987 Topps card as part of the Angels 50th Anniversary celebration during the 2011 season at Angel Stadium.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

RBI (107) A Hot Corner Prospect...

Recently I did a post about top Angels slugging prospect C.J. Cron, as highly rated as Cron is within the organization he is actually ranked as the 2nd best prospect. In front of Cron is his Inland Empire 66ers teammate 3rd baseman Kaleb Cowart.

The switch hitting prospect was taken 18th overall by the halos in the 1st round of the 2010 MLB draft.  The Georgia native has found more consistent power and a better feel for the strike zone and can eventually prove to be the 3rd base piece that has been consistently eluding recent Angel teams.

After the trade for Zack Greinke the Angel minor league organization has been called a bit bare, but Cowart is not only ranked as the best halo prospect, but has been ranked by as the 49th best prospect overall in the minor leagues to date.
I had Kaleb Cowart sign this mini bat for me at the same time that C.J. signed his when the 66ers were brought to visit Angel Stadium. If he gets called up it'll be nice to have a Kaleb Coward autograph already crossed off the list.

Friday, September 14, 2012

RBI (106) A Prospect Slugger...

One thing that I'm a fan of MLB teams doing is trotting out their local minor league affiliates to the stadium to sign autographs, meet some of the big leaguers, and enjoy a night in the suites as a reminder of what they're pushing for. The Angels brought the Inland Empire 66'ers to the stadium to sign for the fans and I opted to rack up the minor leaguers while I could.

The 66'ers have top prospect C.J. Cron a 1st round pick in the 2011 draft, taken 17th overall. Originally a catcher due to an injury he moved to 1st though he isn't graded as much of a plus defensively. 2012 he has been on a tear driving in 123 RBI with a .293 average and 27 home runs. He's ranked as the Angel's 2nd best prospect and 2nd best 1st base prospect in the minors.
I didn't realize it was 66'ers day at the stadium or I probably would have gotten a team set of cards to get signed so I picked up a mini bat get the C.J. Cron autograph on. With Pujols signed for years and Trumbo mashing in Left/1st Cron is blocked for a bit but if he develops on pace when Pujols is ready to play DH more it would be about the same time the Angels are ready to see what Cron can do in the bigs.

It'll be interesting to see how things develop for C.J. but I'm glad to have gotten him at a sit down signing for a nice signature rather than a rushed one along the field. It was funny to see CJ get a bit of grief from his fellow teammates as he had a steady line of people with solo ball requests and cards of him while they signed team provided programs. Life in the minors is tough but hopefully when they were in the suites watching the game someone reminded the other guys that the future Hall of Famer in the on deck circle wearing #5 was taken in the 13th round of his draft and any one of them could still make it. It's possible he does now that CJ Cron was the Angels representative in the 2013 MLB Futures game.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Balk 11 - A Confession

I have to admit sometimes the thrill of the hunt is what drives me to grow my collection larger. I truly do appreciate every player who has ever signed for me and can recount who signed what where/when for every piece in my collection.

Occasionally though the pressure of maintaining my at home "hitting streak" does manifest itself and I feel compelled to ensure at least one autograph. On nights the streak may be over I feel stressed and uncomfortable until that lone hit clears the infield and drops safely. With an increased workload my opportunities to graph have decreased significantly, so the days I can autograph hunt I feel even more compelled to be successful.

So I field this question to you readers. Do you find yourselves often fighting off the irrational urge to hoard and maintain your ironman streak or is it easier to maintain focus on a specific collecting goal?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

RBI (105) A Piece of Baseball History...

As many of you know I'm a pretty big Red Sox fan, and this year the Sox were only coming to town for one series. I had already gone to Fenway to join in celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Fenway park and decided to continue noting the historic season while they were in Anaheim.

To recognize the 100th year of the stadium I wanted to graph something more substantial than just a few ball or cards. I ended up purchasing an authentic seat back from Fenway park, certified by the MLB as having been Game Used. This is my 2nd baseball seat, which some would say is overkill but I like them. I opted for a red seat back and selected seat #6 also in honor of Johnny Pesky passing away this year.
The first person to sign my seat was manager Bobby Valentine. Plenty of fans booed at me having Bobby V sign the seat and I'll admit I was hesitant at first when I was driving to the stadium coming up with the list of who would be seat worthy. In the end when this era of Sox baseball and the end of the curse is brought up the discussion will always end with "...and then Bobby V..." he's going to be an infamous name in the annuals of Sox historians and thus worthy of the seat. I will add my own complaint about Bobby V. since I took a silver marker for him to sign with but he wouldn't switch from blue sharpie and thus dictated how the rest of the seat needs to be signed. I mean maybe you don't want to switch sharpies between jersey's or cards...but it's a seat. Really Bobby V?
While he may not always be popular with the team I had author and Boston Globe writer Dan Shaughnessy sign my seat also. This was another person I had a quick moment of debate over but seeing as he's written multiple noteworthy books on the Sox and has covered the Sox as long as I can remember I opted to include him as a related personality.

