Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pigskin Picking Machine

The PPM is back with college action, but two of our teams have already played.

First, we start with a new picture replacing the lottery machine.
My favorite broadcast team is the main ABC/ESPN team of folksy Brent Musburger, former Buckeye Kirk Herbstreit and our favorite sideline reporter, Heather Cox.
Heather will likely have most of the pictures from week to week, but depending on the location, the others could have some PPM time...

As I wrote earlier, both Bowling Green and Texas Tech have played with both winning as the Falcons defeated Tulsa at home while the Red Raiders dropped SMU in Dallas.
Since those games are over, I'll have a few extra picks this week to get us started.

First, it's the Buckeyes as Ohio State hosts Buffalo.
The Bulls were just 4-8 last season in the MAC and should not give too much resistance to the second-ranked team in the country.
No need to go too much into detail...

We will have three games of the week since we missed the other two games and no NFL games yet.
Number five Georgia travels to number eight Clemson in an opening week game that could knock out the loser of the battle from national title contention.
A loss would hurt Clemson more than Georgia due to schedule, Tajh Boyd of Clemson will attempt to rip up an inexperienced Georgia secondary, while Aaron Murray will lead the Bulldogs in what could be a high scoring affair.
This should be a good one and I'll definitely be watching!

LSU travels to Texas for the Cowboy Classic against TCU.
The Tigers need to replace plenty of defenders, but can the Frogs make them pay this soon?
That's the big question along with can LSU jack up a passing game that was less than average last season?

A MAACO bowl rematch as Boise State travels to Seattle for a rematch of their bowl win against Washington.
The Broncos are always a threat to run the table and crash the BCS, so this game is their tough non-conference test of the year.
Washington is still trying to rebuild a once proud program and a win here would go a long way to that build.

Ohio State over Buffalo 52-14
Clemson over Georgia 33-30
LSU over TCU 20-15
Boise State over Washington 35-26

Photo Credit: @HeatherCoxESPN Twitter

Ohio State Football Preview

Urban Meyer starts his second year at Ohio State with high expectations after an unbeaten first season,the Buckeyes are ranked second in the country and are expected to make a run at the national title.

Heisman candidate Braxton Miller leads the offense in what is expected to be more of a wide open attack this season. Miller is a better passer than given credit for and looks to refine his throwing this season.
Senior Ken Guiton backs up Miller up and is capable of keeping the Buckeyes alive as he showed last season with a thrilling comeback win over Purdue.
Freshmen Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett round out the depth chart and will battle to the heir apparent to Miller.

Carlos Hyde returns as the main man in the backfield,but an off the field incident will force Hyde to miss the first three games.
The hard running Hyde runs well between the tackles and the unexpected rest might come in handy for the Buckeyes in Big 10 play.
Jordan Hall will get plenty of carries,if the fifth year senior can stay healthy,which has been an issue throughout his career.
Sophomore Bri'onte Dunn could be the starter for the opening three games and could be a pleasant surprise and senior Rod Smith will see action as well.

The pass catchers will be key in any Heisman contention for Braxton Miller as they will need to pick their game up after an erratic 2012.
Senior Corey Brown has been the possession threat,while Junior Devin Smith has been the big play threat on the outside.
Returnees Evan Spencer and Chris Fields will get their share of chances with several newcomers attempting to break the rotation...

Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett return at tight end after moving to the top of the depth chart last year,
Heuerman will start,but both will play often.Neither are a huge part of the passing game.

Four of the five starters on the offensive line return after an unexpectedly strong campaign last year.
Jack Mewhort returns at left tackle,Andrew Norwell at guard,Corey Linsley at center and massive Marcus Hall rounds out the returnees on the line.Right tackle Taylor Decker will be the lone new starter as he replaces Reid Fragel,who was drafted by the Bengals

The defensive line features two huge pass rushing threats off the end as sophomores Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington take over.
Both could be impact players and finish with plenty of sacks this season.
Michael Bennett and Joel Hale start on the interior with freshman Joey Bosa seeing time at both end and tackle.Jamal Marcus could be a real sleeper as a pass rusher as well.

The linebackers feature Butkus candidate Ryan Shazier,who might be the best in the country.
Curtis Grant will hold down the middle with the right side open as several players are competing.
The depth is inexperienced,so someone (or two) will need to get up to speed fast.

Three of the four starters return in the secondary with the fourth starter moving up from the nickel.
Bradley Roby was an All American last year at corner and should be so again with Doran Grant starting at the opposite corner.
Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett are back at the safeties with Corey Brown and Tyvius Powell each seeing time as the nickel and dime backs.

Drew Basil will be back at kicker and freshman Cameron Johnston will punt after being imported from Australia.

The Buckeyes went 12-0 last season and are expected to do so again.
Possible trap games for the Buckeyes are in back to back weeks with Wisconsin at home and at Northwestern with the final game against you know who looming large.
I hate to predict 12-0 because it is such a branch to climb on,but I'll do it and say 12-0 and in the BCS championship game....

Friday, August 30, 2013

On the Signing Front

A mini signing front today as we try to reduce the amount of cards sitting around.

First,a few non-baseball cards from the mail.
San Francisco Giants host Amy Gutierrez signed an old Fleer Giants logo card as well as adding a nice picture as well.
I have found those old logo stickers to be quite handy for some situations,even better than blanks at times,although I'll never be able to use them for the Marlins,Rays,Diamondbacks and Rockies.
1972 Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist Frank Shorter
Singer Pat Boone
Former Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winner Jason White signed a Sooner card and completed a card of Sooner Heisman winners with Billy Sims and Steve Owens.
Very nice addition!

