A blog about baseball cards... and the Padres

Friday, October 21, 2016

My New Obssesion

Is everybody enjoying some playoff baseball?  Pretty good, competitive series so far, right?

To be completely honest, I haven't really gotten into it much.  I'm a cord-cutter, so with the AtBat app and my grandma's cable info, I've been able to watch a handful of American League games, but none of the National League side.  Most of the interesting storylines (at least for me) have been on the NL side, so not being able to follow it outside of Twitter has been pretty underwhelming for me.

But I haven't really minded.  In fact, I've been watching more baseball than usual.

A few weeks ago, I caught preseason game between some Liga Mexicana del Pacifico teams; Las Águilas de Mexicali and Los Naranjeros de Hermosillo.  They played at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock, and despite knowing almost none of the players (save Xavier Paul, who was playing for Mexicali), I had a blast.

Normally, even in minor league games, I'm aware of who the top prospects are, and part of me is excited to watch them so that maybe, just maybe, I can say that when they make it to the majors, "I remember them when..."

This is not the case in the Mexican winter league.  There's a good variety of former major leaguers, career Mexican leaguers, and up and coming players that just might make it big.  It's pretty fun not knowing much about any of the teams and players and learning as I go.  

I was pretty bummed to find out that there are no Liga Mexicana del Pacifico baseball cards.  SO, I made a few on the Just Rookies app.  I've designed a few but never purchased and printed them.  Don't know if I'll pull the trigger on any of these, but they were fun to make.  Luis Juárez is my favorite player.  Even though Mexicali lost the game I saw, he was fun to watch, and he was named the first Player of the Week for the season.  I also found a picture of their bat guy, which ties in nicely to the current playoff scenario.

Yuniesky Betancourt is one of the former MLBers on the Águilas, though he has been pretty bad in the games that I've watched.  Ramón Ríos has been one of the better hitters for the team as well.

Ramón Urías is the older brother of one of the Padres top prospects, Luis Urías.  It's been cool to listen to them talk about how well Luis did this year.  The announcers definitely keep the viewers up to date on the Mexican players in the major leagues.  They are big fans of Adrián González.  Chris Roberson is the Águilas leadoff man and centerfielder.  He probably has the most pure talent of anyone on the squad, though his stint in the majors was a short 72 plate appearances. 

Between the chance to practice my Spanish - at one time I was completely fluent, but I've gotten rusty - and learning a new league, it's been really fun to watch.  I've only missed a game or two, but I get updates sent directly to my phone, and have live-tweeted the games a few times - though none of my Twitter followers seem particularly interested.

Anyways, there's a few players on the Águilas that had cards made on other (MLB) teams that I'll be trying to track down:

Yuniesky Betancourt - Mariners, Royals, Brewers
Xavier Paul - Pirates, Reds, Dodgers
Chris Roberson - Phillies
Welington Dotel - Mariners
Xorge Carrillo - Mets
Onelki Garcia - Dodgers
Fautino de los Santos - A's
Jake Sanchez - A's
Edgar Osuna - Braves

Most of them only had a cup of coffee in the majors, or just showed up in Bowman releases as prospects.  I'll probably do a Just Commons run to see what they have there, but I'll hold off until later in the season.

Anybody else a fan of the winter leagues?  For what it's worth, I am extremely satisfied with the LMP's streaming service (though it's not nearly as professional as MLB's), and it only cost $499 for the season.

Wait, that's in pesos.  It costs $21 for the entire season's worth of games (October til January).

I love it.  I'll try to catch a few World Series games because it's hard to top the World Series, but I'm not sure that my fandom of the LMP is a fad.  It's good stuff.

Monday, October 17, 2016


How's everyone enjoying the postseason?  I really haven't followed too much of it, other than just to have something to write about for ROBaseball.  This is mostly due to the fact that I wasn't super interested in any of the American League teams (I was okay with any team going to the World Series besides the Red Sox), and the National Leage side of the playoffs have been mostly blacked out on MLB.tv.  I was surprised that the Rangers made an early exit, since I picked them to win the pennant.  Don't have many cards of current Rangers players, but I have this one, from this year's Archives set.  I really like these cards, and would consider putting the set together if they weren't so expensive.

