Sunday, July 14, 2024

July 9-14, 2024, Graphing of the Salem Red Sox at Wood Ducks

With our vacation ending, it was time to head back to Grainger Stadium to see the Wood Ducks take on the Salem Red Sox. I had pre-prepped a while back foe this series, so it wasn't as hard on me to get ready prior to Tuesday's game.

I picked up some cards off of Ebay right when coaches were revealed, so I had a couple nice cards to get signed by Ozzie Chavez.  This 2003 Bowman Heritage turned out great. I love this design, and was happy to get it added to the autograph album. 
The Red Sox were a bit tough all series, with no numbers on the front and most guys limiting.  Add in that there was a lot of rain and missed opportunities.  Still we did decently.  I finished off everything I had for Brooks Brannon.  Brooks is an amazing guy, who stopped and talked with us every game.  I am a fan now and plan to add some of his certified stuff to the collection at the National. 
Nazzan Zanetello signed for us most of the time.  He was pretty strict limiting his signing to post-game only.  The one day he didn't sign was after a tough Salem loss, so that was understandable.
Finally, I added two more team set cards to the album now that Danyer Cueva and Alberto Mota are back.  I also added this nice pink foil parallel of Danyer's 2023 Topps Pro Debut that Gerard gave me.
My buddy, Max sent me an assortment of James Jones cards recently, and Jones was here for this series.  I got Max's stuff done, as well as my Frisco team set cards.  James is a great guy and seems to be flourishing in his rover role this season.
The highlight of the series was that the Wood Ducks won the second game of Saturday's double header by spinning a combined no hitter.  I got Jesse's ticket stub signed by the Billy Waters Player(s) of the game (brought to you by Mount Olive Pickles): Julian Brock (catcher), Izack Tiger (starter) and Adonis Villavicencio (reliever).
Adonis's hands were still shaking when he signed the ticket and this ball for me.  I found the ball pre-game ad I walked into the park.  It is a beat up batting practice ball, but it still is cool that I was able to commemorate the occasion.

We don't get many nice things in Kinston, so it was awesome that we got to witness a no hitter in person.

In all, we got the following autographs: Tonight's graphing recap of the Red Sox at Wood Ducks: Danyer Cueva x 6, Alberto Mota x 3, James Jones x 20, Brooks Brannon x 23, Nazzan Zanetello x 9, Jojo Blackmon x 1, Carlos Maldonado x 1, Tommy Specht x 2, Antonio Anderson x 3, Ozzie Chavez x 2, Daniel McElveny x 1, Izack Tiger x 4, Adonis Villaviceno x 2, Julian Brock x 2, Paul Bonzagni x 2, Ivan Oviedo x 1, Josh Trentadue x 2, Fraymi De Leon x 8 and Freili Encarnacion x 3 (95 total autographs). 

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Another TTM Success From Mike Nagy

Finally, another TTM came in, but it was from a player who I had gotten before, Mike Nagy.  I found this 1972 Topps in a box, and sent it out to try to get it into the album. The card looks great.

I mailed to Nagy on March 9 and got the card back on July 11, for a 124-day TAT.

Friday, July 12, 2024

2024 Graphing Road Trip

Eight games in seven cities.  That's what this year's graphing road trip ended up being; with almost a ninth game.  We bypassed one of the games to take a night off, but still graphed that day.  Chris and I marked this year's road trip by heading north again, this time with Niagara Falls as our destination.

I prepped for this trip for months, and it was well worth it.  We eclipsed last year's autograph total by far.  We got some big names, like the above Javier Baez and made a new friend.  In all, it was an awesome trip, even though I spent a fortune on gas; the new Camaro is a bit thirsty.

Saturday, June 29 - Somerset Patriotd at Richmond Flying Squirrels
We started the trip off with a dud of a time in Richmond.  We saw the Yankees AA team, Somerset Patriots, and could only go for one team pre-game. No one would stop for us, which was not a good sign.  I avoided being shut out by calling out to McKinley Moore at the Patriots bullpen and getting the above 2023 Topps Heritage High Number card signed.  Post-game was just as brutal; we only got Alexander Vargas on two cards, two 2022 Topps Pro Debut.  I checked, and he signed the same two cards last year, so the Moore was the only new card added to the album so far.  Spencer Jones ignored us several times again, so I'm not going after him again.  

We got the following autographs: McKinley Moore x 1 and Alexander Vargas x 2 (3 total autographs).

