Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Autograph Adventures: Aberdeen Ironbirds

As a student at the University at Albany, I have access to a wide variety of sports teams. Recently, I attended a couple of Tri-City ValleyCats games. The ValleyCats are the Short-Season Class A affiliate of the Houston Astros.  The most recent game I attended was a playoff matchup against the Aberdeen IronBirds, the Baltimore Orioles affiliate.

I got to the game as soon as the gates opened. I had printed out an Orioles logo on a large piece of photo paper. I had also printed out a basic Orioles 4x6 photo and a 4x6 photo of Zach Britton. Britton was rehabbing with the IronBirds, but unfortunately he wasn't at the game.
Chace Sisco                                                                 Chance Sisco

Trey Mancini
Trey Mancini

Hunter Harvey, the Orioles' 1st round pick in the 2013 draft, was scheduled to pitch in the game. Some of the other people graphing at the game informed me that Bryan Harvey, Hunter's father and a former MLB All-Star, was in attendance. After someone pointed him out to me, I walked over to Bryan, and he signed a page in my autograph book. A nearby usher was confused as to why people were asking Bryan to sign things. Bryan's response to that was, "I was a big leaguer." Classic response. 

As I always do, I brought my glove with me to this game. The ValleyCats have a policy where fans can enter and exit the stadium as much as they want, as long as they get their hand stamped by an usher first. During the game, I just stood in the area behind home plate, waiting for my chance to try and get a ball. It would come. 

Foul Ball I got in the 5th inning 
In the bottom of the 5th inning, Hunter Harvey was pitching to Yonathan Mejia of the ValleyCats. Early in the at bat, Mejia fouled off a pitch. The ball ended up flying out of the small Joseph L Bruno Stadium and going into the parking lot on the third base side. As soon as I saw the ball go out of the park, I was running full speed toward where I thought the ball would go. When I reached the parking lot, I saw that nobody else was there. Suddenly, I noticed a small speck on the pavement about 100 feet away from where I was. I sprinted in that direction, and found the ball lying on the ground right next to a car tire. I am pretty sure the ball bounced, hit the car tire, and came to rest right there. It was a beauty too, perfectly rubbed up with mud. I took the photo on the right as soon as I went back into the stadium. 

That alone made my night, as I have never been able to get my hands on a game foul ball from a major league stadium, so getting the foul ball felt good. Later on, in the 8th inning, I was still standing in the same spot. In the top of the 8th inning, ValleyCats closer Gonzalo Sanudo was pitching to Jared Breen. Early in the count, Breen fouled off a pitch that went out of the stadium on the first base side. Once again, I was running to the direction of where I thought the ball was going to be. After looking for a couple minutes, I gave up and decided to go back into the stadium. As I was walking back in, I heard a ruffle in a tree near the side of the stadium. I looked up to see that Breen had hit another ball out of the stadium. This one hit a tree, and was coming straight to me. The ball hit the tree, bounced off the pavement, and then I caught it in my glove before it could go past me. I took a photo of the tree from the spot where I caught the ball after the game. Just like that I had actually caught a foul ball, and gotten my second one of the night. I took a (slightly blurry) photo of that ball when I came back into the stadium as well. 

I had gotten two foul balls during the game, and I was happy to say the least, as you can see in the photo below. 

After the game, I hung around the IronBirds clubhouse and got pretty much the entire time to finish signing my photo paper. I also got former big leaguers Alan Mills (Pitching Coach) and Matt Merullo (Manager) to sign a Orioles 4x6 logo photo that I printed. Mills quoted different verses of the bible on both autographs I also got Hunter Harvey to sign it as he may be in the big leagues one day in the near future. 

Here is the big photo paper I got signed by almost everyone. 
Here is a list in no particular order of everyone that signed it. 
Coaches- Matt Merullo, Alan Mills, 
15- Paco Figueroa
30-Steven Brault  16-Garret Cortright 
33-Donnie Hunt  23-Hunter Harvey
26-Michael Joseph  56-Dylan Rheault
13-Austin Urban   12-Sebastian Vader
21-Jimmy Yacabonis  19-Jack Graham
35-Chance Sisco  9-Jared Breen
2-Jeff Kemp  34-Ronarsy Ledesma
51-Trey Mancini 10-Tanner Rust
6-Hector Veloz  53-Conor Bierfeldt
17-Manny Hernandez 
28-Mike Yastrzemski 

If I missed anyone let me know! I think I got everyone. Best of luck graphing!