Sunday, August 25, 2013

8/21/13 at Citi Field AND Yankee Stadium

This was one of the longest days of baseball that I have ever had. First, the Braves played the Mets at Citi Field. Then, the Blue Jays played the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Two games in one day for my father and I, it would be something that we've never done before.

The day started off when we got to Citi Field about two hours before the game was going to start. We had gotten tickets in the exclusive Delta Club four rows behind home plate. After going in through the Hodges VIP gate, we went right toward where our seats were. Unfortunately, this was the scene when we got into the stadium. Not surprisingly, there was no batting practice, probably because it was a day game after a night game.

Since there was no BP, I went down the first base line near where the Mets pitchers would be warming up. Before any of the pitchers came out, bullpen coach Ricky Bones came out of the dugout. Someone asked him to come over and sign, and he walked right over to everyone and signed for everyone that wanted. I got him to sign the side panel of a brand new official MLB ball that I had bought earlier. I had planned on getting plenty of Mets to sign one ball, and that was a good start to the day.

While Bones was signing, many of the relievers were getting warmed up for the game. The first player to come over and sign was reliever and spot starter Carlos Torres. He signed my ball right under Bones' signature. He signed for everyone that wanted, then went into the dugout to finish getting ready for the game. I was able to take a video of him signing for a little while, you can see it HERE. Carlos was very personable and talkative, as there was not much else to do other than warm up and sign.

As Torres finished up signing near the dugout, recently called up Greg Burke started signing. I got him to sign the baseball everyone else was signing under the MLB logo. I also got to take a picture with him. He was signing for a long time. My dad was further down the line, and he took a few pictures also. HERE is a video of him signing that I took right in front of him. Burke later got sent down after giving up THIS home run to lose the game against the Braves.

While Burke was signing by me, David Aardsma was signing for the people further down the line. When he finished signing down there, he came towards me. I had Aardsma's rookie card from 2004, and he signed that for me. That card is on the right. I tried to get Aardsma to sign the ball that everyone else was signing, but he was only doing one per person.

I had brought my glove with me, like I bring to every baseball game. While many other pitchers were signing, Dillon Gee was having a catch with one of the Mets bullpen catchers. When he was done, I put on my glove and asked him to toss the ball up. He responded by lobbing the ball underhand in my direction. I reached up and made the easy one handed catch. I've now gotten a ball at every game I've been to at Citi Field this season. Gee came over to sign shortly after tossing me the ball. He was kind enough to sign the ball he threw to me, as well as the team ball I was getting signed by everyone. HERE is a video I took of him signing.

As Gee was making his way down the line, All Star Game starter Matt Harvey had just finished signing for people down the line and was walking right towards us. Everyone was calling for him to come over, and he obliged. I had brought the umpire ball I got on May 20 to get signed by someone on the sweet spot. I took the ball out, gave it to Harvey, and he signed it beautifully on the sweet spot. He signed for a few more minutes, and I was lucky enough to get some of it on tape.

If you would like to see Harvey's autograph or any of the other autographs I got throughout the day, you can see them at the bottom of this entry. Harvey's would be the last autograph I got down the line.

Following Harvey, many of the pitchers went back into the dugout and got ready for the game. I went behind home plate toward my seats. After I had put my drink down in a cup holder, my father told me that there was a player signing in the corner near the Mets dugout.

I quickly noticed that it was none other than the recently called up Travis d'Arnaud. I ruffled through my bag, grabbed my team ball, and ran over there as fast as I could. Once I got there, d'Arnaud was still there signing for people that came over and asked. He signed my ball, then I took a picture with him as he wasn't going anywhere. My dad also captured me talking to Travis, and you can see that image HERE. Before he left, I shook his hand and wished him luck. He ended up drawing a walk in his first MLB pinch hitting appearance later that day.

Mets manager Terry Collins was sitting near the dugout steps, less than 10 feet from where I was standing. We yelled out to Terry to come and sign. He responded that he was working, and eventually came out. He walked right over to us, signed five or six autographs and left. I was lucky enough to get him to sign my ball on the sweet spot. My father got the image you see on the left while Terry was signing for the small group that assembled.

The national anthem was played right after Terry finished signing. Just when I thought about leaving, third base coach Tim Teufel walked right over to us and started signing very quickly. Teufel was on the 1986 Mets that won the World Series. He signed my ball on one of the side panels. I got a picture with him, and also shook his hand. Thanks to my dad for taking the video that I took this screenshot off of. 