We left Richmond with our three autographs and headed toward Southern Maryland to try the Blue Crabs the next day. We almost had an issue when I finally decided to stop for the night, only to find out that all hotels in the area were sold out.  Oops.  We did end up finding a sketchy plaxe that turned out alright, so it worked out.

Sunday, June 30 - York Revolution at Southern Maryland Blue Crabs 

We tried to better our Richmond totals in Southern Maryland with the independent Atlantic League, which I've enjoyed graphing.  We were pleasantly surprised to rack so much better there than Richmond, which really kicked off the trip.
We didn't know it when we tacked this team onto the extra day we ended up with (I had planned to leave on Sunday, but was able to leave on Saturday instead.  The Blue Crabs do team autograph signings on Sundays.  I bought a media guide for the team for $5, which we got signed by the entire team.  I didn't count those autos in out final total, since I bought the boom for Chris.  One of the added benefits of the team signing was that I was able to finally get the ever-difficult Mat Latos.
Colton Welker was another player who I had hoped to get, and ended up getting most of what I brought signed.  He wouldn't sign my 2018 Topps Heritage Minors deckle edge insert since he didn't know what it was.  Still, I got some good stuff signed, including my 2017 South Atlantic League All Star Card done that my brother Adam picked up for me a long time ago. 
Ian Kahaloa was someone who I had hoped to get, since I had tried him TTM and got a RTS.  My Daryl Thompson 2008 Bowman Chrome finally got signed, as well.
Here are the Mat Latos cards that got done.  We each handed him two cards, but he only signed one each, a 2010 Topps Heritage and a 2015 Topps.
I had missed Ethan Lindow when I saw York in High Point earlier in the year, but was finally able to clear all of his cards out.
The Blue Crabs stadium was decent, with great graphing access.  There was a nice fellow grapher there who helped us get some cards signed outside post-game.  Graphing inside was super easy; the away team walks right by you to get to the dugout and everyone we needed stopped for us.  We reloaded and waited outside where both clubhouse empty to the parking lot in the same area, so you can graph both teams there, if needed.  We got Welker outside again, which helped finish off more cards.

In all, we got the following autographs in Southern Maryland: Endrys Briceno x 1, Ian Kahaloa x 2, Mat Latos x 2, Daryl Thompson x 1, Aaron Fletcher x 3, Ethan Lindow x 2, Will Stewart x 10 and Colton Welker x 8 (29 total autographs).

Monday, July 1 - Altoona Curve at Harrisburg Senators 

Harrisburg was beautiful. Chris and I both enjoyed the awesome weather and designated area for graphing.  This was the first stadium on the trip where we tried graphing on arrival.  We got there early and found the player parking lot.  A couple Instagram friends told us where to go for arrival, and did pretty well.
There was a designated area to graph the player parking lot, including a bench in the shade.  With the pleasant weather, we really enjoyed ourselves.  The first autograph we got was Jose Ferrer on a baseball; he was in Harrisburg on a rehab assignment.
Brady House was the biggest name we got.  He signed one card each for Chris and I.  He was pretty nice, honestly.  The graphers in Harrisburg were pretty nice, even though one of them severely jacked up both of our books by bending them both backward while hanging them over the railing into the dugout for us.  Chris's book would end up disintegrating during our trio, so much so, pages started falling out and made Chris miss a few players later on.
I was surprised that some of the Altoona players parked in the Senators lot; we got lucky when Bubba Chandler told us who he was and stopped to graph for us.
Graphing inside the stadium was easy enough.  We got several of the Curve players near the batting cages, which helped us cross some guys off of the list, like Joe Perez.
We racked both Perez and Gary Green at the batting cage and finished off everyone else I needed for Altoona by the dugout, thanks to the help from the other graphers.
In all, we got the following autographs in Harrisburg: Brady House x 2, Andrew Pinckney x 2, Israel Pineda x 5, Holden Powell x 3, Jase Bowen x 4, Bubba Chandler x 2, Taylor Davis x 1, Tres Gonzalez x 3, Gary Green x 8, Robby Hammock x 6, Joe Perez x 6, Kade McClure x 1, Jose Ferrer x 1 and Charles McAdoo x 1 (45 total autographs).

Tuesday, July 2 and Wednesday, July 3 - Rochester Red Wings at Buffalo Bisons 

Our next stop was in Buffalo, New York, to check out the Bisons and also Niagara Falls.  Chris had never been there, while this was my third time seeing the Falls.