I had very little for the Winston-Salem Dash as their team set was not released yet.
However,I was able to get Courtney Hawkins on his Bowman top 100 card and his Carolina League top prospect cards.
Two other nice grabs were high picks by the White Sox in the 2012 draft as Chris Beck and Joey DeMichele signed their CL prospect and All-Star cards.
I also added then Frederick Key Nick Delmonico on his CL prospect card,Delmonico was always great in my dealings with him and I'll miss getting more as he was shipped to the Brewers in a trade that saw the Orioles pick up Francisco Rodriguez.

The Pirates low A affiliate cruised into the Hub City (soon to be renamed the Nub City) with the best prospect laden team in the league with the West Virginia Power.
Luis Heredia and Josh Bell each were very nice and signed all as did Barrett Barnes,who I had the most amount of cards for.
The two breakout players of the season for the Pirates each signed cards as Dilson Herrera (since traded to the Mets) signed a blue Bowman refractor and Tyler Glasnow signed his team cards.
Bet on Glasnow being in a bunch of sets over the winter.
Clay Holmes signed a Bowman silver ice as well.
Former Pirate Orlando Merced is the Power's hitting coach and many of us looking forward to adding him to our collections.
Merced was not exactly friendly,but would reluctantly sign a card before the game.
After the game was a different story as one night,he stormed from the clubhouse with a can of beer in one hand and a case of beer in the other and screamed "NO"! when asked to sign a card by another collector.
No,that wasn't me,I figured the beer was a tip off that Ol' Orlando wasn't in the mood to sign.
The biggest issue with the set was its gloss as Brandt just had too much gloss on their cards on their earlier releases.
I attempted to get them signed without "rubbing" them with an eraser,but Josh Bell's first signature "bubbled",so I had to quickly rub the cards down.
Fortunately,Brandt corrected the issue with later team set releases.

The injury plagued Wilmington Blue Rocks were in Frederick for a series against the Keys and as a result were missing many players.
2012 first rounder Kyle Zimmer was there though and signed his team set card along with his Carolina League prospect card.Zimmer's top 100 card arrived the day after the Blue Rocks left though and when they returned,Zimmer had been promoted.
John Lamb continued to be a top signer and Kyle Smith signed two cards before being traded to the Astros in a deadline deal.

The Francisco Lindor show and the Carolina Mudcats traveled through,but only for a short time.
Lindor was going to play in the futures game in New York on a Sunday,so Derreck and I figured that we had one shot at Lindor on the Friday and first game of the series.
That was not a guarantee,but the gamble paid off as Lindor was there for the first game of the series and signed one each,Rachel helped me get an extra one (for a cost) and Lindor left after the game for New York.
He would not return as he was promoted to AA Akron during the weekend.
More on Lindor with the Aeros in a future signing front.
The other two nice additions were finally getting former second rounder Alex Lavisky on five different cards and Tyler Naquin on his team set,CL Prospect and CL All-Star cards.

Thanks to Kendall Morris for helping me with three Gregory Polanco's.
Polanco has signed less since then as you will see in a future signing front!
Kendall also gave me a certified autograph of Cleveland's Carlos Santana,which Kendall reports was the second of two of the same Santana that he pulled from packs!
Pretty long odds betting on that to happen!

Thanks to Jason Christensen for a few minor league Pirates,most notably catcher Jin-De Jhang.

Thanks to Brandon Diehl,who got C.J. Edwards of Hickory after a game when I had to go to work.
Edwards was traded to the Cubs shortly after that in the Matt Garza swap.

And finally,thanks to Bill Cover,who traveled to a Dayton vs Bowling Green game and worked on much of a Bowling Green team set for me as well as some nice prospects.
The biggest addition was Reds fireballer Robert Stephenson,but other Reds included Nick Travieso and Jesse Winker,while the Tampa affiliated Hot Rods added touted hurlers Taylor Guerreri (since injured),Jeff Ames and Blake Snell along with Patrick Leonard,who was obtained in the Wil Myers-James Shields trade..

Thanks to you all!

Last regular season game at the Muni?

Last night before a larger than I expected crowd,the Hagerstown Suns might have played their final regular season game at the Muni and that brought some interesting memories.

I'm going to reserve many of those for a future column when this apparent move to Fredericksburg becomes final,but I did want to write a little about who is most to blame in the loss of professional baseball for the Hub City.
Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn is an easy target,after all,Quinn is the man that would be making the move and there is some blame to toss his way.
Quinn is the person that lined up private investors to move to Fredericksburg,did not make the same attempt for Hagerstown and he has kicked this around over for two years between Winchester and Fredericksburg,but Quinn is not the main target to blame.