The next person to sign the seat was Umpire Crew Chief and head of the Umpire's Union Joe West. West is not only a notable personality in the game but also involved in Sox history when he work Clay Buchholz's no-hitter from home plate and ended it with a called 3rd strike.
The final person to sign the seat for me was my favorite Red Sox player 2nd baseman Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia was a big score for me and work kept me from doing any pre-game graphing so when I heard he had signed for 2 people on his way in I was crushed. Luckily I was able to get his attention inside the stadium and he signed for me. I was really excited to get the AL ROY/MVP/Gold Glover/Silver Slugger and it's definitely a highlight on this piece. I'm not sure how many people can say they have a Dustin Pedroia autographed Fenway Park seat, but I'm one of the few that can.
This likely be a lifetime piece that I will work on and it'll be interesting to see how this ends up one day when I'm old and have it on a shelf somewhere while I watch a game in retirement.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

RBI (104) A Hometown player...

For a while I've been wanting to get into graphing basketball players. David does it, and he does it well with all his photos coming out pretty nicely. Being so close to LA with 2 NBA teams I suppose there's really no excuse for me to not try out a few events this coming season when baseball season lets out. But luckily I didn't have to go to LA for my first attempt at actually going to get a specific player. Minnesota Timberwolves guard Malcolm Lee is from my hometown and I knew he would be at an event so I printed out a few photos to try my hand at the NBA.

Lee was a 2nd round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, taken 43rd overall by the Chicago Bulls and traded as part of a package for the draft's 23rd overall pick. An injury and the strike shortened season made his debut season limited but he has the chance to be a contributor on a developing Timberwolves team. Lee was drafted out of UCLA where he was on the 2011 Pac-10 All Defensive Team and All Pac-10 First Teamer.

Malcolm Lee autographed these two 8x10's photographs for me. One is from his days as a star UCLA basketball player and the other from his time in the NBA. I'm happy to start my NBA collection with a local guy.

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.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

RBI (96) Will the Thrill TTM...

Another nifty 365 TTM return made it's way back to me and I was happy to see when I opened the envelope a 1987 Topps back. Who was nice enough to sign for me? I was thrilled to see Will 'the Thrill' Clark had autographed my card.

Clark was taken by the San Francisco Giants with the 2nd overall pick in the 1985 amateur draft after winning a Silver Medal in the 1984 Olympics. He flew to the Majors and made his debut in April 1986, homering in his first at bat off Nolan Ryan. He would be one of the premier 1st baseman in the National League while he played for the Giants and remains a fan favorite despite leaving for the Rangers, Orioles, and Cardinals.

He retired as a 6-time All Star, Gold Glover, and 2-time Silver Slugger. His career stats after 15 seasons in the MLB are mighty impressive with 2176 hits coming from a career .303 average and .384 OBP. He drove in 1205 RBI while smacking 284 Home Runs which supported a .497 slugging percentage. Clark was put in the College Hall of Fame, Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, and the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, but Cooperstown will not call as he was dropped off the ballot after failing to receive 5% of the vote in 2006.
Mr. Clark signed this 1987 Topps card that I sent to his home address after only 33 days. I was really happy to add Clark to my collection and it's always nice to check another '87 Topps off the list.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

At the mid season review...

We are only a few days away from the MLB trade deadline and GM's are busy fielding offers for those players who are available and unavailable. So as collectors I'm curious what 2 autographs have you gotten this 2012 season that are your pride and joy that other collectors should hang up the phone when it comes their availability. Any discussion to Jerry Dipoto involving Mike Trout ends with a click and my 8x10 of him and my Derek Jeter ball are unavailable. Who are your top 2 autographs from this season so far that you wouldn't even listen to an offer before the trade deadline?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

RBI (95) Josh Hamilton

Most of the time my titles are in someway related to the player, but a few have no gimmicky introduction, Nomar (kinda), Derek Jeter, and now Josh Hamilton.  Sometimes the player is all you need to say and Hamilton is the kind of player that speaks for himself.

