Monday, February 26, 2018

Well Worth the Drive

My first job out of college was as a sales rep for a soda company.  My area covered about 50 square miles.  I would drive close to 350 miles each week, but was able to be home every night which was a major selling point when taking the job.  I spent 2 years racking up a lot of miles on my own personal vehicle before I found my current job as a dispatcher for a concrete company.  That was almost 18 years ago, and I am so glad I made the change.

I did gain an appreciation for driving.  Although I have made numerous trips to Florida and Colorado, it has always been in a car.  I do not have a fear of flying, but I would rather get somewhere when I want and be able to come and go as I please.  I am also somewhat of a tight wallet. Driving is a lot easier on the funds when you have a family of four.

If you have read my blog before, you know I drive all over the place for my baseball fix.  Early this month I drove 16 hours to attend Cardinals spring training.  I will also drive 2-3 hours numerous times each summer to watch minor league baseball.  This past weekend my son and I made the 2.5 hour drive to the west side of St. Louis.  Every year one of the local sporting goods store has a baseball expo where you can try out new equipment.  There is also a former Cardinals player who signs autographs for free.  2 years ago we went to this when Brian Jordan was there.  The crowd was not too big and Jordan was very friendly.  This year the former Cardinal was Ray Lankford.  I had him autograph some things at the Cardinals WWU in January, but you cannot pass up a free signing with your favorite player.

 I knew from attending the Jordan signing the store allowed 2 items per person, so I brought a few cards along.  The Bowman Tiffany turned out great as did the 1990 Upper Deck.  Neither are high end cards, but both are RCs.

 His first Fleer and Donruss cards also turned out nice.

I chose the 2000 and 2001 Stadium Club cards because of the great photos.  Lankford commented the bottom card looked like a home run swing.

This is the last of my 4 Lankford bats that I needed autographed.  It is a Young bat from his final season in St. Louis in 2004.  It shows very little use.  Lankford commented he did not like this brand as well as Louisville Slugger, so he gave quite a few of them away.  

Ray was super nice and posed for pictures with anyone.  He signed for 2 hours with a line that was never more than 10 minutes long.  We only went through twice, but that was more than enough.  Besides the autographs, I was able to find my son a Little League bat that has been sold out online since Christmas.  It was also 20% off.  All in all a great trip that was well worth the drive. 


Friday, February 23, 2018

It's Almost Time

As I sit at my work desk writing this, the Cardinals are about 20 minutes away from their first spring training game.  The rainy weather here in Illinois has slowed things down here, so I should have a good chance to watch some of the game online.  There will be a handful of regulars in the lineup, with the highlight for me being Marcell Ozuna getting his first Cardinals at bats as the DH.  One of my favorite prospects Jack Flaherty is the scheduled starter.

My latest mail day did not contain any cards, but did have another reminder that baseball season is almost here.

For the second year in a row I am a Peoria Chiefs partial season ticket holder.  This is one of 20 vouchers I can use any time during the year.  This plan works out great for me because of the 3 hour drive to Dozer Park.  Single game tickets do not go on sale until March 1, but I was able to get seats for the May 4th game already.  The giveaway that night is this great looking Harrison Bader bobblehead

Opening Day cannot get here soon enough


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Another Back and Forth Package

Mark Z.  is a member of Trading Bases and TCDB.  He is also one of two online traders I have had the pleasure of meeting.  Our open end trade of exchanging Cardinals duplicates continued over the weekend when he sent me an unexpected package.  I guess it was not so unexpected because he did shoot me an email letting me know to watch for it. 

These are my first Honus Bonus cards.  I have not read up to much about how to play the game, but have noticed the Cardinals checklist is a rather large one with 17 cards featuring bench players and middle relievers.  Take note Topps.

 I love the bubbly look of Topps Chrome Update.  The inserts really stand out.  The idea behind the 2001 Topps American Pie set was not bad, but the cards could use a little something.  A simple photo with an orange background is not that appealing to me, but I was born in 1976.  Maybe someone older really digs this card. 

Purple chrome is good, although it does clash with the Cardinals red.

Heritage relic cards are one of my favorites.  Clubhouse Collection cards usually have a simple design and each year it seems there are 4 or 5 Cardinals.  I am not a game used lover, but I may have to track more of these down.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Heavy on the Inserts

It is rare that I do not receive a base card in a trade envelope, but it does happen.  Such is the case with a package from TCDB member tsch67 that arrived over the weekend.  While it is nice to knock off base cards from team sets, I will gladly take inserts also.

I always like the UD Crash the Game or Predictor cards.  I cannot remember winning anything, but it was fun to try.  The Silver Signature cards are always fun to look at to see if a player signs his name any different.   Mr. Tewksbury shorten his name from 1995 to 2013.    
Two of these players I would consider Star Attractions, the third not so much.  At least not during his Cardinals career, although he was injured for a good portion of it.

 Still not overly found of minis, but will still trade for them. 

Refractors are more my thing, especially cool ones like Xfractors even if my scanner does not like them. 