I pulled two from a blaster of Archives, and this was the other one.  Andrew Miller has been a beast during the playoffs, and is one of the reasons I'd love to see Cleveland win it all.  Sure, this was from his time with New York, but still a good one to have.  In fact, I was able to watch him pitch in person this year when he was still a Yankee.  The only reason I remember is because it ended this way:

Yep, Melvin Upton Jr. walkoff.  I was hoping that he'd be able to do something similar in the playoffs, but he has struggled mightily since becoming a Blue Jay.  Still, while there's some really likeable guys on the Indians, if Toronto is somehow able to come back from a two-game deficit, I'd be able to root for them pretty easily.

I had meant to scan the front of this card as well, but this is a recent pickup - the mini version of Melvin's 2016 High Number Heritage card, numbered 3/100.  I still need to get the team set for the Padres, but I'm not in a huge rush to pick up the four Friars they have - Melvin, Alexei Ramirez, Jabari Blash, and Jon Jay.  I know the Padres were bad this year, but Alexei was literally one of the worst players in baseball last year (-2.4 WAR in just one season is horrifically bad), and Blash and Jay basically contributed nothing (though Jay's lack of production was due to injury).  I'd probably be more interested if they had... I dunno, players like Ryan Buchter or Ryan Schimpf.  Yeah, if you have heard of either of those, you win a prize.

Anyways, just a quick little blurb from me today.  Like I said, I've been writing at ROBaseball a bit, and that with work and the family has kept me busy.  I've also been writing a bunch of Mexican winter league baseball.  If you're a baseball junkie like me, check out la Liga Mexicana del Pacifico.  Probably a little tough if you're an east coast guy, since most, if not all teams play in the Pacific & Mountain times, but it's only $21 for a whole season subscription (each team plays 68 games).

Take care.  Be excellent to each other.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Recent eBay Pickups

My summer school paycheck came at the beginning of August, basically doubling my monthly income.  While there are plenty of things that the money went to (we have three kids and our 70+ year old house always seems to need some kind of work), I felt like it was a good time to splurge on a few pieces of relatively cheap cardboard.

I'll frontload this post with my favorite card first:

I have a page full of vintage Jerry Coleman's, and this isn't the oldest one, but it's from the most famous set, 1952 Topps.  It's not like these are hard cards to track down, but I've been holding out for a long time on finding one under five bucks.  I'm no stickler for condition, but even so, the best I could do was six dollars and change.  It's got great corners and looks pretty good on the back too, the only issue is the obvious top left corner.  With this one crossed off the list, the only vintage Coleman's left to track down are pretty pricey: '49 Bowman and '50 Drake, plus a few oddballs I'm sure I'm not even aware of yet.  All in due time.

ToppsNow cards are pretty awesome.  And pricey.  With the Padres being one of the worst teams in the league, I figured it might not be too hard (or expensive) to collect all of the Padres.  I was wrong.  I've since abandoned this fools errand, but not before picking up this one.  As a Tony Gwynn fan who remembers the glory of the '92 All Star Game (well, as much as you remember things that happened when you were eight years old), this was too tempting to pass up.

I mentioned this one in my last post, but I'll give it a little more love again.  Franchy Cordero is a Padres prospect who just got called up to Triple-A El Paso.  Before his promotion, I got the chance to interview him and a few of his teammates on the San Antonio Missions.  He was a super nice guy (they all were), and he is one of the few guys in the upper levels of San Diego's farm system who can swing a bat.  He's got two autograph cards on the market, but this one was a few buck cheaper than a Bowman card, plus it's hand numbered to 50.  I know some collectors have problems with cards with no logos, but most Bowman cards are photoshopped anyways, so I welcome these into my collection.