The North Carolina native was taken 1st overall by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 1999 MLB Draft. He was a surefire star in the making until his well publicized issues with drugs and alcohol derailed his fast rise through the Minors. It wouldn't be until after a rehab stint to get sober that he would eventually be taken by the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 draft and traded immediately to the Cincinnati Reds.

With the Reds Hamilton finally made his long awaited MLB debut in 2007. He had a solid rookie year with the Reds but would be traded to the Texas Rangers in what now looks to be a very lopsided deal, being sent for only Edison Volquez and Danny Herrera. The rest is history as Hamilton's Rangers have been one of the dominant offenses in the MLB.

His strong offensive numbers in '08 gave way to injury in '09, but then he broke through with an electric AL MVP and Batting Title 2010 season. He has been a 5-time All-Star, won 2 Silver Sluggers, and taken the Rangers to consecutive World Series appearances. Despite being taken in 1999 Hamilton only has 6 years of playing time in the MLB and those years have been plagued by injury due to the abuses in his youth. His numbers are still astounding at 146 Home Runs, 505 RBI, and a career average of .307. Despite his injury history, Hamilton has put these elite numbers while playing in the outfield, if he eventually becomes a full-time DH later in his career I have the feeling Josh will be slugging for years to come if he chooses to remain in baseball.

I got this Josh Hamilton autographed 2011 World Series baseball in person at Angel stadium. I know the Rangers didn't win 2011, but I really like the ball and taking the Rangers to back to back World Series' was really cool to me so I opted to go with this commemorative ball instead of a blank. Luckily though I was able to eventually get another Josh Hamilton autographed baseball.

When Josh was signing my friend asked if he had a charity to which Josh responded he had one already and was working on another. I asked what the new would be, and he laughed and said "I don't know, that's what we're working on." I'm don't doubt there are already some causes being decided between, and whatever cause Josh throws his support behind I'm sure will be much better helped because of it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Autograph Collecting Essentials

One thing I want to bring up is the Autograph collector's essentials. There are things that separate the casual fan from the grapher from the hardcore collector. One thing I need to preface this post with is that everything here is personal opinion.

Every collection is unique, but there are some things I have figured out from my collecting that I'd like to offer as a few suggestions on "how to collect autographs" at a baseball stadium. It's in no way the final authority and I pick up new ideas and suggestions all the time, collecting is fluid so don't be afraid to try new things.

Baseballs: While it may seem like a great idea when you're just getting into the hobby to pick up a nice looking $5 souvenir baseball at the stadium, don't do it. If you touch the souvenir ball you realize the ball is made of a synthetic material that won't maintain the signature over time, the Rawlings Official Major League Baseball like used in a game is the only way to go. They can be expensive, but if you want it to last, get it on a ROMLB. When it comes to team balls or players you like but just want the signature more than a perfect display piece batting practice balls work just fine if you clean them up.
  • Note: If you're getting a baseball signed don't be afraid to ask for what you want. Be polite and say please, but if you want the sweet spot or have a specialty baseball (Gold Glove ball, All Star ball, etc) ask the player to sign where you want. The worst they can say is no and all you can gain is a perfect piece. Some players will only sweet spot and have no problem doing so, but have to be asked politely first.
  • Leave a few Ziplock/sandwich bags in your main bag. You spent the time getting the ball signed, so after you get it autographed put it in the plastic bag, wrap it up, and lock the seal that way the autograph won't get rubbed and a spill in the stands won't ruin your piece.
White Hi-Poly Eraser: If you get a batting practice baseball that is just a little nicked up but not bad or a glossy card a firm but not overly aggressive rub down with an eraser can help make a ball look fresher. If you're working on a ball be sure to not go against the grain of the leather and cause more scuff marks to the leather. You can also use these to remove some of the gloss from very glossy cards (Bowman 2011's, Topps 2012 Series 1's) to help them take a signature better instead of streaking. You can get one of these at a office supply store for about $1.00 or I prefer to use the one on the end of a Papermate mechanical pencil since it's more precise.

Markers: Sharpie. Don't fight the hype, go name brand and fine tip. I know a lot of people like Staedtler quick dry markers, but I lose too many markers a series to want to drop that sort of money and if you prepare your cards ahead of time or get cards on nice stock like Heritage or Ginters you don't need a quick dry anyways. Also many players tend to fear signing for people with a fancy marker since they would peg you as a dealer not a collector.