Graphing AAA is always tough, since so many of the players have cards scattered across several years worth of sets.  During our time in Buffalo, however, Chris and I would come across a fellow grapher who came through in the clutch with player identification across several days.
We didn't graph arrival in Buffalo on Tuesday; instead we opted to eat some buffalo wings at the Anchor Bar, home of the original buffalo wing.  They were great, as was the roast beef on weck sandwich that I ordered.

We got into the stadium and met a fellow graoher with his two sons.  I struck up a conversation with the dad and asked about the best spots to graph.  He ended up giving us bad information on purpose so we wouldn't be able to try to get Dylan Crews.  Thankfully, this wasn't my first rodeo, and I stuck with my original plan to stay at my seat at the dugout and graph there.  Joke's on you, Crews didn't stop for any of us.  It's a good thing that I didn't let this dude influence what I thought about Buffalo, because our fortunes would change when we tried to graph outside post game.
While we didn't get Dylan Crews, Chris and I met a guy outside at the player parking lot named Kendall.  He helped us identify the guys who walked by, which helped me get Carter Kieboom on several old team set cards.  We got most of the guys we needed off of Rochester, which was great.  Yeah, it would have been nice to get Crews on something, but he was being dropped.off every day by Thurman Thomas, so there was virtually no chance of getting him outside.
Darren Baker was really nice.   I got him outside, finishing up all of the cards I had of him.  I asked him how his dad (Dusty) was doing, and he seemed appreciative that I asked.
I got Spenser Watkins on my Norfolk set card from last season. Watkins even commented on it, which was cool.  The 2021 Bowman Sapphire Jackson Rutledge was a card I picked up at the National a while back, and it looks great.
Thaddeus Ward was also really nice.  I had gotten him a while back when he came through with Salem.  I finished off the recent stuff I had gotten of him.
I was very excited to finally get this 2010 Topps Pro Debut Paolo Espino signed.  I love that it is a Kinston Indians card.  I had two of them and sent one out TTM a while back, but it never came in.
I got two of my Panini Prizm cards signed and out of my box; speaking of getting stuff out of the boxes, I got four Eric Pardinho cards out of the Box Of Shame, which was awesome. We got Pardinho twice, once after the game, then again while trying arrival on Wednesday before we embarked for Niagara Falls.  In all, we got the following autographs in Buffalo: Chad Dallas x 5 and Eric Pardinho x 2, Riley Adams x 2, Darren Baker x 7, Travis Blankenhorn x 1, Alex Call x 8, Tim Cate x 5 (two not pictured), Brian Daubach x 1, Stone Garrett x 5, Carter Kieboom x 6, Trey Lipscomb x 3, Erick Mejia x 1, Jackson Rutledge x 6, Thaddeus Ward x 4, Spenser Watkins x 3, Paolo Espino x 1, Hayden Juenger x 1, Eric Pardinho x 2 and Alan Roden x 2 (65 total autographs).
Chris had never been to Niagara Falls, so it was a good choice to go to this year. We did the Maid of the Mist ride, and Chris got soaked.  He seemed to really enjoy it there.

