Monday, March 28, 2016

Orioles Spring Training Phenom- Joey Rickard

The Orioles selected Joey Rickard from the Tampa Bay Rays during the Rule V draft during the Winter Meetings this past December. Most of you probably already know that the O's have a propensity for making picks in that supplemental draft, and that they do their best to keep the players they drafted. In recent years, the team has added Ryan Flaherty, T.J. McFarland, and Jason Garcia to the organization via the Rule V draft.

Joey has made the Orioles decision to keep him even easier, as he has dominated Grapefruit League pitching to the tune of a .385 batting average in addition to five stolen bases. He has also frequently batted out of the lead off spot, and is a relatively prototypical lead off hitter, which is a role that the Orioles struggled to fill in recent seasons. In fact, Rickard has had such a great Spring that the Orioles are apparently even discussing letting Hyun-Soo Kim out of his contract to return to Korea.

We will see you in Baltimore a week from today Joey! Congrats on making the club!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Graphing at Minor League Camp is Hard Without a Roster

One of the first mornings on my Spring Training trip was spent at the Orioles Minor League Spring Training complex at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota. I spent a vast majority of the morning watching large groups of players walk past me, without asking hardly any to stop and sign. Why is that, might you ask? Well, there was a clue in the title of the post. 

You see, I didn't have a minor league roster as it hadn't been released yet, and I was left looking at players with only number of their backs pass by me. There were a select few that I could recognize, but not nearly as many as in past years when I had the time to attend more minor league games to get an idea of what the guys looked like. 

Luckily, I was able to pick out most of the coaches and instructors that were around, so was able to get some autographs out of the experience. 

Long time MLB infielder Dave Anderson returned to the Orioles organization this year after a one year absence. As far as I can recall, he is once again serving as the Orioles minor league infield coordinator.

Brian Graham has been the Orioles Director of Player Development for the past four seasons and is an ever present site around Twin Lakes.

Former MLB catcher Don Werner has been the Orioles minor league catching instructor for most of the past decade. He recently battled cancer and came out on top so it's great to see him looking strong once again.

 Another long-time MLB player, Dave Schmidt pitched in the major leagues for 12 years. He has been the O's minor league pitching coordinator for as long as I can recall and is always a good signer.

Ryan Minor is the nicest guy you will come across, and seems to always have time for the fans, signing autographs, asking how they are doing, or just generally being and all around good guy. 


Luckily, I read something before my trip about Hee Seop Choi being around the Orioles minor league camp as part of some sort of Korean baseball coaching exchange program. I don't really know any details about it, but Hee Seop was there, and kindly signed my cards.

As I mentioned at the top, there were a few players that I recognized in addition to the coaches. So at least I got some active player autographs as well.

Michael has been in and out of the Orioles organization over the past 2-3 seasons so he was a familiar face.

Josh Hart was another guy who I have seen play enough to have picked him out of the crowd.

Cory Jones was actually the only guy who I "allowed" my dad to ask who he was since he was walking alone and not in much of a hurry. Honestly, I probably could have gotten another 10-15 autographs by asking players who they were, but it's not my thing. I take pride in my facial recognition skills!

Quincy was a big part of the 2015 Baysox Championship team so I picked him out too.

Adrian was a third round pick a couple years back so I have seen enough cards of him to pick him out.

I got lucky with Tucker and just happened to be flipping past his card as he walked past me. 

D.J. is a very distinctive looking guy. I had never seen him play but I described his look to another fan as being built like a bull. He's listed at 6 feet tall, 230 pounds. I heard some horror stories between him and the fans in the past, but he was nice enough to me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Rolling Along with Spring Training Autos

Here are a bunch more of the autographs I got on my trip to Spring Training. Again, this is a pretty random group of autographs, but they are the ones I had time to scan! At least they are presented in alphabetical order...

I had a talk with another collector in Sarasota, and we both find it strange that Brad Brach has been a regular MLB reliever since 2012 and has just a single 2012 Topps card to his name at this point. Such is the life of a middle reliever I suppose.

Odrisamer Despaigne was a great signer throughout my trip. He seemed to sign every time he was asked and had a nice attitude about it. As far as I could tell, he couldn't speak much English yet, but was a nice guy, and even managed to personalize one of my old man cards!

Kevin Gausman signed a few times during my trip, and as is my conundrum every spring, I don't want to bring too many cards of any given player, so I ran out of his cards to be signed after day 1. Oh well.