The color of the marker should be determined by your preferences and the piece you are getting signed. Even a card or photo is a piece of art or Topps wouldn't have art directors, on staff photographers, and editors for their product. Photos you've taken yourself deserve to have the signatures pop and stand out to showcase your work. Take a second to look at the image and think of what color will stand out and not blend into the background.
  • Silver, I like to use for Photos with dark backgrounds or on Black/Blue/Red Jersey numbers, I stick with Sharpie because I like a thinner standard signature look, but I know many who love to go with a high quality thicker end Elmer's Silver paint pen. Very commonly you'll see the DecoColor Silver, but when using a Deco remember to prime the tip with paint and you must run the marker over a blank page prior to ensure no bleeding or leaking.
  • Blue, it's the hobby norm and typically a way to tell the difference between a weekender and a collector. Most cards and photos will pop with little to no fade to the signature with blue. Blue is what I think is the way to go when it comes to a White Jersey number as it stands out more.
  • Black, now some people think black has no use for a collector. I disagree. Some cards with lots of blue backgrounds or jerseys make blue not show at all. It may fade a bit eventually, but on a card I find it not to be a concern if stored properly. On hat brims or grey jerseys I think black looks good as it stands out against the color more than blue and if it's being worn will fade a little but still stand out as a signature not a smudge.
Pens: When it comes to a pen everyone has their own look. You get a baseball signed with a pen you must have it signed in blue. Black will fade very quickly. Avoid black ink autographs on a baseball. Black is for people with no idea what they're doing or shops who want it to fade in a year so you have to come buy a new autographed baseball for some ridiculous mark up. Now personal preference lets you choose thickness of the pen.

A standard .7 fine blue ball point pen looks thick and good from a distance, but will normally have a little bit of a white gap if the signer isn't pressing firmly because it will skip bumps in the leather of a ball. Lately I've been on a kick using a Uniball Jetstream .7 because it's a nice vibrant blue that doesn't catch much of a skip if any. For a while I was using a BIC Round Stic extra fine with the rubber grip at the end, because it gives a little bit of a thinner signature but the pen runs true and won't really pick up the bumps of a .7 and I like it's shade of blue. I always carry both and hand the BIC's to the families holding black sharpies and baseballs (shudder).
Derek Jeter Jetstream 1.0 mm Left,  Mark Langston BIC Round Stic Extra Fine .07mm Right

Regardless, blue and ballpoint. Fine or extra fine tip is all up to you.
  • Note: Carry a scrap piece of paper to run your pen on before handing it to the player while he's signing for someone else. Running it on your wrist will put oils on the tip and encourage a clog. I use the hat trick. Put an extra slip in the inside brim of your baseball cap and you always have your scrap paper easily accessible to scribble on. You can use your ticket back instead, but be prepared to mark up a potential piece of memorabilia if the game becomes historic by say a no-hitter or perfect game.
Cards: I know a lot of guys who only get baseball's signed on the sweetspot. I think it's essential though to carry cards because let's face it not everyone is someone you want to display on a sweet spotted $15 baseball or even on your batting practice ball if you aren't starting a team ball. The rookies or journeyman players are fine on a card or on a team card.

You also never know who you are going to run into at the stadium or event so I get my blog's "business" cards signed that I use as autograph cards. I know there are the generic autograph signature cards and the famed "sweet spot" autograph card, but I like the feel of having the custom card signed. Below are Rob Gronkowski's autograph on the left and Rainn Wilson's autograph on the right.
  • Note: I like to vary how I carry my cards. Some people are only autograph seekers while I'm also a ballhawk. I don't carry a full sized binder with card sleeves because it's too cumbersome. I carry 2 mini 4 pocket 10 page binders by Ultra Pro. One for the home team, one for the visitors. Some people like card boxes and I will use one on occasion if I don't plan on carrying a bag but I find the edges get messed up if you're in a rush to thumb through the cards.
  • Many collectors at stadiums utilize notebooks with blue tape on the corners to hold their collection and provide a flat surface for the player to sign on. I'm not a fan for a few reasons. You look like a dealer or a hardcore collector and some of the more established players tend to avoid you. I like slipping in under the radar to get my one. Some players if they have the card taped will actually start the autograph on the card but end off the page so you get half a signature. I've seen people hand pages with other players taped to the page but get refused signatures because they don't notice their card next to their fellow player or actually sign the incorrect card.
Photos: For some of the upper tier players or personal favorites sometimes a baseball or a card isn't enough. I've dabbled in printing 8x10 photos from various places and come to a few conclusions. Like all things the photos you print and where you print from are personal preference. I know many guys who swear by photo printing by various places and frankly I don't always understand the hype. I've tried professional developers Adorama to mixed success. I've tried the instant print machines from Walmart and CVS which I don't recommend since the photo stock is oversized and you'll have to trim it yourself and if you aren't confident don't bother getting someone important's autograph on something you may ruin sizing for a frame. I've bought photos from guys who print at Costco and the gloss is nice but the stock feels kind of flimsy to me and it just doesn't hit the right note for me though the price is excellent. My personal preference is the photo center at Walgreens, it's a nice gloss level and solid stock for a reasonable price considering there's almost always some sort of deal being offered online. But try it for yourself, despite the belief that a photo is a photo it's really not. The same way a typewriter and your at home printer has their own unique traits so do the photo print machines and their operators. One office supply store I like the poster prints from has a long time photo tech who has long nails and I've had to have posters reprinted because of long scratches that showed in the light.