Thursday, July 4 and Friday, July 5 - Akron Rubber Ducks at Erie Seawolves 
Our next stop on the trip was a two-day visit to Erie, PA to check out the Seawolves. We discovered in Buffalo that our new friend, Kendall, was also planning on going to Erie.  Kendall was a huge help with graphing in Erie.  I was excited to finally get my Gabe Alvarez 1999 Skybox EX signed.  It was a pickup from the former LCS and has been something I've wanted to get into the album for a while.  The 1996 Bowman was a card that I got a long time ago when I visited my buddy, Andrew, for his graduation.
Jackson Jobe was really cool.  We weren't expecting him to be there since he was on the IL, but, luckily, he was activated while we were there and stopped for us a couple times.
Hao-Yu Lee was a solid one-per.  His signature looks really cool, and I got a bunch of his cards signed.  He was the last guy out of the clubhouse both nights, but worth the wait.  Thankfully, Primanti Brothers was open late both nights, so we didn't go hungry. 
Something else that was cool was that Jose Cruz, Jr. was in town for his son, Trei's birthday.  We saw Jose on Thursday and we're told he would be back on Friday, so on Friday morning, I went to the LCS in Erie after Kendall told me about it.  I found the 1997 Bowman at the shop, while Kendall gave me the Fleer checklist.  While I was there, I picked up several 2020 Bowman Trei Cruz.
Gage Workman was one of the first guys we got, and he completed all of the cards that I had brought of him.  Kendall gave me some extras that he had, a Calvin Coker 2018 Bowman and a Brady Allen 2022 Bowman.  The 2023 Topps Garrett Hill was another card that I found at the Erie LCS.
Speaking of Garrett Hill, I bought a blaster of 2023 Topps Heritage at the LCS, and his was the first card I pulled out of the box.
The Erie team set had come out that prior Monday, and I went ahead and picked up two of them.  With Kendall's help, we got most of the set signed.
The set is a bit weird.  Some of the players commented on the yellow jerseys.  They look like a take on Pirates jerseys, even though Erie hasn't been affiliated with them. 
Still, the cards turned out nicely.  I liked the set, but this definitely was the only one I was considering picking up on the trip.  There were a couple.guys who were moved up to Toledo, and a couple were injured.  Not too bad for two days.
We were anticipating a tough time getting Akron guys to sign, as it seems that the Guardians organization is tough.  We were able to get most of what we wanted done over the two days in Erie.  We didn't miss any Akron guys and had few cards left over once we were done.
I was really happy with what all I got done from Akron.  I had mistakenly picked up Kody Huff cards at the start if the season since I checked Lynchburg's roster before the official break camp roster was revealed.  The cards got done anyway, so that ended up working out in the end.  Kendall gave me the Heritage Minors insert of Khalil Watson, and it looks awesome.
Cody Buckel was one of the tougher guys to get, mainly because we found out later that he wasn't in town on Thursday. He came back for Friday's game, and I got all of what I brought signed.  Ryan Webb also was a bit tough, but finally stopped for us outside after the second game.

We got the following autographs in Erie across two days: Eliezer Alfonzo x 2, Brady Allen x 3, Gabe Alvarez x 10, Austin Bergner x 2, Calvin Coker x 3, Trei Cruz x 8, Wilkel Hernandez x 2, Jake Higginbotham x 2, Jake Holton x 2, Jackson Jobe x 12, Hao-Yu Lee x 8, Ben Malgeri x 2, Matt Malott x 2, Troy Melton x 7, Carlos Mendoza x 2, Chris Meyers x 2, Trevin Michael x 2, Christian Molfetta.x 2, Austin Murr x 2, Tim Naughton x 2, Joel Peguero x 2, Carlos Pena x 2, RJ Petit x 2, Juan Pimentel x 2, PJ Poulin x 2, Angel Reyes x 2, Paul Synenkyj x 2, CJ Wamsley x 2, Gage Workman x 8, Trey Benton x 1, Aaron Bracho x 1, Seth Caddell x 4, Aaron Davenport x 2, Nate Furman x 2, Petey Halpin x 2, Kody Huff x 2, CJ Kayfus x 1, Joe Lampe x 1, Jack Leftwich x 1, Milan Tolentino x 3, Lenny Torres x 4, Yordys Valdez x 1, Khalil Watson x 4, Jose Cruz, Jr. x 2, Garrett Hill x 2, Cody Buckel x 4, Dayan Frias x 6, Tommy Mace x 1 and Ryan Webb x 4 (149 total autographs).