I only saw Adam Jones sign once, but luckily I was right there for it. He never seems to be too interactive, but has been a relatively good signer over his career.

Awesome story about Caleb Joseph; he was driving a beater pick-up truck around Sarasota. Literally, it was the oldest, dingiest car in the lot, well behind what even the office staff and clubhouse guys were driving. The Baltimore Sun did a story on it, and it turns out that it's a 2000 Mazda B2500 with almost 200,000 miles on it. You keep being awesome Caleb.

Chris Lee was definitely in the conversation of being one of the best signers that I saw too. I think he signed 6-7 times over the 5 days I was in town.

I had no idea before heading to Sarasota, but some fellow autograph collectors warned me about how Andy Oliver had been a tough autograph to get in the past. He seems to have improved his signing habits, as least somewhat, as my dad got him to sign before I got to town and he signed once for me as well.

Rick Peterson was so impressed by my dad's OMC that he asked for one for himself! It was a pretty cool experience for my dad to talk to Rick about his card making process!

The last time Todd Redmond was with the Orioles in Spring Training 2013, I came across him at the minor league camp, and he would only sign for those of us there who knew who he was. Luckily I passed his test then, and he seemed to be a bit more willing to sign this time around.

Nolan was kind enough to not only sign for me, but to take a quick selfie, as he has long been one of my wife's favorite Orioles. Thanks Nolan!

B.J. Surhoff has been surly as long as I have been crossing paths with his since he was on the Orioles in the mid 1990's. That being said, I do have quite a few of his autographs, but he typically seems like he would like to be anywhere else when he is signing. I always hear about his dry sense of humor, so maybe I'm misreading the situation, or maybe not.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Spring Training Autos Heading For the Collection

As I mentioned the other day, I don't really have a game plan for exactly how I'm going to post about the autographs I got on my Spring Training trip, but rather, I'm going to scan them as I have time and post what I've scanned. 

Today's post is featuring some personalized autographs that are heading straight for my collection.

Yovani was signed about a week before our trip, and it was a quick turnaround to get his Old Man Cards made, but my dad pulled it off and I was thrilled to get these signed. I only saw Yovani sign one time on the trip, and thankfully he was nice enough to sign and personalize his first Orioles card for me. The card will head directly to the collection once he makes his O's debut. 

Tyler Wilson was finally featured on his first Orioles card when 2015 Topps Update came out last year. He only made his MLB debut last season, but he was a 10th round pick by the Orioles in the 2011 draft and had slowly and steadily been working his way to Baltimore since then. I always find it interesting how certain players/prospects are heavily represented as minor leaguers in Bowman and other representative sets, whereas a guy like Tyler hadn't been featured on a single mass release card since being drafted. At least the minor league team sets are out there to give him some cardboard representation! Also, I need to give Tyler a shout out for seeming like a really great guy, who shows it at least in part by a willingness to sign for fans with a great attitude. 

Ubaldo is another player who seems like a really nice guy. And it never hurts when he shows it by stopping most days to sign for the fans! I even heard that after a bad spring start, he STILL stopped to sign  for people; most pitchers would never do that!

Parker Bridwell is a good example of the opposite of Tyler Wilson's situation I was talking about up there. Parker was 9th round pick in 2010 who has been featured in at least these two Bowman sets, as well as no fewer than three Topps & Heritage Minor League sets and has yet to even make his O's debut. The big differences between the two players is that Bridwell has been considered the better prospect over the years. But I find it interesting that he was drafted one round higher one year earlier than Wilson but is still working on making it to Baltimore.

At some point last season, the Orioles brought Ramon Martinez into the fold as some sort of special assignment coach/instructor. I had never seen him around until this Spring Training, but my dad made sure we were prepared with an OMC for him to sign!

Dale Thayer signed a minor league contract with the O's about a week before our trip and was another one of the guys who needed a quick turnaround for this OMC, but once again, my old man pulled it off! Dale was a pretty consistent signer in Sarasota, and even though I'm pretty sure he will start the season in Norfolk, I wouldn't be surprised to see him make an appearance in Baltimore during the season.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


One of my favorite things about chasing autographs at Spring Training is that it seems like the time of year when star players are more likely to take the time to sign. I don't know exactly what it is, but in my experience, players who rarely or never seem to sign in Baltimore typically do take the time for the fans in Sarasota. One great example of this is Manny Machado, who signed at least 4 different times that I saw over my five days around Sarasota. That's pretty impressive.

