After being overwhelmed with draft stuff, I didn't get around to writing the post on our first trip of the year, so I wanted to try to do our second trip quickly even though there still are plenty of topics to write.
This trip saw Fred Landucci, Mike Oravec and myself travel south to Lynchburg and Salem Virginia for a weekend that saw a visit to a memorial, some good food, a return to one of the ballparks that started it all and something that I've never experienced-Ever!
I was tired when we were starting this trip because I decided to stick it out and work the night before, so I only needed to take one night of work off rather than two in order to do this trip.
Two hours down the road, the original choice for breakfast, a selection of Mike's named Jess' lunch was still closed at 10;30 (despite their website saying they opened at ten!), so we started at TRS favorite Cookout.
To the best of my knowledge, the Harrisonburg VA Cookout is the most northern store of the southern-based chain and was where I selected for my birthday meal last year (I'm not hard to please am I?) and after a delicious and cheap "brunch", we were on our way to Bedford VA, home of the National D-Day Memorial.
Here's where the story gets hazy for a bit and goes around a few curves-literally.
I had fallen asleep in the backseat in order to get a few winks before the rest of the day and suddenly I was jolted awake.
Now, how we got here is still a mystery to me, but I suddenly had a stiff neck and very sick to my stomach!
I've never been carsick in my life and my family has always marveled at my ability to read etc in the car without any problems at all, but I awoke to Fred Landucci swerving from curve to bend in the Virginia mountains and my stomach suddenly became very upset.
Not to the point of needing the car to pull over, but definitely in discomfort!
Finally, we reached the memorial and entered the visitors center to pay for admission to the facility.
We walked around for a bit, touring the small exhibits and while Mike stood in line, I went and purged.
After fifty years- I was in the Carsick Club!
I could see that Fred and Mike were wondering how I was going to feel the rest of the day, but what they didn't know about me is what Cherie has been amazed at for years- When I need to be "sick", I almost instantly feel fine and as we watched a video about D-Day, I could feel everything becoming fine and I was great for the rest of the trip.
The memorial was strikingly beautiful and as we walked around the facility, I wondered why I hadn't heard of this before Mike mentioned it.
It deserves much attention than it seems to have and if you are in the area, I highly recommend spending an hour or so wandering around.
I snapped a few photos and before we left, I took my first one ever of my "Buddy" Colby.
Colby has been in the backpack all year, but I often forget to take the picture with him in his travels.
Cherie picked him up from my hometown "Grandpa's Cheese Barn" for Christmas and his gimmick is that Grandpa's puts photos on their Facebook page with Colby in his various travels.
Look for more Colby in the future- When I remember that is!
We then got our tickets for the game and ate at a place that Ryan recommended- the world famous Stadium Inn.
The world-famous Inn served a good sandwich, but was roughly as big as my living room and the dining room!
Filled with locals, the Inn has a huge bar in the middle and enough room for two tables around the various game machines and cramped is putting it mildly.
Still, if you like a local joint- the Stadium Inn was worth a stop, but not if you were offended easily!
I hadn't been to Lynchburg since 2007 with the trip that started my excursions to various minor league parks with Ryan and Battlin' Bob.
The names have changed with my companions on these trips, but the fun hasn't and the trip to Calvin Falwell Field felt pretty similar to my last stop twelve years ago.
With the exception of a "party deck" in left field, I didn't really feel that the home of the Hillcats had changed all that much.
Just a solid older ballpark that had been renovated a time or two and kept maintained well enough to be a nice place to play.
The Wilmington Blue Rocks (Kansas City Royals) are filled with prospects and might have the most on one team that I'll see all season.
Here's the problem, how teams sign generally starts at the top- if the manager (if someone that is asked to sign as a former major leaguer) or the best prospect/team leader likes to sign then their team generally follows and the reverse is true as well- if that person (or persons) isn't friendly about it, the team will walk in place.
Last year, the worst team that I dealt with was the then-Buies Creek Astros and that trailed back to their manager Morgan Ensberg.
I found out in the off-season why Ensberg has issues and I now empathize, but his dislike led to his team doing the same.
Scott Thorman (last year Lexington SAL and now Wilmington) seems to be this year's version of a "Poisoner" as with a few exceptions (I'm not naming them, would hate to have someone say something about their GOOD behavior) Wilmington isn't a good team at all.
Thorman was quite unpleasant in visits to Hagerstown as the pilot of the Lexington Legends and he seems to have passed that on to his new team.
Still, with a lot of time, far more than really should have been needed, I was able to nab the needed players for the new Top 100 in Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar and a few others.
Contrast that with Nolan Jones, an Indians prospect that is in the same Top 100 set.
Jones limits his signing to two at a time, which is more than fine, but he interacts, talks and seems like he enjoys dealing with fans that come to the games.
Nolan came over to me (I had three of my own and two for Brett Shaw of Altoona) and I didn't ask for more than two, just had them if needed.
Nolan looked at the Top 100 and was asking what this was, I explained the concept of the set, the rarity of it, etc and said he had yet to see one.
It was pretty cool seeing how excited some players get when they see certain items for the first time and I had an extra of the 100, so I offered Nolan a deal, sign the other few cards I had and he could have the 100, which he happily agreed to!
I never mind players that limit how much they sign, just be nice about it and Nolan Jones definitely follows through.
I also finally was able to nab the elusive Juan Hillman, who I had seen pitch with Mahoning Valley and Lake County on multiple occasions and Hillman started every game!
Since I don't bother the starters, for the most part, I seemed to have about 80 Hillman cards!
Hillman was super gracious in signing all of Mike and I's cards and I'd like to see the former 3rd round draft pick make it with the Tribe.
As Hillman signed, Royals first rounder Brady Singer slid by.
I needed that 100, but I had so many Hillman's and as an Indian fan, I really wanted to have those finished before he came to Frederick, where all those graphers likely had the same amount of Hillman cards to be signed, so I was more than fine with that
As we waited outside the stadium after the game, with just us (and Kendall Morris, who showed up late in the game to meet us after his trip to Charleston earlier in the day), we finally added the 100' s from Wilmington that I noted earlier in Jackson Kowar and Brady Singer.
Kowar signed my 100 without too much problem, but later Brady Singer didn't seem thrilled to sign at all.
Mike did the asking this time and asked "if he would mind signing one card", Singer seemed to reluctantly stop and signed for Mike, Kendall and a baseball for Fred.
When I handed him the 100, he looked and asked what this was.
When I explained, he seemed to be wondering more if it was a card that was a licensed card than happy about the 100 ranking.
I don't know that, but it seemed that way and I asked if he wanted one, hoping I could get the only other card I had for him (Brett's card) finished, but he replied "Nah, they'll send some to me" and walked away.
We then ate dinner at a Little Caesars across from the hotel (Loved the hotel BTW) that was OK considering its Little Caesars, but when you visit Lynchburg one needs to remember- Lynchburg isn't your typical college town, it rolls up the streets early!
I had only had a small nap in the car for about 30+ hours, so it didn't take me long to fall asleep to end the day after preparing for the following day's trip.
Not sure when I'll have time for the next post, but I'll try to write about the trip to Salem and a very nice player as soon as I can!