I reserve that for others,such as two administrations of the Hagerstown City Council to start with.
Former Mayor Bob Bruchey and his council did a lot of legwork and might have gotten this finished had they not stubbornly stuck to the almost universally hated downtown site for the new ballpark,which resulted in three anti-stadium new members elected and Bruchey himself defeated by David Gysberts.
Gysberts also ran on an anti-stadium platform and seemed surprised with an upset win that mainly occurred due to the ramrod tactics on the downtown issue.
Gysberts was saddled with the aforementioned trio of new council members that each had their own ideas on a stadium and realized that after his election that he was going to be saddled with the title of "man that lost Hagerstown its only sports team" forever.
Kristin Aleshire had never been interested in a stadium dating back to his days on the county commissioners,but did champion a new field up the street from the Muni,which was the best location (in my opinion anyway) of those mentioned.
Don Munson,an aging career politician, was busy backtracking from his promise,wavered in every statement until finally deciding on the site of the former city hospital,which has issues with a small footprint and would be the most difficult to build at.
Munson would eventually throw his support to downtown after it became clear that the Suns preferred Fredericksburg and the council decided to pull a "Don Quixote" move late in the game.
Penny Nigh wanted a small renovation of the Muni and the Suns made it clear that they were not interested in that,so Nigh was not interested in doing anything further with a short and narrow minded agenda,Nigh's vote was never achievable.

Lew Metzner and Martin Brubaker were the holdovers and both stuck to the downtown location despite the overwhelming public outcry against it.
Metzner continued his bungling against Quinn by making various statements about finding other interested teams (Until the team actually leaves,they cannot look around) and ludicrous announcements about independent baseball teams wanting to play "at a stadium that had hosted minor league baseball for years".

However,let us not forget the hotel/motel tax that was instituted twenty years ago for a new stadium that seemed to send its funds to everyone but the task that it was intended as various non-profits stuck their hands out for not one time gifts,but expected them to be annual offerings to the point of including these in their yearly budgets.
It is ironic that in an era of politics that sees so many stadiums around the country built with money intended for other items that Hagerstown took money intended for a stadium and used it for something else.
I also could run down the city councils and county commissioners over the last twenty years,but I do not want to write for the next two hours.
All of them are just as liable as the current bunch for their inaction when they had the chance to do something.

As I watched the crowd file out (I had to leave for work in the 8th inning of a 14-1 Suns win),I thought about this-what could be hoped for to turn the tide.
One could hope for a delay in Fredericksburg with purchasing the land for the site or any other delay that could buy Hagerstown the time for a desperate rally.
The current politicians are being ripped from all sides right now and any extra time could swing the votes to get something done from politicians that want to keep their seats.
Penny Nigh is not going to budge,she still thinks that sock hops will be a big draw,but the rest are practical and may move now.
Downtown is not my preferred location by a long shot,but that is the basket our eggs are in,so I have to root for that.

The hopes are dim and the fact is that last night might have been the last regular season game in Hagerstown,but I can still hope that a miracle can happen,but things have to be happening quickly.
The time for hope is gone,now it is a prayer...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pirates add Byrd and Buck

This is a day late as I just haven't felt like writing since all this began to sink in about the Hagerstown Suns.
I'll be dealing with that soon,I assure you.

The injury to Starling Marte put the Pirates in a position of either having to replace Marte internally with few options to coming close to the production of Marte or going out and adding someone.
The decision was made and the Pirates obtained Marlon Byrd for the stretch run as the replacement and also added veteran catcher John Buck in the same deal from the New York Mets.
The 35 year old Byrd is in the middle of his career year in a career that has seen multiple teams and often disappointing numbers,while Buck is good for above average power numbers for a backstop with a huge issue in making contact.
Both players are merely rentals,as both are free agents at seasons end, for the final month and hopefully playoffs,but the deal did occur in time for the pair to be eligible for post-season play.

The cost was quite high for rentals as Pittsburgh traded two prospects that are pretty highly thought of in second baseman Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later,which is expected to be pitcher Victor Black.
The Pirates are attempting to clear Black through waivers,if he clears-he will go to the Mets,while if another team claims Black,the Pirates can pull him back and send him there after the season.

Dilson Herrera was ambitiously moved to low A West Virginia at just 19 and made the SAL All-Star team for the Power.
Herrera was the breakout player in the system this year for the Pirates and is tough to move,but contending teams often have to move prospects of this type to make improvements for the stretch run.
Fortunately for Pittsburgh,the team has built some depth in the middle infield throughout the system and the trading of Herrera is not a devastating loss.

Victor Black has been the closer for AAA Indianapolis earning 17 saves for the Indians and would have likely been a factor in next years bullpen for the Pirates and will surely be a part of the Mets bullpen in 2014.
The power armed lefthander struck out 63 in 46 innings and has the type of arm that could eventually slot him as a closer or setup man.
Again,the Pirates bullpen is a strength as far as being deep,so Black's loss is not insurmountable.

All told,the Pirates did pay a high cost,but the time was right with the injury to Starling Marte and despite the talents of Herrera and Black,the Pirates are in a position to absorb those losses.
The Mets have to feel very good about their side of the trade as they add a helpful piece in Black for next season and could have a very nice player in a few years in Herrera.
Occasionally,a trade is made that both teams "win"-I think this is one of those deals.

Maybe back tomorrow,if I can handle writing about the loss of the Hagerstown Suns.

Photo Credit:USA Today

Friday, August 23, 2013

The news gets worse

Things continued to spiral downwards for baseball fans in Hagerstown as the team and the city of Fredericksburg Va agreed to what was termed as "a preliminary agreement on an outline of a deal".
As bad as that sounds,it is pretty non-committal as it would be as me saying "I generally agree to do a rough list of chores from the lovely Cherie".
Could the Hub City rally from this? Perhaps,but they certainly have to get off the floor to beat the ten count.
Which means get things moving with a funding plan and take care of business before it is (if it isn't already) too late...