Colored Topps parallel are also good additions.  Target red cards always make a Cardinals card look better.  Bowman inserts that highlight prospects are also a favorite of mine.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Back From Spring Training

The family and I made it back yesterday from our quick Florida trip.  After spending one day at Universal Studios in Orlando, we headed 2 hours south to Jupiter for a couple of days of Cardinals spring training.  I would have liked to stay longer, but my daughter is in the middle of volleyball season.  She missed one game on the trip and would have missed at least one more if we stayed.  We had fun for the short time we were there. 

Pitchers and catchers were the only players having formal work outs.  Position players did not have to report until Monday, but quite a few were already there.  Friday we arrived just as practice started around 11:00.  Stupid me forgot to pack my camera in the backpack.  I was not about to walk the 15 minutes back to our car, so I have nothing to show other than the one card I got autographed.

The 2012 Springfield Cardinals team set is the first one I have attempted to get signed.  This one puts me up to 14 of 26.  Teran was a coach on that team.  He is now the Cardinals bullpen catcher.   I think he was shocked to see someone wanted his auto.  Although there were less than 25 people watching, most were there to see Yadier Molina. 

Friday's practice consisted of pitchers doing infield drills while others threw a bullpen session.  After that, the catchers took batting practice.  My son Alex was watching at one of the gates when Cardinals president and former GM John Mozeliak needed to get on the field.  Instead of asking Alex to step aside, he took him on the field to a bench behind the cage where he sat for 10-15 minutes with him.   Farm Director Gary LaRouque also joined them.  Once again epic Dad fail on my part for not having a camera.  They asked Alex about his favorite player, if he watched many games, and why he was not in school.  After bp was over, they thanked us for coming and wished Alex well on his baseball season.  

Saturday we were better prepared.  We arrived early to watch some batting practice.   

 Dexter Fowler

Marcell Ozuna with the high socks, Edmundo Sosa waiting his turn

Jedd Gyorko was also in this group.  After bp, he and Sosa moved to another field to take some infield practice.  After they finished, I got Sosa to sign a card.

I am also working on the 2015 Peoria Chiefs team set.  I think I have about 10 more to get signed from this one.

We next went back to watched the pitchers take fielding practice.

 Jack Flaherty is scheduled to start the Cardinals' first game this Friday.

Jordan Hicks will most likely start the year in Double A, but could finish in the Cardinals bullpen.

Alex Reyes has slimmed down since last year.  If healthy, he has an outside chance of winning ROY.  

After the pitchers were done and before the catcher's batting practice, Alex and I were able to have a couple of coaches sign some cards.

This will be McGee's first year in the dugout.  He does not have a definite title, but will be working with the outfielder's on defense and every player on baserunning.

Jose Oquendo returns as the third base coach and infield instructor after sitting out 2017 because of knee surgery.  Hopefully he can improve some baserunning fundamentals.

Friday we watched the minor league catchers take bp, so Saturday we chose to watch the big leaguers.

 Yadier Molina is waiting his turn to take some swings off of manger Mike Matheny.

While waiting he took a ball and threw it to my son.  No luck though on getting it autographed, but still a cool moment.

Yadi in the cage

Carson Kelly

That finished up the day and our spring training experience.  It was great to watch up close with so few people there.  Even on Saturday the crowd was only about 30-40 people.  If we ever go again, I will wait until all the players are there and more thing are going on.

The only negative part about the trip was the autograph hounds at the parking gate.  Friday after practice there must have been 15-20 people waiting for autographs from players as they left in their cars.  There was a mix of children and adults.  On the occasion a player stopped, 3 or 4 adults made sure they were first in line.  Some parents questioned them and were answered with rude and vulgar replies.  I wanted no part of this so we left shortly there after.  I will give props to new Cardinals Bud Norris.  He pulled over and signed for everyone and even took pictures. 



Tuesday, February 13, 2018

4 Before I Go

This will be my last post for a week or so.  Tomorrow morning the family and I are headed to Florida.  After a couple of days at Universal Studios, we will head to Jupiter to catch some Cardinals spring training.  The first time we went in 2016 was half way through camp when all the minor league players were there.  This time is much early, with position players not having to report until Sunday.  I am not sure what we will be able to see, but am hopeful at the very least we can see some pitching and infield drills.  I know quite a few of the regular infielders are already in camp.

I received 2 trade envelopes yesterday, but only had time to scan the contents of one.  TCDB member Noy sent a sweet four pack of  Cardinals.

The 2004 Upper Deck Famous Quotes insert set has some great quotes from all time greats.  Musial has a good one, but Yogi Berra's is the best.  "Baseball is 90 percent mental, the other half is physical."

It seems like I am getting a ton of cards players the Cardinals traded away recently.  I have mentioned the Diaz trade a few times already.  Alcantara was the main player the Marlins received in the Ozuna trade.  If he can figure out his command, he could be a solid #2 starter or dominate closer.

Yadi has no base cards in 2018 Series 1, but plenty of inserts including the relic card.  I cannot say it is a jersey card, just that it is a memorabilia card.  Maybe Topps cut up his pants or socks. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

More of the Same

Tuesday's mail brought two more trade packages from TCDB members.  Both featured cards or type of cards that I have been quite a lot of recently.

