Saturday, May 27, 2017

Road Trip:Norfolk

I've been on the road a lot over the last week and didn't have a chance to write about the Cavaliers two wins and one loss on their way to winning the Eastern Conference for the third year in a row.
I'm planning a title series preview covering the Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors later this week,but since that series doesn't start until next Thursday-I'll do that in a few days...

I added another stadium to my passport as I visited Norfolk Virginia with one of my normal travelers in Derreck Chupak along with Brandon Diehl,who has went on trips with us before and a new voyager in Patrick O'Connor.
I'm not a huge grapher of AAA baseball because it's a lot of work,but this was intriguing because of the visiting Charlotte Knights.
The new Bowman top 100 set was released and with luck,I could get five percent (five for the non-math majors out there! Ha Ha) of the set in one visit with four Knights and one member of the home Norfolk Tides.

The trip was originally scheduled to be taken to Trenton,NJ for the Trenton Thunder and I took off work to do so,but the trip was changed with the reported lack of signing of top prospect Gleyber Torres,scared us off a bit.
Being that I had never been to Norfolk and I was knocking a ball park my list anyway,I was fine with the change.

We drove straight to Harbor Park and did "arrival" so we could get a head start.
AAA graphing is difficult mainly for two reasons-the prospects are getting hammered by graphers from all over as they travel through their various systems and AAA guys are getting their first shot at them and the veterans are often older guys that think they should be in the majors and are grumpy for being in AAA.
I didn't get many players during the arrival period-Tyler Danish,who was always a good signer with the White Sox lower level teams,signed a few,veteran journeyman outfielder Ryan Raburn signed his Indians heritage card,but was grumpy doing it.(I wager he was in a better mood in a few days when he was traded to Washington to bolster their bench) and the biggest catch came with Carson Fulmer.
Fulmer was my first top 100 of the weekend with maybe my favorite card of the entire set-this year's Fulmer showed Fulmer pictured in the throwback uniforms from the early 1980's!
Fulmer signs just one card at a time,but he is so nice and easy to deal with and I'm really rooting for the Vanderbilt product to succeed in the bigs..
Those players all walked from the hotel and we weren't as fortunate with the remainder of the team,who took the bus to the park as none of those players signed.

A quick trip back to our hotel,where a computer snafu left us scrambling for our reservation,having to find Ryan and a re-send of the reservation to finally get settled in before a return to Harbor Park,which despite a mist of rain and winds which made the night long,was not melting in the dark.
We tried to do some pre-game graphing by the visitors dugout in hopes for a few cards to be finished and that's about what we had in a few cards from the Charlotte pitching coach and former Oakland Athletic Steve McCatty.
Harbor Park is a two tiered park with the lower deck having far more seating than the cheaper upper deck and we were given pretty decent seats from the Tides.
We were very fortunate to have two prospects charting for Charlotte with Carson Fulmer signing my second (and final) card for me and former Sun Reynaldo Lopez signing his top 100 for my second of the series.
The cards he signed for us were the only ones that we saw Lopez sign for anyone over our time in Norfolk.
I know that players sign less and less as they move higher and higher in baseball,but this one surprised me a bit.
Lopez was always a great signer and very gregarious in dealing with graphers when in the Washington system,it's sad to see him sour on signing,but I'll still remember him best for one night in Hagerstown.

Norfolk does have some pretty good hot dogs as Brandon recommended and at reasonable prices at 4.50 per.
I had one "Frito Dog" (Chili,Cheese and crushed Frito) and one "Oriole Dog" (real Crab and Mac and Cheese).
I loved the Frito dog and the crab on the Oriole dog was good,but the mac and cheese could have been done without.
I ate one of each and the other guys ate more than that.
If I had ordered another one,it might have been an Oriole-hold the mac!!
The pictured dogs were Derreck's second helping of dogs!!