That would be everything I got for the Mets game. I returned to my seat, got shake shack delivered to my seat by a waiter, and had about a dozen waters to combat the 90 degree heat.

In the 9th inning of the game, the Mets loaded the bases for Juan Lagares with two outs. Instead of being a hero and getting a walk off hit, he grounded out, forcing extra innings. At that point, my dad and I left the game and headed to the Bronx for game two of our doubleheader. 

We got to Yankee Stadium and were in line about 20 minutes before the gates were set to open. After going into the stadium, I tried to get a ball from the Blue Jays along the third base side. I was unsuccessful at getting a ball, as about five baseballs were within a few feet of me. A cop who picked up a ball told me he was going to give it to a kid. Luck just wasn't on my side at Yankee Stadium. 

I went right next to the Blue Jays bullpen after batting practice ended to watch RA Dickey warm up for his start. Unfortunately, at Yankee Stadium, there are nets near the bullpen. I had to stick my camera through them to take this picture of Dickey and a coach walking toward the mound. When Dickey saw a ball he didn't like, he gave it to the coach. The coach tried to toss it up to me, but it hit off of the net and bounced back. When he tried again, he threw it over the net, as well as over my head into the lap of an unsuspecting fan. It was that kind of day. 

In the bottom of the first inning, Ichiro came up to bat with a career total of 3,999 hits. Those hits include all of his hits in the MLB, as well as his hits from the Japanese professional league. See my video of the moment below. 

I was sitting in my seat in left field when Alfonso Soriano came up in the eighth inning. The game was tied at two. Soriano hit a long drive in my direction. The ball landed about 15 feet to my right. It was bobbled by the people there, and came rolling toward me. I went through a row of seats, only to get beat out by a woman who kicked her beer over while picking the ball off the ground. You can see me in the blue circle in the screenshot I got off of THIS video. That two run homer gave the Yankees a 4-2 lead going into the ninth inning.

As he always does, Mariano Rivera came in to pitch the final frame. Surprisingly, he gave up a double to Rajai Davis. Before he threw a pitch to the next batter, he did something he has only done five other times in his career. He picked off a runner. Rivera turned around, and threw a bullet to Robinson Cano, who tagged out Davis at second base. It was at that moment that I questioned why Rivera is retiring. He closed out the Blue Jays for his 645th career save.

After the game, I went back over to the Blue Jays bullpen. I didn't get a ball, but I did get something. Check it out below.

The relievers had left the bullpen, and left the lineup card taped to the wall. There was a groundskeeper raking the mound. I asked him if he could get the lineup card and pass it to me. He walked over to the wall, ripped it off the wall, and passed it to me under the net. I took off the two pieces of tape that were attached to the lineup card when I got it.

Check out the lineup card right here, and click on it for a full size view.

Here are all of the autographs I got at the game.

Greg Burke
Dillon Gee
Ricky Bones
Carlos Torres
Tim Teufel

Terry Collins
Matt Harvey
Travis d'Arnaud

Dillon Gee. He threw me this ball.

Thanks for reading! Best of luck graphing! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Autograph Adventures: New York Jets 2011

With the NFL preseason back in full swing and the regular season fast approaching, I thought it would be a good time to share one of my better autograph stories. I had the opportunity to attend the New York Jets game against the Sand Diego Chargers on October 23, 2011 at MetLife Stadium. I went to the game with my friend, who has Jets season tickets. The only reason I could go was because his parents couldn't go, and my father and I jumped at the opportunity to see a live NFL game.

The day of the game, we all arrived in New Jersey around 10am to tailgate. We threw around a football for a while, had some food and drinks, and also took some ridiculous pictures. Maybe if Revis was still on the Jets now, this picture would be more appropriate. Around 11, with not much food left, we all decided it would be a good time to head into the stadium. I wans't planning on getting autographs going into the day, but I always bring a sharpie with me just in case.

Here's a big tip for autograph collectors, especially sports collectors. When you are going to a game, always bring a pen and blank paper or something generic that you can get signed by anyone. You never know who you are going to run into at these games. 

I usually have my autograph book with me, but I decided to leave it at home for the game. Upon walking into the stadium, I was given a roster sheet with all the players for both teams listed on it in various orders. I quickly shoved it in my pocket without even thinking. We had tickets about 20 rows behind the end zone where the Jets tunnel was. Since there were players warming up, we decided to walk down to the front row to get a little closer to the action.