Well folks that's that. Like I said everyone has their own preferences on how their collection looks and these are just my own opinions and preferences. A handy beginner's guide to getting some quality in person autographs in your collection that I will add to as time goes on.

If you're interested in learning about autograph collecting through the mail you can read my essentials post here.

I'm often asked how to get autographs at Angel Stadium or how to get autographs at Dodger stadium, I posted a guide on what I think are the actual in the field essentials on how to get autographs in person at a MLB stadium.

I'll also likely add a section on storing autographs.

Monday, July 16, 2012

RBI (94) A Pair of Rehab Hits...

The past week there have been a few stars making a few rehab starts with the local minor league teams here in Southern California. Matt Kemp made one recently but I wasn't in town to go out and try to get him. I did however return from my vacation with the perfect timing to recharge my batteries and get ready to graph.

I eased myself back into graphing with a rehab start of my own by going to get Andre Ethier when he made his second rehab start out in Rancho.
Ethier was really nice and signed for the reasonably sized crowd that was waiting for him, even doing multiples and taking photos with people. I had Andre Ethier autograph this 2011 Topps Lineage and an 8x10 photo that I'm working on getting done.

It was a pretty short wait for Andre and I got to get him pretty quickly. It was a nice and easy at bat to get ready for graphing again.

I worked a full game though when I went to try and get Angels pitcher Dan Haren for his start at Inland Empire with the 66ers. I only had to wait about 45 minutes for Ethier. I had to wait 2 and a half hours for Haren, thankfully it was only in the mid 80's today.
Haren is a tough guy to get. He rarely signs at the stadium and I've heard stories of him being spotted out and about without a very happy ending for the fan who saw him. I wasn't really sure if he'd even sign especially with 7 of us waiting for him. Surprisingly though he parked his car and walked over to us waiting for him and started to sign. I was happy to finally add him to my 2011 team ball. It took him a while to find a spot to sign because it's almost complete and is that much closer with a Dan Haren autograph on my baseball.

All in all not a bad way to end my minor league assignment and get prepared for the Angels coming back home.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

RBI (93) ...Combine For A No-Hitter...

The Mike Witt and Mark Langston combine for a no-hitter call is one of my favorite calls in Angel team history. And every time the Angels take the field I get treated to it as part of the pre-game video introduction.

For those who don't know, Mike Witt is a very tough autograph to get a hold of. He's been notoriously rare to get through the mail and doesn't often do appearances. For the 2012 Angel Fan Fest, the team had Witt come out for the fans. He was really pleasant and nice to meet while signing and he sweet spotted my ball. He wasn't able to write his Perfect Game inscription, so I had a back up plan to make sure my run in with Witt remained a special one.

Mark Langston is a incredibly personable and kind signer, I've never seen him turning down a request when he's on the way to prepare for the Angels radio broadcast. That's especially special considering he had a very notable career as a 4 time All-Star, 7 time Gold Glover with 179 Wins and 2,464 Strikeouts. I had gotten Langston on a few cards, but I had something special planned to recognize his part in Angel history. After getting Witt I kept the ball in my car and the next home series ran to get it and had Langston not only sign the ball, but he was nice enough to inscribe "No Hitter" for me.
The game was special to Angel fans for a long time because until Ervin Santana's in 2011 no halo had tossed one since the Langston/Witt no-no in 1990. Langston started the game against his long time team the Seattle Mariners and tossed great 7 innings. Witt came in and finished the final 2 innings to complete the no-hitter.

Both guys were class acts and this is one of my highlight pieces in my collection.