Friday, May 30, 2014

My Return to Orioles Alumni Autographing

I've written about it a few times over the years, but the Orioles do something pretty awesome prior to every Monday and Thursday home game; they bring back three alumni players to meet fans and sign autographs on Eutaw Street. Due to some changed responsibilites with work, I wasn't able to make many (maybe any?) of the alumni signings last year, but I've already made it to one this season.

The Orioles don't typically announce who is signing beforehand, but a few people on collecting sites sometimes seem to get some insider info about who will be showing up. And I heard a few weeks back that John Stefero, who I needed to get a personalized upgrade of, would be in town. Also signing that night were Ken Dixon, and Chris Hoiles.

I tried to snap a few pictures of the former O's as I worked my way through the line but it was easier said then done, here is one of my first attempts, that shows Chris Hoiles being cool and standing up for a selfie with a fan. (Yes, that's definitely my first mention of the word selfie on my site.)

Here is a somewhat better shot of the three signers as I neared the front of the line. 

And here's the autograph I was after, it's always a good day for me when I can knock another personalized autograph off.

Chris Hoiles was awesome as always and signed three cards for Kalina and me. He was one of her favorite players and it's always easier to ask for her to help me out when he's involved.

I was able to snag signed postcards of Dixon and Stefero as well. As you can see in my pictures, the players generally have a pre-signed stack of them for people to grab, so I always try to not be too greedy. But when I have autographs sitting in front of me, it's hard to resist!

I only had the one card of Stefero's for him to sign, but I was just happy to get the personalized auto. Dixon signed these two cards of me, but I have to say that he always seems distracted at these signings and pays much more time talking to his former teammates than interacting with the fans. An autograph is an autograph, but a simple acknowledgement at these types of things are always nice.

I hope to be able to make at least a few more of these alumni signings throughout the season. I hope that you fellow collectors might be able to use them to improve your collections too.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The College World Series Contest Returns

No, not here. Go check out my buddy Zach's blog, Autographed Cards, for all the contest details. This is the fifth year he is holding the contest and I was lucky enough to win it once and I came in second or third another year. And trust me, I know very little about college baseball, so if I have a chance to win, so do you!

Good luck to anyone that enters!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Oriole #978- Nick Hundley

This past Saturday, the Orioles pulled off a trade with the Padres sending lefty reliever Troy Patton to San Diego in return for catcher Nick Hundley. Troy had pitched for the O's off and on since 2010 and was a player who I enjoyed watching in the minors at AA Bowie. But this past off-season produced the second failed drug test of his career and a subsequent 25 game suspension that seemed to place him in Buck Showalter's doghouse and on the chopping block. His name had been dangled as trade bait once he came of the restricted list, and he was especially vulnerable as the O's bullpen had four lefties in it at one point earlier this season.

So the O's made the deal to acquire Hundley from the Padres, a transaction that might also speak volumes about Matt Wieters' future with the O's for the rest of the 2014 season, but hopefully I'm jumping to conclusions.

(Disclaimer- I know that I will call Nick "Todd" at various points. I already had to fix the title of this post. Todd Hundley was also a MLB catcher who played in the Majors from 1990-2003, and someone whom I was much more familiar with until this past weekend.)

Anyway, Nick was drafted in the second round of the 2005 draft by the Padres and made his MLB debut for them in 2008. He appeared in 510 games for Friars over the past seven seasons, and was mainly used as back-up/platoon catcher over that time. None of this stats particularly jump out at me, but it does solidify the O's current catching situation.

He made his Orioles debut on Memorial Day, and it looked like it would be a forgettable one, as he was 0-4 with a strikeout and also committed a nearly game-ending error over the first nine innings of the game. But luckily the Brewers couldn't capitalize on his throwing mistake, and he came to bat in the tenth inning and promptly singled in J.J. Hardy who scored the go-ahead and eventually game-winning run for the O's. So his debut went from horrible to awesome with a single swing of the bat.

I do not have Todd's Nick's autograph in my collection, and it doesn't look like he has any certified autographs out there. But luckily, a few online sites are littered with cheap autographs of his, so I should be able to add one to my collection for only a few bucks. Eventually, I would like to have a signed, personalized Old Man Card too, but we will see how things work out.

Good luck with the O's Nick!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Oriole #782- John Halama

John Halama pitched in 262 games over nine MLB seasons for seven different teams, with almost half of those appearances coming over his four seasons with the Mariners. In addition to the Orioles, he also played for the Astros, A's, Devil Rays, Red Sox, and Nationals.