Saturday, July 6 - Toledo Mud Hens at Columbus Clippers
The next to last stop on the trip was in Columbus to see the Toledo Mud Hens take on the Columbus Clippers.  We went with one goal in mind, to see former Wood Duck, Mason Englert.  It turned out that Mason wasn't there at all, which kind of sucked.  We made do with our time and still came away with a good many autographs.  One of the coolest ones was the above 2024 Heritage mini black parallel of Devin Sweet.
We got three more guys for our Erie team set.  It was a bit tough getting them, since none of the Columbus graphers were going for them. I was glad we got them done, though.  I wasn't a fan of several of the Columbus graphers.  Apparently, there had been an incident the night before when one of them reportedly accosted a security guard while going for Javier Baez.  The GM of the team came out while we were all doing arrival and threatened to ban us all from the ballpark.  That wouldn't have been good for Chris and I, since we were in Erie the night before.  We were allowed to remain and did get some autographs on arrival.
After we had left home for the trip, Triston McKenzie was demoted to Columbus.  I picked up a few of his cards from the Erie LCS and also got one from Kendall.  Chris and I got McKenzie a while back in 2017; it was nice seeing him again and adding some of his new stuff to the album. 
We got Spencer Torkelson on arrival and post game, so that was really cool.  I had been told that he was a solid one per, and he didn't disappoint. I got some nice cards signed, like the 2023 Topps Holiday parallel.
I also got a Bowman Top 100 Torkelson signed.  I know a few folks who build these sets.  I don't, but it was nice adding one to the album. 
I finished off all of my Rikey Unroe cards, finally.  I missed a few when I saw him with the Arkansas Travelers a couple years ago.  They had been in my to-be-TTMed box.  Now they are all done.  I also finally got a 2018 Topps Heritage deckle edge insert signed; this one was of Matt Manning.  The card looks really great signed.  I also had a Pro Debut insert green parallel signed by Manning.  
I was surprised that John Doxakis came over and signed.  We were told that he always went out a different exit, but came over to meet someone who was waiting on him (it looked like his wife or girlfriend).  I asked if he would please sign, and he came over and took care of everything we brought.  The power of please.
I was disappointed that Ryan Vilade only did one per, mainly because I had so many of his cards.  He did sign two nice ones.  I added a 2023 Topps Platinum Anniversary card of Xzavion Curry that was picked up from the Erie LCS.  Every card I bought there for graphing got signed.  They all turned out to be good purchases.

My least favorite auto from the trip was from Doug Nikhazy.  He looked annoyed when I asked him if he would sign.  He Gabe my card the thinnest, lightest signature that he could.  

Then, the problems with Chris's book surfaced and he couldn't find his Nikhazy card quickly.  I popped my second card out of my book and gave it to Chris, saying "here, you can have this one."  Nikhazy told him "that's not your card, I'm not signing it and kept walking.  Chris said "It's mine now, he gave it to me."  That's ok, we'll see Nikhazy in the Indepent League some day and dig the cards out of the Box Of Shame.  I'm not one of those graphers who tend to call out players, as I try to be thankful to get anything, but... see you in High Point, Doug.
My Eli Morgan ray wave parallel finally got signed.  I had intended to send it TTM, but now I don't have to.  I also got all of the Triston McKenzie cards that i picked up signed.
Finally, a deep dive into my older Bowman box yielded some nice Dom Nunez cards, along with a 2020 Topps rainbow foil card.

We got the following autographs in Columbus: Akil Baddoo x 1, Javier Baez x 2, Tim Federowicz x 2, Sean Guenther x 5, Lael Lockhart x 2, Ty Madden x 1, Bligh Madris x 1, Andrew Magno x 2, Matt Manning x 2, Stephen Scott x 2, Devin Sweet x 1, Spencer Torkelson x 4, Riley Unroe x 3, Ryan Vilade x 2, Tanner Burns x 4, Xzavion Curry x 2, John Doxakis x 12, Triston McKenzie x 6, Eli Morgan x 3, Doug Nikhazy x 1 and Dom Nunez x 4 (62 total autographs).

Sunday, July 7 - Southern Maryland Blue Crabs at Charleston Dirty Birds 
I almost skipped finishing up the trip in Charleston, but decided to go ahead and work on the rest of my Charleston cards.  I was done with Southern Maryland completely.  I planned the trip with the hope of getting a few more Clint Frazier autos, but he retired while we were on the trip.  Still, I added another Phil Ervin to the autograph album.   He was very nice, and was a solid two-per.
It was a hot one, but not too bad.  We had been to Charleston before, but that was when they were the West Virginia Power.  The field was nice; it had been upgraded with a turf field, and some amenities around the park.  The crowd was dead, but apparently they pack the place during the week.
We finally got Delino Deshields, Jr., who was injured when Charleston came through High Point. I got all of the stuff I brought of him signed, except for one card that I still have and two that I gave the 6-year old that was sitting beside us that talked to us the whole game.  He was a funny little dude. 
Finally, I finished off the 2020 Topps Pro Debuts that I pulled of Kevin Smith.  I missed him when I saw the Dirty Birds in High Point. 

We got the following autographs in Charleston: Delino DeShields, Jr. x 16, Phil Ervin x 4 and Kevin Smith x 3 (23 total autographs). 

Chris and I had a great time on our trip, and all of the prep work was worth it to get 376 autographs compared to 99 last year.  We aren't sure where we will go next year; it is going to take me a bit of time paying this one off.