The city's announcement on deciding on the downtown site (the worst one possible) earlier this week gave some brief hope before the body blow of a general agreement with Fredericksburg.
This dance has been danced before with Winchester,so there is hope,but Hagerstown is certainly running second for now.
What this means is that the Suns (I.E.Bruce Quinn) prefers Fredericksburg,but will consider Hagerstown if they ante up and pay a little more.

This is bad news,no matter how you spin it,but reading the release really didn't commit the Suns to anything,but as I earlier wrote,Mr.Quinn clearly prefers one city to the other.

Things continue to make me glum,but none more than this statement by Lewis Metzner of the city (small c) council to the Herald Mail.
"If the Suns reach a deal with Fredericksburg, Metzner said he does not believe the team will be playing in that city by 2015, since it could take a few years to build a 5,000-seat stadium.
The Suns would need a place to play until construction is completed, and “I can’t see them playing in Municipal Stadium for $1 a year,” he said, referring to the current agreement with the team for use of the city-owned ballpark.
That could open the way for a short-term lease agreement for the Suns to keep playing in Hagerstown until a stadium is built, Metzner said."
When you start thinking that way,one can see the end of the game in sight.

It's not looking good in Hagerstown.....

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Devils sold...

The Devils were sold recently to a group led by the owner of the Philadelphia 76ers,Josh Harris and prominent businessman David Blitzer.
The sale price was reported to be roughly 320 million dollars and included the Devils arena in the Prudential Center.
Former majority owner Jeff Vanderbeek is retaining a small (reported to be five percent) interest in the team as well.

One thing that will not change is the man running the organization and making the decisions on personnel as Lou Lamoriello will remain as the top person in charge.
The Harris/Blitzer group talked to Lamoriello before buying the team and seemed to find a rapport with Lou,who was able to happily agree to continuing to run the show.
That is quite a relief to me as I did have some concerns on any new ownership deciding to bring in their own man instead of the man that built this proud organization.
A good first move and one that reflects well on the ownership involved....

It may be too late for this upcoming season,but the Devils will certainly have financial firepower to attempt to replace Ilya Kovalchuk during next off-season.
It will be nice to not have the financial issues hanging over the head of the team when free agents are available and the team will be able to play the game with the best of them.

Back later with thoughts on the breaking news of the Hagerstown Suns reaching an agreement with Fredericksburg....

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A day with Big Don,my favorite Key and a night at the Grove

Before I begin,please allow me a moment to say thanks to all of you that spoke,wrote etc to me about yesterday's column.
I still think yesterday's City Council meeting was a lame effort to say "we tried" when the Suns leave Hagerstown,but at least that was something.
I'll be writing more about that meeting and anything that we can do on Thursday night from the road office.

Yesterday, I spent the day getting groceries and then going to Frederick for the Keys against the Winston-Salem Dash for my first game all season to stay and watch.
Allow me to enlighten you on something-I don't get to see many games from start to finish in Frederick.
My working restrictions and Derreck's often add up to an inning or two and then home.
I get to see more games in Harrisburg than I ever do in Frederick and that's a shame because I really like the way the Keys do things.

But,first my buddy and this blog's biggest fan was in Frederick and I had to spend the evening watching a game with him.
The lovely Cherie was in tow as she thinks the world of Big Don and it is always a great evening when she gets to watch a game with me.
I only had a few cards with me,so my graphing was limited as I had done most of my Winston-Salem the night before.
I spent most of my time helping Big Don before the game started and during the game,we swapped stories on baseball,various places that we both visited and off the field issues.
Great time with Big Don with the highlight being his impersonation of a drunken Dean Martin after hearing a story on local grapher "Dean Martin".

I also was able to see my favorite Keys employee,Bridget,who talked to me a bit during the game and made me the "tweet your seat" winner complete with cardboard crown,free seasoning and most of all-ten bucks off at Buffalo Wild Wings,which is my favorite local chain to eat at.
At least,until Quaker Steak and Lube would ever arrive here!
Thanks to Bridget for the goodies and for being nice to me this season!

The Frederick Keys just do a lot of things right in game presentation.
They don't hit you over the head with gimmicks between EVERY inning and their in-game "host" is not obnoxious and over the top either.
They do play games on the field and music,but it is done as a compliment to the baseball product-not drowning it out in favor of drivel.
I suppose that I should say this-You can ignore things at Frederick that you cannot at Hagerstown.
If you do not want to pay attention to games,music,etc,it is not loud enough to bother you.
If you enjoy it,you can watch.
The baseball experience truly is for everyone at Harry Grove Stadium,not just for people that want to run around with the microphone.
I remember the horrific days at the Muni when "Reed" ran around and thought it was "hey,kids lets put on a show" more than a baseball game.
Gosh,that was so bad that I get chills remembering it!

The Keys also make a great Red slushee too.
Not really Cherry or Strawberry,it was very good!
Even Cherie,who generally hates Cherry items liked this because it tasted more like a blend of different flavors than cherry.
Give it a try,if you hit Frederick before the season ends.

After a short postgame visit with the Keys and finally landing the elusive Zane Chavez,we said goodbye to Big Don,drove home and began to work on my aging and ailing PC (Got it working!).
A fun day and thanks to the lovely Cherie,our biggest fan Big Don and my favorite Key Bridget.
Great day for me,at least!