John made his Orioles debut on April 6, 2006, and he spent the final 17 appearances of his time in the Majors with them, over which he had a 3-1 record but a 6.14 ERA before being released on June 16th. He would continue to pitch professionally, mainly in the independent Atlantic League, through the 2012 season before finally retiring at the age of 40.

After his playing career was over, he immediately became the pitching coach for the York Revolution (also in the Atlantic League) for the 2013 season. Since York is right in my area, I figured I would go catch a game and try to get him to personalize a card for me.

I briefly wrote about John way back in 2009 when we was one of my first TTM successes, so I figured that since he signed TTM, that he probably would gladly sign in person at a game, especially since he was a coach in an indy league and likely not bothered often.

I was wrong, he was pretty surly and definitely did not want to sign, even though I caught him as he was first coming out on the field to set up the mound area for that day's starter. He denied me on the way out and tried to walk past me before the game started but I called out to him and he came over. It kind of makes the "best wishes" inscription mean a little less to me, but at least he did sign. So thanks for that John!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Preston Guilmet

A week or so ago I wrote about Preston's Orioles debut, and showed a picture of an autographed card of his that I found online. Well today, I have my Guilmet autograph in-hand.

It seems like an appropriate time to show it off here since Preston was just recalled from AAA Norfolk to take the place of the injured Tommy Hunter.

One day soon I hope to have an Orioles Old Man signed card to replace this one, but for now, this guy is heading to my collection.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Caleb Joseph Rainbow

 I told you that I collected Caleb Joseph's cards. Here is the non-signed Bowman rainbow part of my collection.

Caleb's only major release to date was this inclusion in the 2010 Bowman set. I have most of the versions available, left to right that is the chrome base, black border, purple chrome refractor /999, blue /520, blue chrome refractor /250, orange /250, gold chrome refractor /50, and (thanks to my dad for finding this one) orange chrome refractor 1/25.

So as far as I know, I am only missing the red chrome refractor /5, and the 1/1 superfractor and four printing plates. I don't go to much expense with this mini-collection so I doubt any of those ultra-rare cards will ever join these guys, but time will tell. Maybe I'll get lucky!

In the meantime, I hope that Caleb can continue to have success at the MLB level. It's so cool that a player I've followed over the years in the minors is holding his own with the O's.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Some More Help From My Friends

Autograph collecting is a lot of fun to do in-person. I love spending the day at the park and trying to add some signatures to my collection. But sometimes it can be frustrating, time-consuming, and unrewarding, as you can never say who or how many people will sign in any given day. I've had some times where I was able to get 10-15 MLB autographs but not a single one of the players I was really targeting, so while it was successful to an extent, it can still be disappointing to miss out on the autographs you really wanted to add to your collection.

This is why it's so helpful to have a network of collectors to help each other out, and my preferred site is SportsCollectors.Net, or SCN for short. I don't know how many autographs I've been able to add or upgrade in my collection from that site over the last five or so years, but I can comfortably say that number is in the 100s. Whether via private signings, trades, consignments, or 50-50s, it's amazing what a country-wide group of collectors can do to help each other out. I highly recommend the site for any other autograph collectors out there. I think it's only like $15/year, and while you still run into some scumbags/shady dealer types, by and large the feedback scores will largely give you an idea of the type of collector you are working with.

Here are some of the autographs that I've been able to add or upgrade using SCN over the past six months or so. Not too bad.

(Your eyes do not deceive you, that's the same signed card, both personalized to me. One obtained IP, the other via SCN, pretty much simultaneously, hence the double down)

Friday, May 16, 2014

A New Closer in Birdland?

It looks that way after last night's 2-1 victory. Zach Britton came in for the ninth inning and set the Royals down in order on three ground balls. It was the first 1-2-3 save for the O's this year, as former(?) closer Tommy Hunter was never able to pull off the trick.

Zach has an insane ground ball to fly ball ratio of something like 4 to 1, which will help in Camden Yards too. No official announcment has been made by Buck Showalter, but I think his actions speak more loudly than words in this scenario. 

Good luck Zach! Let's Go O's!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

UGH- Getting Swept at Home Is Horrible

The Tigers wrapped up their three game sweep of the O's today at Camden Yards and it was garbage. After having won five games in a row last week, the Birds have now dropped four straight at home. Now I know the Tigers are the best team in the A.L. (and it showed), but the Orioles should have at least won Tuesday's game if not for the shocking implosion of possibly not-the-closer-anymore, Tommy Hunter.