We left the game after the seventh inning in order to get into position to land the biggest fish-the number one prospect in all of baseball-Yoan Moncada.
Moncada was the largest chip that Boston had in trading for ace starter Chris Sale with the White Sox and Moncada is expected to be a star for the White Sox for years and could be in Chicago soon.
Moncada was ranked as number one in the top 100 set by Bowman and I was never able to get him to sign for me last year in games that I saw him play in the Boston system with both Salem (High A) and Portland (AA).
As we waited for players as the game wound down,more and more people began to arrive.
We were in great position and a fellow that Derreck met earlier in the day arrived and began acting strangely,pointing at us and had some less than nice things to say as reported by Patrick.
Both of us would have loved to have put this guy in his place,but we had came to get Moncada (and others),we didn't want to lose that spot for some guy that likely had too much to drink.
We move on to Brandon's favorite player,Lucas Giolito,who signed his top 100 to me (Lucas always personalizes,which bothers me much less than others,it seems) and then chatted with Brandon and Patrick for a bit.
Lucas threw a seven inning no-hitter earlier this week in his first start since our visit and might be turning things around after a awful start to the season.

As our "friend" continued his proclamations,Moncada peeked out around the corner to check the amount of graphers,he waited a bit and came out.
This is where the leaving early to gain position won the day-Moncada signed for the four of us (Top 100 for me),a kid with a baseball and Derek,who I had just met.
Derek is on the SportGraphing message board and did a Danville team set for me on consignment last season.
Glad I was able to meet him in person as he's a good guy and an excellent grapher!
Moncada was finished now and walked onto the bus and now this guy mentioned earlier went from drunken happy to drunken unhappy!
The guy began to scream at the bus and walked the length of the bus with his middle finger extended.
He then looked to be moving to the parking lot to leave,but a few minutes later,returned to do the same thing!
Finally,his girlfriend/wife showed up and told him he was embarrassing her,which ended his evening.
I don't write this just to demean this fellow,who I hope just had too much to drink,I write to show two things.
1) This type of behavior helps to contribute to why players get tired of fan interaction.
2) The actions of guys like this makes all of us in this hobby look bad and that's sad because even though graphers like this exist,they aren't around all the time.

I wasn't finished after Moncada as I was able to add a few more players in former Padre outfielder Rymer Liriano (two) and former Padre shortstop Everth Cabrera (two) to end the evening at Harbor Park before an Uber ride through what seemed to be the rougher side of Norfolk and Portsmouth,which is where our hotel was located across the river.
At the end of the day,four top 100's down,some other cards finished,a ballpark on the list and a few interesting tales to tell-good day...

After some sleep,we returned to the stadium to see what we could get on arrival before we left for Hagerstown.
I had worked on Charlotte more on day one,but with the 100's finished,I was trying to fill in cards from both teams,but most importantly,the remaining top 100-Norfolk catcher Chance Sisco,who we had been told that came in very early before almost any of the other Tides.
I did get three Knights in former Phillie Cody Asche (minor heritage),Will Lamb ( 2014 Myrtle Beach) and another Tyler Danish (Bowman) that went to Craig out in Utah.
Norfolk did provide a few in former Braves infielder Chris Johnson (Heritage),who was very nice in signing.Jimmy Yacabonis (2016 Frederick) and Mike Yastrzemski (2016 Bowie),so I was able to feel OK about the Sunday morning hour,but I was disappointed to miss Chance Sisco.
The Knights got off their bus and all walked into the stadium without signing,but as I put away my stuff,Brandon came running over and said Chance Sisco had pulled into the lot.
I've lost some weight,but now the time had come-could I run from the stadium end to stadium end before Sisco entered the clubhouse?
Derreck took my briefcase,so it wouldn't slow me down and the race was on!
I was slow before I gained all this weight,but I suppose motivation can occasionally defeat natural gifts because I made it
in time to get Sisco on his top 100 and make it a perfect five for five on the trip!
I wasn't as out of breath as I thought I'd be,but still I'm surprised I pulled that off!
Former Indian Michael Bourn arrived via Uber,but waved us off with "Not today Ya'll" and that finished our day.

We ran into a lot of traffic on the way home,so a long ride became longer,but I had a great time with Derreck,Brandon and Patrick and it was successful as well.
AAA is far tougher than what I usually do (Even AA) and I don't think I'd enjoy it every day,but it was quite fun and I'd consider doing it again-On occasion!!!!

Still plenty to catch up on and that'll include my anniversary trip and my first trip to Whitaker Bank Ballpark,the home of the Lexington Legends...

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