I talked to a few fellow autograph collectors about why players seem to sign more in Spring Training during my time in Sarasota, and there seems to be a few thoughts. Overall, it's a more relaxed up-close experience than during the regular season. Players know the games don't count and most regulars only play about half a game each day, at least for the first half of March. There are smaller crowds and everyone is a little closer the action. Some combination of those events seem to make most players more open to taking the time to sign for fans.

I can still recall some family trips to Florida in the early/mid '90s when you could practically hang out with the players, before Spring Training became the more hyped and inviting experience that it is now days. And things will never be like that again, but it's still a nice change of pace from how things are in Baltimore. I'm sure that some of you out there can remember how things were with players in the 1950's, '60's, & '70's when, from what I hear, players were much more like average Joe's than the highly paid star athletes they are now.

I really like who Manny took his time on the dual signed Bundy card, giving the "full" M M auto, that is about as good as it gets for Manny's signature. I was happy to help my buddy, fellow O's autograph collector, Aaron, finish off that card, as he left town the day before I did. The funny part about it is that I have carried around my own version of that card, signed just by Bundy, for some time and had just stopped bothering with it by the end of last year. Oops! I guess I know to at least bring it next Spring!

And to wrap things up, here are the signed OMC Audry Perez autos that I forgot to include in yesterday's post.

I don't really have a plan for how I'm going to show off all of the autgoraphs I got in Sarasota. In the past, I might have grouped them in some way, but I think this year, I'm just going to post what I have scanned and go from there. I think it's best to just keep the momentum going and show off some autographs, at least as opposed to lapsing back into inactivity.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

2016 Spring Training- Before I Even Got There...

As some of you may remember from last year, I did not make it to Spring Training due to having a six month old son, but my parents continued their yearly tradition of heading down to Sarasota to avoid the cold winter weather of the Northeast. Well, this year, while I did make it down for a few days, their trip was a bit longer than mine, and my dad spent some of the time ahead of my arrival snagging some autographs. By the time I got to Sarasota, he had already gotten 21 autographs in one day! He helped me out a ton last year, and this year, he provided an awesome start to my autograph-seeking adventure.

My dad was able to get all of these OMCs (Old Man Cards) signed and some personalized for me before I even set foot in Florida! (I just realized that I forgot to scan the three Audry Perez autos that he got, but I will show them off with the next batch.)

These were my first autographs of Chris Lee, Andy Oliver, Francisco Pena, and Andrew Triggs, so these personalized OMCs are heading directly for the collection if/when they make their Orioles debuts. Triggs is already out of the organization after the Orioles released him to make room for Pedro Alvarez and the A's added him to their team, so it seems unlikely that he will pitch for the O's at least in the near future. So Triggs is the commemorative Alex Gonzalez/Alex Hassan OMC autograph of the player who was out of the organization before Spring Training ended. Which is too bad since he signed a card for my son as well, but that's life! The other three guys could show up in Baltimore at some point in the near future.

I've been lucky in the past to get autographs of Jason Garcia, Chaz Roe, and Mike Wright in the past, so the non-personalized cards are available for trade. And thankfully Chaz didn't spell my name Rayn this time around.

Thanks for your help old man!

Hopefully, I will be showing off some more autographs sometime later this week. But two posts in a week is certainly a good starting point.

Friday, March 11, 2016

It's Been A Long Time

Hi everybody, sorry to have taken so much time away from the site, but I'm going to try to put long absences in the past. Or at least not make them quite as long. It was never my intent to not write a single post in over five months, but since this is a site about Orioles autographs, I suppose it makes sense that the off season is the time to step back.

I am still working on my collection, and have added some autographs to my collection during my time away. My hope is that now that baseball is back in season, that it will work as my motivation to write about and show off some of my autographs that have never been on this site. I just got back from a trip to Spring Training so the autographs I obtained in Sarasota should serve as an additional incentive.

Over my five day trip to the Sarasota area, I collected almost 250 autographs of Orioles players, coaches, and minor leaguers (along with help from my dad and mom). Of the players on the 40 man roster, only T.J. McFarland, J.J. Hardy, Jonathan Schoop, and Hyun Soo Kim managed to avoid me completely.

I'm going to work on scanning my autographs this weekend, but here is a preview of some of the autographs I got on my trip.