Back tomorrow with more from the road!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Total Recall

It does not look good for baseball fans in the Hub City as it is very possible that today could be the day that the Hagerstown Suns begin the process of escaping town for the traffic gridlocked town of Fredericksburg Va.

I think both parties in the end will regret the move.
Quinn and the Suns will be going to an already saturated baseball area (MLB,AA,High A and Indy ball all within 50 miles) with issues getting to his park with traffic seems to make his move one doomed for long term failure.
Hagerstown will as well,when they realize that losing the Suns means losing affiliated baseball for good and if they want it at all in the inferior Independent leagues,they will still be building a new stadium anyway.

However,I blame Mayor ( I use the term very loosely) David Gysberts and the traveling band of non-rolling stones known as the City Council most.
We have heard at the end of each of the last three months that a major announcement was forthcoming and yet,none were announced.
The truth is,these people had little interest in saving the team.
Both the Mayor and three of the council members ran on an anti-stadium platform and then attempted to deceive the people of this community with them "working" on the facility.
Say what you wish about Penny Nigh (and I have),but she at least had the courage to be consistent in her opinions,as dumb as I believe they are.

 So in that vein,I will say this-I volunteer.
To help or even lead up a recall election procedure for the mayor and city council as soon as this move becomes official.
There was little I or anyone else could do to stop the team from leaving,so as bad as I feel,I cannot beat myself up for that,but I was told by someone recently that they had "hard time believing I'd carry through with my threats to attend city meetings etc" if the team left.
Perhaps they were right,so let's go further.
Spread the word,send us to anyone interested,send us to the Herald-Mail,( who finally nailed the city with a hard nosed editorial today),send this to WHAG,whatever you wish.
I don't believe anything I can do can save my ballclub,but I wager with the right help-I can help make the people that took my ballclub pay with their elected seats.

Thanks for reading....

Monday, August 19, 2013

On the Signing Front

The cards are piling up big time at this time of year,so it is time to hit the signing front before things get out of control!

First a few non-baseball cards.

From the LPGA tour,multiple major winner Cristie Kerr signed two cards.

Thanks to Bill Cover,who's quick thinking on a blank nabbed me wrestling manager Jimmy Hart,when Hart appeared at a Harrisburg game.

Thanks to the Superfan for adding former Giants corner John Booty and former USFL and Redskins wideout Gary Clark,
Both players coach the Baltimore team in the Lingerie Football League (Don't ask) and the Superfan got these for me after a Baltimore game...

As you know I do the signing fronts in chronological order,so here is a link to the SAL All-Star game signings since those cards are just now reaching the front.

The Trenton Thunder hit Harrisburg for their only visit and were surprisingly good.
Tyler Austin was super and Slade Heathcott was nice as one of the last players out of the clubhouse,he still signed for everyone.
Pitching prospect Jose Ramirez was another nice pickup and I was happy to add Neil Medchill,who I had carried cards around for quite a while.
It happens that way at times and Medchill was very nice..
Tyler also was able to add the elusive Brian Goodwin,who seems to have lost much of his interest in signing.
Both of my buddies that live in other Eastern League cities report that the Harrisburg club was the worst team with the pen in the EL this season..

A trip to Frederick for the Lynchburg Hillcats saw me work on both teams.
Lynchburg's team set was not out yet,so only a few cards for them.
Additions included cards for manager Luis Salazar and some Rome cards that I had missed before
I started my work on the Frederick Keys set.
The best pickups were Nick Delmonico,who has since been traded to the Brewers and Eduardo Rodriguez,who might be the breakout pitching prospect for the Orioles this season.
Sorry to see Delmonico traded as he was always accommodating and pleasant to deal with....

The Kannapolis Intimidators came to Hagerstown with a few good prospects,most notably Micah Johnson,who won the MVP at the SAL All-Star  game and 18 year old Bartolo Colon lookalike Jefferson Olacio.
But another encounter with former Oriole and current Kannapolis pitching coach Jose Bautista,who signed a ton for Derreck and Tyler and then was "too busy" to sign for me.
I asked him to at least sign his top card,which was his Orioles "Crown Gas" card,he reluctantly did so.
Another Bautista story from the most recent Kannapolis visit (covered down the road),A collector hollers to Bautista as he walks along "Jose,will you sign?" Bautista: "You're too late today".
Problem with that is the appearance was the first of the day for him outside the clubhouse.
So,if he was too late,the fault was Bautista's.Not ragging on Bautista for not signing,but for a less than friendly response....

A quick pregame trip to Harrisburg for the bobblehead and the Richmond Flying Squirrels saw Joe Panik sign his top 100 card and Adam Duvall sign a few as well.
Duvall had been injured on his first trip to Harrisburg and I am trying to get as many of the Top 100 cards signed as I can....

Two teams hit Hagerstown with few cards.
The Hickory Crawdads added Joey Gallo on his top 100 and Ronald Guzman on a Bowman.
The Crawdads aren't releasing their team set until the final week of the season! How on Earth do they expect to sell many of these?
The Lakewood Blue Claws saw Larry Greene come to Hagerstown for the first time and signed everything.
The Blue Claws are always a good signing team with one exception (more down the road for a future Lakewood visit) and this continued with the other addition of Roman Quinn on a Bowman...
I was able to add former Dodger pitcher Bill Singer on a 1971 card during this series.Singer works in the Nationals front office....