Within five minutes of getting down to the front row, we noticed a player signing autographs right in front of us. Before I even knew who it was, I got out my roster sheet and sharpie and got them signed. I figured out who it was by looking at the tattoo that he had on his right arm. It was Matt Slauson, current Chicago Bears guard. He signed for a few fans that were lined up along the wall, then went back to getting ready. HERE is a video I took of him signing.

As Slauson was signing, another Jet was also signing for everybody. After asking someone standing near me, I found out that it was Dustin Keller, one of my favorite players, as well as a favorite target of Mark Sanchez during his time as a Jet. I brought a blank white filler card, that you get in packs of cards sometimes, instead of a jersey or autograph card. I got Keller to sign that, as well as the lineup sheet. He wanted to personalize the white card, which I had no problem with. HERE is a video of my friend and I getting autographs of him. If there was anyone that wanted an autograph, Keller was more than happy to oblige. Keller easily signed for 40 people, and I wish him the best in his recovery after suffering a gruesome knee injury while playing for the Dolphins this preseason.

My friend was wearing a jersey of Sione Po'uha, the big defensive lineman for the Jets. When we saw him warming up right in front of us, we waved and made hand motions asking if he could come over and sign, as he was wearing headphones and couldn't hear us. See what happened next below.

To say the least, my friend was thrilled to get his jersey signed. I was just as thrilled to have gotten his autograph. In the video, you can hear me mention Po'uha's YouTube channel. I watched it during the NFL lockout, and it is always great to see what a player's personal life is like.

After Po'uha, another Jet came over to sign, and I had no idea who it was until after he signed. He quickly went down the line and signed for everybody. After looking at his signature, which you can see at the bottom of this entry, I discovered it was #94, Marcus Dixon.

When Dixon was done signing, rookie Muhammad Wilkerson was walking toward the tunnel after finishing his warm ups. Without even asking, Wilkerson walked right over to my friend and I and started signing. He signed for everyone down the line on his way into the locker room. Check him out in the video below.

Next, Jamaal Westerman came and signed for everyone very quickly. His signature is very small  and almost unrecognizable because there isn't a number on it. Luckily, someone near me identified him for me. Unfortunately I couldn't get a picture or video of him. Joe McKnight was the next person to come over and sign, and he is pictured on the right. He also signed for everyone quickly before going into the locker room. Like Po'uha and a few other Jets, McKnight was wearing headphones and couldn't really be talked to. HERE is a video of him signing for my friend and I.

Unfortunately for me, Revis ran straight to the locker room without signing for anyone, so my jersey would remain unsigned. However, the other Jets cornerback, Antonio Cromartie, was kind enough to stop and sign for everyone. He stayed in one spot the whole time he signed. I had to reach out as far as I could, and I was lucky to get Cromartie to sign the other side of the blank white card Keller had signed earlier. Cromartie would be the last Jets player whose autograph I got. However, he would not be the last autograph I got.

Even though there were no more players left on the field, we didn't feel the need to go back to our regular seats quite yet. A random Jets employee, I don't exactly know who it is, started playing catch with fans near the tunnel and was slowly making his way towards us. See what happened by clicking play below. If anyone can tell me who that employee is, I would be very grateful. The ball had the word 'Jets' stitched into it, meaning it may have been one of the game balls that was used. It was great to touch a piece of the action, even if only for a few seconds.

The latest notable thing that happened before the game was something that I never would have expected to happen. Someone else was making his way down the line, signing for fans and taking pictures. Immediately, I recognized him from TV. It was none other than Jimmy Fallon. He was signing footballs and any other stuff people had on them. When he came toward me, well, just watch the video.

I got all the Jets to sign the Jets side of the roster sheet. I got Jimmy to sign the Chargers side of the sheet. Toward the end of the video, I ask for a picture with him, and he was kind enough to oblige. Here is the result. His face is priceless. It was totally unexpected, and everyone was thrilled to see him. Jimmy's face was shown on the scoreboards throughout the game to pump up the crowd. It seemed to work as the Jets went on to beat the Chargers 27-21. Plaxico Burress caught three touchdowns and Kyle Wilson made his first career interception.

Here are all the autographs I got at this game.

Dustin Keller
Antonio Cromartie
Various New York Jets

Jimmy Fallon
Thanks for reading. Good luck graphing. I will have a great entry up by the end of the week. I am going to a few baseball games and am hoping to get some cool stuff.