I think I feel about this sweep the way Mike DeJean felt about getting this picture taken, just not in the mood, ya know? Or maybe it was just how Mike felt about his time with the Orioles, during which he was 0-5 with a 6.13 ERA over 37 games in the first half of the 2004 season. He was traded to the Mets for Karim Garcia on July 19, 2004 to mercifully end his time with the O's.

Now Mike did pitch 565 MLB games over ten seasons for five teams, but those 37 games for the O's were his only time in the American League. The National League was much more kind to him, where he accrued a 30-28 record and a 4.18 ERA.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Oriole #977- Preston Guilmet

In last night's Orioles loss, yet another player made their Orioles debut, and this was the first one of the year that really threw me for a loop. (Well, I guess the late spring trade for INF Steve Lombardozzi could qualify as well.)

Right-handed relief pitcher Preston Guilmet was called up from AAA Norfolk yesterday, and quickly made his Orioles debut last night. He was pretty impressive, and struck out two Tigers over 1.1 innings pitched to finish the game for the O's in a losing cause.

He was drafted by the Indians in the 9th round of the 2009 draft (the O's picked Ryan Berry, who seems to have already washed out of baseball), and made his MLB debut last year for the Indians; he pitched 5.1 innings over 4 games and gave up 6 earned runs for a 10.13 ERA. That might explain why they were willing to trade him to the Orioles on April 7th for infielder Torsten Boss, who was the O's 8th round pick in the 2012 draft.

The post Spring Training trade and subsequent assignment directly to the AAA Norfolk Tides, whom I almost never get to see or get autographs from are the reasons why I didn't have Preston's signature in my collection already. Since the O's added him to their 40-man roster after the trade, I knew that there was a chance he would eventually pitch in Baltimore, but he has very few minor league cards and he doesn't seem to sign TTM requests, so I was stuck.

Once it was announced that Preston was getting the call to Baltimore, I pulled the trigger on this signed card that I bought on ebay. I hope to get an opportunity to get a personalized OMC Orioles card of his signed soon, but this will hold a spot in my collection for the time being.

Preston's minor league numbers over the past five plus seasons have been very encouraging, as he has a 2.71 ERA, 94 saves, and has a strikeout rate of 9.8 over nine innings over 208 appearances, with all 193 of them since 2010 coming out of the bullpen.

It will be interesting to see how long Preston sticks with the Orioles, but with minor league success like he has had along with a strong debut, I wouldn't be surprised to see him settle into a bullpen role with the O's throughout the 2014 season.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The 2014 Orioles Walk-Up Song Project- UPDATE 3

I attended yesterday's O's game to celebrate mother's day with my mom, and my mom-to-be, and noticed a few players with some different walk-up songs. There were also a few new guys on the team since the last game I attended.

Since the last update, I've heard songs for Manny Machado, Steve Pearce, Troy Patton & Delmon Young, added yet another song for Adam Jones, and heard a new song for Bud Norris and David Lough. It looks like the Orioles website for walk-up songs hasn't been updated since my last post.

Here are the details on my tracking of O's walk-up songs if you need it:
(This walk-up song project is something that I've enjoyed doing this the past three years (201320122011), although I admitted slacked off on it last year. But I am once again going to try to keep track of the songs that the Orioles players use as their walk-up/warm-up music. I really stayed on top of the songs in 2011, and updated the list six times throughout that year. In both 2012 & 2013, I only wrote the one, original post, but the funny thing is that I continued to take notes on the songs used throughout the season, and then just never got around to writing posts about the updates. Since this list is something that changes any time a player is added to the roster, or they want to change things around, the list is fluid, but here is what I have at this point in the season.) 

If anyone has any information to add or update from what's listed below, please let me know!)

Note-some YouTube links might contain explicit lyrics, if you're offended by that sort of thing.