Doing the Potomac Nationals in Frederick usually leaves me doing little as most of those cards get signed in Hagerstown (for now) until their team set is released.
This trip was more of the same with one exception-A.J.Cole had returned to the organization after one year excursion to the Oakland Athletics and I needed to add some cards that had accumulated.
Cole signed all four including his Top 100 and his heritage cards.
The chrome and heritage rank at the top of cards that I love to get signed.

A trip to Harrisburg for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats added players that I have not picked up before.
The Fisher Cats are a Toronto affiliate and other than mainstream cards,I have no need to buy Toronto team sets.
I did buy the Fisher Cats since I knew I was going to see them and was able to get most signed.
Former first round pick Deck McGuire was very cool and spent time joking and talking with us both before and after the game.
2012 first rounder Marcus Stroman signed as did top prospects A.J. Jimenez and Sean Nolin.
Another interesting addition was former Oriole Adam Loewen,who everyone but me seemed to have!
Former Astros shortstop Tommy Manzella and former Pirate Clint Robinson also signed,

The mailbox brought former Indians and Orioles shortstop Larry Brown.
Mike Oravec continued his help with Pirates,Indians and Giants with the favorites being Chris Speier and Dave Dravecky on their 88 Score cards.

We wrap up with thanks to Tom O'Brien,who helped me with New Britain pitchers Trevor May and Alex Meyer,Altoona outfielder Mel Rojas Jr and the beginnings of the Bowie team set.
The best of the Bowie bunch looks to be Cuban outfielder Henry Urretia,but Eddie Gamboa was added too.
Gamboa is one of the converted knuckleballers that we mentioned in yesterday's inbox cleaning.
The best of all?
Tom sent me a card signed by Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter!
Thanks to Tom and everyone of my friends for the help!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Another Cleaning out the inbox

We finish our cleaning of the inbox with a few more notes and complete things before a return to normal.

The big news is the debut of FOX Sports one as a challenger to ESPN.
I haven't watched anything yet,although there is a boxing show on Monday,so I might watch a little of their programming then.
I'll have a upcoming look on FS1...

The Baltimore Orioles have hired Hall of Fame knuckleballer Phil Niekro as a tutor to a few of their players including the Frederick Keys pitcher Zack Clark.
I think this is a smart move as it only takes one success to make this small investment a winning one.
I love the knuckleballer and taught Ryan how to throw it when he was very young.I wish I had used him more in that role,I think it would have blown some kids minds!
And yes,I have Phil Niekro cards in the briefcase in the event that I see him in Frederick!
The NY Times article is here.

Former Indian slugger Rocky Colavito recently turned 80.
The Rock is such a cultural icon in Northeast Ohio that people that weren't even born for years after his retirement know his name,
Colavito was one of those very good but not great players that tend to be forgotten.
Not in Cleveland.
Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer talks to the Rock here....

The Washington Post takes a look at the Library of Congress and their efforts to save early videotapes of the television age.
The tape used of the age were of the 2 inch "quad" variety and were never designed for long term durability.
The WP quotes Jim Lindner of Media Matters,a company charged with attempting the saving of the tapes,on the problems that need to be dealt with- "The videotapes have delicate coatings — essentially “polyurethane paint with magnetic particles inside it,” says Jim Lindner of Media Matters, which specializes in transferring videotaped material to more stable formats. Over time, these coatings absorb moisture, grow sticky and sometimes separate from their backing. With every fleck that peels away, Lindner says, “a bit of recorded history does, too.”
The machines to play quad tape are rare,hard to find and makes one think closely of people tossing their VHS machines.Imagine the things that will not be digitally converted when machines and parts are hard to find.This could be a great loss.
The process is a delicate one and one well worth pursuing.

Grantland takes another look at Andy Kaufman,who still makes people talk almost thirty years after his passing.
A recent release of tapes made by Kaufman on a "record" shows the continued fascination with the comedian.
I must admit to finding some of Kaufman's work ground breaking.
I also find some of it mind numbingly dull and overbearing...

We wrap up with pulling up to your driveway and finding a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket in your yard.
As in the huge one that welcomes you to KFC.
Well,this happened to a family and they have little choice as their landlord put it there!
Sounds like something I would do!
Anyway,it made me remember my picture with a large chicken bucket with Kendall Morris at a Salisbury MD Tastee Freeze!

Back soon with a signing front hit!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cleaning out the inbox-Goodbyes

This might be the longest break in the history of the blog!
But rest assured,I still have this on my mind and things have filled up in the inbox to the point of TWO cleanings and I'll do one now and one later tonight.

This will deal with the goodbyes that have accumulated with general things coming in the next blog.
Goodbye to Dennis Farina,a former real life police officer who turned to acting, at the age of 69.
Farina was known for playing cops and crime bosses and always brought a large measure of toughness and believability to the roles that he played.
Farina may have been best known for more mainstream TV work on Law and Order and Miami Vice,but I might have liked him best in the shorter-lived,but underrated Crime Story on NBC....

Goodbye to another underrated actor in Karen Black at the age of 74.
Black was a much larger star in the 70's than later on,but the versatile actress could always be counted on to give a strong performance in any role.
Black was known for roles in Easy Rider,Airport,Five Easy Pieces and The Great Gatsby as well as numerous TV spots.
Black had a slightly crossed eyed look that did not impair her vision or work,but likely hindered her chances as a leading lady.