The first package came from member mheilenman.  He finished my 2017 Topps Gallery set with these 3 cards:

Once again 2 of the 3 players have been traded.  I have not talked much about Sierra in the past.  He was shipped to Miami in the Ozuna deal.  I saw him quite a few times in person during his Peoria days.  Lightning fast with a great glove in centerfield, but no power to speak off.  He used his speed to have a decent week in the Majors last year, but could not hit to stay around.  Maybe he could replace Dee Gordon as Miami's leadoff hitter.

I have gotten a lot of Weaver and Reyes cards recently because that is who Topps is cranking out right now.  I don't mind though because both should be key parts of the rotation for the next few years.  The two Salute cards are from 2017.  I usually like throwback uniforms, but am not a fan of the one Reyes is wearing.  I need to see both birds on the bat. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Done in One

I believe I am in the small minority of collectors who has not opened any 2018 Topps packs yet.  I am not even sure if my local Wal-Mart has gotten any in yet.  As of Friday they had not.  Lucky for me I was able to make a trade with TCDB member 860502 that brought me all 11 Cardinals base cards. 

The photography is very nice, although I am not a fan of the blurred background.  The design works for me other than part of the player's name being covered up by the ribbon/wave/whatever you want to call that thing. 

These 3 cards somewhat represent the past, present, and future of the Cardinals pitching staff.  Lynn is one of the quality free agents who is still unsigned.  Unless he would sign a one year deal, I do not see him coming back.  Wainwright is nearing his last days as a starter, but I hope he can finish his career as a Cardinals.  Flaherty is the so called 6 starter, or first guy up in case of an injury.

 All three of these guys were traded in the offseason.  Thanks for the memories.

These are my two favorite cards.  I love seeing a batter about to make contact like Gyorko.  I am guessing the Wong card shows him shortly after getting an RBI.

The trade also included these 1999 Sports Illustrated for Kids cards.  I have a stack of the uncut sheets from the last couple of years that I need to find a good home for.  Maybe I can show those of in a future post.  As for these 3, the Drew is my favorite. I remember going to shows in 1999 and seeing the regular Fleer card going for $5-$10.  Crazy times. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

4 in 1

It is always nice to put a team set to bed, even if the set only contains a handful of cards.  A trade package from TCDB member engine614 arrived yesterday that finished 4 sets for me.

For a long time I did not know about this 1996 Upper Deck Ozzie card.  Being able to sort a set by team name is a wonderful feature on TCDB.  One of the previous sites I used only listed base cards, not league leader or tribute cards like this one. 

It is great to finish a Topps Pro Debut set.  These 2014 cards show 3 players that the Cardinals picked in the top 52 during the 2012 draft.  Ramsey was the 23rd pick out of Florida State.  He was traded to the Indians in 2014, and has bounced around the minors since.  I believe he is with the Twins now.  Piscotty was the 36th pick the Cardinals received for losing Albert Pujols to free agency.  It would be nice to see him have a good year in Oakland.  He did rob a home run with the catch on the card.  Wisdom was the 52nd pick.  The Cardinals gained this pick for not signing Octavio Dotel.  I have followed him since his 2013 stay in Peoria.  He has climbed up the ranks to Triple A, but has never gotten a call up.  Good defense at 3rd, lots of power, but lots of strike outs also.  Wisdom is one of the nicest players you will meet.  No matter what park I have seen him play at, he always takes time to sign for the fans.

I was glad to finish the 2017 Stadium Club and Topps Archives sets before the 2018 versions came out.  If only I could say that for Finest, Chrome, Fire, Bunt, etc.   

Monday, February 5, 2018

Small Sportlots Order

While I was cleaning my desk a few weeks ago, I found an old Visa gift card from 2015.  I am sure this was a Christmas gift from in-laws, but had no idea why I still had it or if there was still a balance.  The original amount was for $150, but certainly I had spent that by now.  Upon checking the balance online, there was still $3 left.  Knowing you cannot buy much on EBAY for that, I head to Sportlots for a few team set needs.  I prefer Sportlots over COMC because of the cheaper shipping if you can buy all your cards from one seller. 

One of these days I am going to bust a box of Heritage Minors.  It would be great if they came in blaster box form, but I have never seen one.  These 3 are from the 2017 set.  I bought a second Helsley card just in case I get a chance to do some autographing later this year.  Flaherty and Bader have plenty of MLB cards, so I only needed one of each.  I expect both of them to spend a lot of the season in St. Louis.  Helsley may be a bullpen call up sometime this year, but most likely will start the season in Double A Springfield.

I also like Pro Debut sets, just not quite as much as Heritage Minors.  These are also from 2017.  Hudson is very similar to Helsley in that he may get a call up later this if someone in the bullpen gets hurt or is ineffective.  He should start in Triple A Memphis.

The negative part about Sportlots is the minimum price of $0.18.  I have $0.13 left on the Visa card that will most likely not get spent.