Zach Britton- "Seven Nation Army" The White Stripes (O's site incorrect )
Wei-Yin Chen"Meng Xiang Qi Dong" Jay Chou (O's site incorrect)
Steve Clevenger- No song yet
Nelson Cruz- "Para Ti" Juan Luis Guerra (O's site confirmed)
Chris Davis"The Moment We Come Alive" Red, "I Get Wicked" Thousand Foot Krutch 
Ryan Flaherty"Bottoms Up" Brantley Gilbert (O's site confirmed)
Miguel Gonzalez- "Return of the Mack" Mark Morrison (O's site confirmed)
J.J. Hardy"Flower" Moby (Hasn't changed it once in three years, O's site confirmed)
Tommy Hunter- "Welcome Home" Coheed and Cambria (O's site confirmed)
Ubaldo Jimenez- "Rie Y Llora" Celia Cruz (O's site confirmed
Adam Jones- "Lose My Mind" Young Jeezy ft. Plies; "Ballin Out" French Montana ft. Diddy & Jeremih; "Club On Smash" Future; "California Love" 2Pac
 (O's site partially correct)
Caleb Joseph- no info on site or from game
Steve Lombardozzi- "Barefoot Blue Jean Night"  Jake Owen (per O's site)
David Lough- "Breathe" Fabolous (O's site incorrect)
Nick Markakis"Deliverance" Bubba Sparxx (Probably his fourth or fifth year with this one, O's site confirmed)
Brian Matusz- "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" Jimi Hendrix (O's site confirms)

Steve McFarland- no info on site or from game
Evan Meek- Possibly either "Master of Puppets" Metallica or "All Summer Long" Kid Rock
Bud Norris- "Who Gon Stop Me" Jay-Z ft. Kanye West (O's site confirmed)
Darren O'Day"Thickfreakness" The Black Keys (Also third year using this song, O's site confirmed
Troy Patton-"Glitter" Ghostland Observatory
Steve Pearce- "We Own It" 2 Chainz & Wiz Khalifa
Jonathan Schoop- "Go Get It" T.I. (per O's site)
Josh Stinson- "Hell On Wheels" Brantley Gilbert (O's site confirmed)
Chris Tillman"Kick It In the Sticks" Brantley Gilbert (Fourth year using it, O's site confirmed)
Ryan Webb- "Hysteria" Muse (O's site confirmed)

Jemile Weeks- No info on site or from game
Matt Wieters"Raised On It" Sam Hunt (O's site confirmed)
Delmon Young- "We Dem Boyz" Chinx & French Montana & "Zip & A Double Cup" Juicy J, 2 Chainz, & The Joker (O's site partially correct)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Contest Over at Play at the Plate

Who doesn't enjoy a good contest and winning something free? Certainly not this guy. So if you enjoy free things too, go check out fellow baseball card blog Play at the Plate. Topps was kind enough to give him a free box of 2014 Bowman to raffle off in celebration of his 2000th, yes I said 2000th!!!, post.

Congrats on all the great posts, PATP, and keep up the great work!

Friday, May 9, 2014

TTM Successes Rolling In

As I mentioned in a post the other day, I have recently put a renewed focus on sending TTM requests as a cheap way to add personalized autographs to my collection. Since I already have autographs of all these players I am sending requests to, when I get a personalized card back, the un-personalized cards immediately join my trade list. So if you want to swing a deal with me, please keep checking the list!

All of the links below will send you to a past post where I discussed each of these players more in depth.

(Also, if you click on that link, my stance on charging for TTM autographs has changed over the past four years, I'm just happy if they sign)

I hope that you enjoyed these TTMs, more (a lot more, hopefully) will be coming soon!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Oriole # 976- Caleb Joseph

Caleb Joseph made his Orioles & MLB debut in yesterday's 4-3 win over the Rays in Tampa. He batted ninth and caught, which seems to me to be a somewhat rare occurrence for a player that was just called up. He did a great job behind the plate, especially considering he was working with many pitchers that he had likely never caught for in a game. Some of them he might have known from Spring Training or the minors, but he certainly held his own. He went 0-3 at the plate, but I'm sure he will get a hit soon enough!

In yesterday's post about Caleb getting the call to Baltimore after six plus seasons in their minor league system, I mentioned that I had thrown my hat into the ring to collect his cards back in 2010. That's when he received his first Bowman card. 

At the time, I had thought that it would be his first of many Orioles cards, but to date it's his only card in a major set. Of course, you all know that these Bowman sets have a ton of variations, even beyond the chrome/regular versions. This gold chrome is numbered to just 50 copies and  is the rarest one I own. I hope to snag a picture of my rainbow of these variations to add to this post sometime soon.

Caleb has been included in a number of Orioles minor league sets over the years, mainly as a member of the Bowie Baysox over the past four seasons. It has been my goal to get every one of his minor league cards signed by him, and I believe I'm pretty close to my goal.

I'm not aware of any website that catalogs a player's minor league card issues, but there are only two that I don't believe I have signed at this moment.

These minor league all-star sets always crack me up when they use the exact same image as the team set. 

But I never mind as much when an orange uniform is being worn. 

So many Caleb autographs...