Goodbye to former Welterweight and Middleweight titlist Emile Griffith,who passed at the age of 75.
The boxing Hall of Famer returned to the spotlight a few years back as the subject of the documentary Ring of Fire,which looked at his boxing career and his bi-sexuality,which was a taboo in the time period that he fought in.
Griffith was a smooth boxer/puncher until his regaining of the 147 pound title with a brutal 12th round stoppage of Benny "Kid" Paret that resulted in the death of Paret after the bout.
After the fight,Griffith was never the same fighter as he changed to an all boxing style that saw success as Griffith would win the 160 pound crown over Dick Tiger,but rarely scored knockouts again....

Goodbye to George "Boomer" Scott at the age of 69.
Scott was well known for his prodigious homers and smooth glovework at first base for a big man,as Scott won eight gold gloves in his career.
Scott spent his prime with the Red Sox and Brewers before a return to Boston in 1977 that saw the final big season of his career.
Scott lost his ability quickly in 1978 and was best known after as being the main part of a trade that saw Cecil Cooper go to the Brewers.
Boomer led the American League in both homers and RBI in 1975 with the Brewers and along with Dick Allen,pioneered the wearing of batting helmets in the field,which led to some unique baseball cards.
Scott also is the subject of two personal notes.

I played first base as a player and I wanted a first baseman's glove.
When I went shopping for it,I really wanted the George Scott glove,which was made by Wilson,but when I went to the store for the glove,I found that I preferred the Rawlings Chris Chambliss model.
I preferred Scott as a player,but the Chambliss was a better glove.
I kept that glove for as long as I could,until it just degraded to the point of uselessness.
What a memory.

The other occurred fairly recently as I sent Scott some cards and did not know of his reputation as an indifferent mail signer until long after I sent them.
I was surprised that months later,Scott signed and returned them to the amazement of Mike Oravec,who had not had luck with Scott.
Thanks Boomer and Rest Well.....

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dull days and reflections

After a trading deadline that saw the likes of Robert Andino and Marc Rzepczynski as the only players moved by any of the three teams,I was thinking of something to write about.
So,I need something to type about.

As I pondered a subject,I thought a little about the demands of this blog.
I try to write everyday,but at this time of year,it has become tough with the time spent graphing.
Over the years of doing this,I have developed a healthy respect for columnists in the professional world that have to come up with posts on the slowest of days.
It seems not so difficult,but some times it can be quite demanding.

When I write about sports,I feel on pretty solid ground,but when I veer off that track-not so much.
Oh,I don't mind standing behind an opinion,after all,that is much of what this is,but I do wonder about ticking off friends and many of our readership is just that-friends.
Politics is often a difficult topic for the best of friends and I have my stance on them as I do religion,but some of my best friends have opposite views and despite my beliefs,theirs are just as valid to them and I attempt to tread lightly.

Some times I wonder just what I am doing here,writing about sports,but I also write about other things-namely me and things important to me from the past.
When I was thinking about this,what I find that I enjoy the most about the personal things is this-I am leaving something behind.
I am leaving material behind for the people that I care about and people that aren't even here yet to know a little bit about me.
I doubt that a future grandchild or great grandchild will care much about the Pirates adding Robert Andino or the Devils losing Ilya Kovalchuk from retirement,but they could find some of the personal posts interesting.
Think of it as a way to get to know someone that might not be around or as open to remembrances if they are.
I wish my father, grandfathers or even great grandfathers had some way of allowing me to look back at their past and one thing about this digital age that is positive is that it is so easy to leave such a log (or blog) behind.

It isn't always fun,but more often than not,I enjoy this.
Readership is not what I hoped it would be,but it's sizable enough that I get a kick out of people talking to me about what I write.
It never ceases to amaze me when people inform me about my own life and opinions and I wonder if I would have more enjoyment,if I did have higher readership numbers.
I'm grateful for what I have,but I am always looking for a way to build.
It is what I do-ball clubs,collections and this as well-I build things,even though I am unable to build things that many take for granted.

Thanks for sticking around,I'll accept any offers to build readership,ideas for slow day posts
and as I told Battlin' Bob years ago-This isn't work,it's fun and when it's not,it is time to say goodbye.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

My buddies,State College and Willie McGee

Usually we try to do things on the signing front in chronological order,but we are making an exception this time for our trip to State College for the Spikes and Tri-City ValleyCats.

My regular traveling companions Derreck and Tyler were along with our semi-regular compadre' Brad Adams for the game and a "Matt Adams" bobblehead.
Matt Adams of the Cardinals is from the area and it made sense,especially since Brad and Derreck are bobble crazy.
I never mind the travel and the rides to get places,what I am not always a fan of long line waits,which are often needed to secure a promotional item.
I suppose being middle aged and fat tends to wear on the wheels a bit,which is the main reason I dislike it so.
The original plan was a 2:00 departure to arrive around five,but a friend of Brad's said "State College loves their bobbleheads" and to get there early,so we left two hours before we planned.
So,we get there and are greeted by one goober waiting in line "since 10 AM",glad to see they love their bobbles!
"10 AM guy" proved to be a real winner as he "regaled" us with tales of his bobble collection (500) and his "sold one for $500" etc.
Sometimes,the stereotype of collectors of anything is deserved,I suppose.

As we stood in line with plenty of time (3 Hours!) to kill,we were able to meet a really cool couple from Aberdeen,who stopped by after seeing Matt Adams and the Cardinals the evening before in Pittsburgh.
Tracy and his wife (I never asked her name,sigh) talked with us,took a picture or two and seemed interested in what we do in the hobby.
Such a pleasure getting to know them and perhaps we can see each other down the road!
Three hours is a long time,but the Spikes did a smart thing-they opened up the team shop early.
This not only allows fans to enjoy a little AC,but the team can sell merchandise as well.
Not all teams have a team shop that can be accessed from the park's outside,but more should consider opening early and making a little extra profit.

The team shop is where we made another new friend in Spikes shop manager Julie Henry.
Julie was very helpful and chatted to us before the game as well as walking to our perch,high above the right field wall and hanging out with us a bit.
Julie also reported that the crowd was similar for the previous bobble-former MLB pitcher Eric Milton,so we really didn't have to be there THAT early,although stopping in late would been far too late.
So much for Brad's friend's intel! Ha Ha!
Another enjoyable time and friend met.
We ordered our State College sets from Julie and really enjoyed her company as well.
We may be seeing her again in Williamsport later this season when the Spikes visit the Crosscutters.

The Spikes added three mascots to Derreck and I's "pictures with famous mascots" collection,but in State College,the right field bleachers seats are my preferred spots.
It's a great place to watch a game and Brad even enjoyed it despite his fear of heights.
Hagerstown/Fredericksburg/Wherever could do far worse than taking a look at the Spikes for a similar looking stadium....

As far as the signing goes,I had next to none for State College.
Since the Spikes changed affiliations from the Pirates to the Cardinals,I had a grand total of two players on the team that I had cards for.
Victor DeLeon signed his one card and Carson Kelly was very nice in knocking his six out,so no .
complaints with the Spikes.
I'll get another shot at them in a few weeks when Derreck and I do their team set in Williamsport.

Tri-City was a different story as I had their team set available.
The biggest prospects were Adrian Houser (only player in top 30 before the season) ,D'Andre Toney and Tony Kemp,a recent draft pick from Vanderbilt.
I was able to get all the ValleyCats except for two,so it was a good night.
Two interesting stories on the coaching staff.
Hitting coach Russ Steinhorn didn't play pro baseball,he comes from the college ranks and I was struck by how young he looked.
As in player age,he looked that young.
So I try to tell him that, make conversation and ask how he does it.
His response? He never looks up,no facial expression,signs his one card and says "Discipline" followed by a trot to the bus.
Brad says "Boy,he really liked you".
I have that affect on people.

And then there is Ed Romero.
Ed,who was reported to be "Excited" to be back in short season baseball, has the most representative baseball card that I've ever seen.
As in appearing to have a colostomy bag inside him during the game.I need to scan that card!
His personality was similar as he rushed by us before the game without even breaking stride with a sour look on his face.
So after my wonderful encounter with Russ Steinhorn,we asked the waiting bus driver about Romero.
"Oh,Eddie's a great guy". Ok,perhaps it is just an intensity thing.Some players or managers are terrific after the game,but focused before.
I can buy that,understand it and even respect it,so maybe Romero is one of those guys.
Shortly thereafter,Romero briskly walks down the steps,Brad asks him to sign two cards."The bus is waiting for me!"
Well.yes,but you are the manager,they waited already and there are only two people here.
Romero signs them and then SLAMS the sharpie on Brad's book and stalks away.
Now,normally this is where I say "to hell with this" but on this occasion-I'm getting that sour lemon card signed,so I ask for one,Romero takes the sharpie,slops a signature and adds an "F U flourish" with a long line running off the card before stomping on the bus.

But before Romero,we had an encounter that made Ed Romero seem small.
We were all chatting and then a guy walks out with sunglasses (at 10;30?) and headphones.
All three of us look at each other and think this "That guy looks like Willie McGee".
As we all quizzically look at each other and ask that question,Brad tries to catch him,but with that lead and he IS Willie McGee,Brad Adams just ain't catching him.
Derreck yells "WILLIE",McGee turns and leaves with a wave.
We all talk about him and a local lady asks us why we aren't asking more Spikes to sign (no cards as mentioned earlier),mentions the leagues leading hitter standing in front of us (no cards),but all we want to talk about is Willie McGee.
"Oh,him? he'll be here all week".
ALL WEEK? Derreck turns and says "We are coming back tomorrow and getting him".
Yes! Another Giant although he is better known as a Cardinal.

After that,we leave State College around 11-11:30,I get back to my house around 2:30,go to the attic to dig for Willie McGee cards,grab a bite,get to bed around six,wake at 7;45 and be on the road to State College at nine for Willie McGee.
Brad's back with us,Tyler skipped since it was his birthday and we are off for a three hour ride.
More fun talk on about everything you can think of and then time sitting around waiting for Willie.
Finally,we think he is there,here he comes-We tell him our story and wait.
Willie says "that's either a great story or you all are lying! Good thing I'm not a butthole" and signed everything for all of us!
Talked a bit,took pictures with all three of us and talked about being at the Muni when he worked for the Giants.
Willie's done,back in the car and back with 20 minutes to spare for the Kannapolis Intimidators at the Muni!

What a great trip and great time. Thanks to Derreck and Brad for everything.
When you spend as much time in the car as we do in this get to know your companions well.
Great guys make great friends.Thanks again for everything!

Back later with another post from the road office. and don't be surprised with more from this-Derreck says I forget things!