And there you have it, I believe that about covers my Caleb Joseph autograph/collection, if you include the three I used for yesterday's post. But somehow I neglected to ever ask him to personalize one for me, d'oh!

Good luck in the future Caleb! My family is really pulling for you!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Caleb Finally Gets the Call

Today is a big day around here. I've been a Caleb Joseph fan for quite a few years, and have been collecting his cards since 2010. Well, today the Orioles finally added him to their 40 & 25 man rosters and called him up to the Majors for the first time in his career. It also doesn't hurt that my mom has became quite a fan of his as well, dating back to a chance meeting at breakfast during one of my family's Spring Training trips.

After 639 games in the minor leagues, at nearly every level of the Orioles farm system, Caleb will finally reach the major leagues. He has had a bit of an up and down career so far; he was invited to the big league camp in 2012 but wasn't in 2013 for some reason. But that seemed to light a fire under him heading into 2013, as he became an All-Star, won the HR Derby, and was the Eastern League Minor League Player of the Year. 

He was invited back to big league camp in 2014 and even surpassed Johnny Monell (who had competed with current O's backup catcher Steve Clevenger for the role during Spring Training) on the depth chart at AAA Norfolk. And now Caleb is finally getting the call. Congrats Caleb! 

You can expect another post about him when he finally makes his MLB debut! 

*I do wish that this wasn't all because Matt Wieters was ailing, but it's still exciting.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Oriole #845- Jim Miller

As I continue to go through my recent personalized upgrades, I've realized that I have never written much about a number of these players. Some I might have shown off a signed card, others maybe I wrote a sentence or two about, but many former Orioles have been slighted thus far on my blog. So I will work on fixing that issue!

Jim Miller was one of those players. My only mention of him to this point, was his inclusion in a long post about a road trip I took to Norfolk back in 2009. I showed off two of his signed Orioles affiliate cards that I got on that trip, which was my one and only in-person autograph experience with him.

Since that time, my dad has begun production with his amazing OMCs, so I now have possibly the only signed Jim Miller O's card in existence. A friend on SCN was able to help me get it signed last season.

Jim's professional baseball career has been interesting to say the least. He was drafted by the Rockies in the 8th round of the 2004 draft and has pitched in 471 minor league games to date. He had just a single start in all of those appearances but has racked up 134 saves, with a 3.53 ERA and a 27-37 record as a reliever.

Jim was traded from the Rockies to the Orioles (with minor leaguer Jason Burch) for Rodrigo Lopez on January 12, 2007. He pitched the next four seasons in the O's minor leagues, with a short MLB call-up to the Birds in September 2008; he made his Orioles & MLB debut on September 1 of that year, and had an 0-2 record with a 1.17 ERA with one save over his eight games with the O's.

Since his time in Baltimore, Jim has again reached the MLB level with the Rockies (2011), A's (2012), & Yankees (2013). The 33 games he pitched for the A's are the vast majority of his 48 MLB appearances to date. But Jim is still working to live out his MLB dream, and is currently pitching for the Yankees AAA affiliate Scranton/Wilkes-Barres Railriders.

Good luck to you Jim! (Just not too much since if you make the bigs again you will probably be pitching for the Yankees.)

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Recent Focus of My Collection

I'm extremely happy that I've been able to maintain my collection at 100% of autographs of all the players who have appeared in a game for the Orioles over their 60 year history. While I'm still pursuing upgrades of a handful of former Orioles, I have at least some sort of signature from everyone to wear the Orioles uniform in a game, and that makes me very happy.

However, the collector in me still insists on collecting something, in some way. And space is an issue at my house, so I've avoided purchasing cards from various new sets. Instead, what I've focused on is "upgrading" the autographs in my collection to be personalized to me. I've said it before and I'll repeat it now that my signed cards mean a little bit more to me when they are personalized to me. It certainly doesn't make the autographs as desirable to others, but that's not why I collect my autographs.

I have already written about many of the players whose autographs I've been able to get personalized, so I don't have much more to say about them, but I will add links to my original posts in case anyone cares to read about them. A few others I've never written about and will cover more in-depth. But that's pretty much what I will be writing about here in the foreseeable future. I hope you all enjoy it!

All of these autographs were obtained by sending out TTMs (through the mail) requests. So these guys graciously spend some of their time responding to fans. Great work guys.

Don Buford...made the 1971 All-Star team and received MVP votes in three of his five seasons with the O's.

He was also nice enough to thank me for sending him my letter. And added a second signature!