The Padres are pretty void of exciting talent at the major league level.  Wil Myers was really exciting in the first half of the season, but has struggled since the All-Star break (and participating in the Home Run Derby).  My boy Yangervis Solarte has had a career season as well, but has also struggled as of late.  And Melvin Upton Jr. and Drew Pomeranz were dealt at the peak of their value.  That leaves Travis Jankowski the most exciting player wearing a Padres uniform (who's ahead or at least tied with journeyman minor leaguer Ryan Schimpf).  Jankowski also has a few autos out on the market, but I liked this one the best.  I wrote a piece about him for RO Baseball, and digging a little deeper into his season made me like him even more. 

Anyways, there's a few new(er) cards that I've added to my collection.  I also picked up a new Padres bobblehead for my classroom and a 7" record that I didn't even know existed from one of my favorite bands (!).  It's been a fun little mini spending spree, but has probably come to an end, at least for a while.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Trip To San Antonio

Since moving to our new house, the San Antonio Missions are no longer the closest Double-A Texas League team.  That honor would go to the Frisco Rough Riders, who have a beautiful stadium that is a paltry 20 minutes closer.  Either way, it's a pretty long drive, especially when the games don't start til seven o'clock.

Still, I have a special place in my heart for San Antonio, which is where my son Foster saw his first game, and is also an affiliate of the Padres.

Anyways, I mentioned in my last post that I started writing for a website called RO Baseball, and about a month ago, I contacted the Missions' PR guy to see if I'd be able to interview some of their players for the website.  And he said yes!

I was pretty star struck.  Not by any of the particular players, but just the fact that I was able to go into the dugout while they were practicing and ask them whatever I wanted was really cool.

They were all really nice guys, from Rich, the PR guy, to the players, and the people I met afterwards in the press box.

The first player I interviewed was catcher Rocky Gale.  He had a cup of coffee with the Padres at the end of last year, but has been moved to Double-A to maximize playing time while Austin Hedges gets all the reps in Triple-A.  He didn't have a card in the 2016 Missions team set, but I happened to have a card from 2012, when he was on the Lake Elsinore Storm.  I talked to him about the differences between game prep in the Texas League and the majors, and about growing up playing in the Pacific Northwest.  Link to the article is here.

Next I talked to Adam Cimber, a relief pitcher who is also from the PNW. He has a unique style, rocking high socks (which led to me to ask about uniform preferences and Chris Sale) and a unique sidearm delivery.  I asked him about striking out fewer people this year than the past few years, and I don't think he really appreciated it, but he was still polite. Guess I'll have to figure out how to tactfully ask the uncomfortable questions.  Link to the article is here.

The last player I talked to was Franchy Cordero. Of the three I talked to, he's probably the hottest prospect, though he's lost some of the hype after a few rough years in low A. This year, he's been hitting really well, and actually just got called up to Triple-A El Paso.  He's from the Dominican Republic and his English is a little rough, so I got to use my Spanish, which was fun. I was a little nervous and talked kinda fast, so it wasn't as crisp as I would've liked it.  He was a bit of a mumbler too, so I haven't finished translating the last question, but when I do, I'll add a link.  I asked him about leaving his family and playing in America, as well as how changing his defensive position from shortstop to center field helped with his offense.  I got this card off eBay right after the interview because I liked him so much.  Never heard of this set, but it looks kinda nice, and is hand numbered out of 50, so that seems cool.

Here's a few pics I'll post here of the guys during the game.

Cordero on second after doubling down the first base line.

 Cordero in center.

 Cordero hitting.

 Gale behind the plate.

 Cimber warming up in the bullpen.

Cimber again.

Trae Santos, another Padres prospect who started the scoring with a big home run.  I missed it because I was in an elevator on my way down from the press box to the field.  Oh, it was pretty cool being in the press box.  I got to see the guy who does the MiLB GameDay, who actually seemed pretty disinterested.  He was from New Jersey and was preoccupied about finding employment after the season was over.  He was also checking Facebook.  A lot.

 Cimber on the mound.  His pre-delivery movement is so interesting to watch.  Along with almost doubling over at the waist before every pitch, he also contorts his front (left) legs it's perpendicular to his back foot, with his heel towards the batter.  Weird.  He did well though, and even struck out a guy, just to stick it to me for asking about why his K numbers were down.

Anyways, yeah, it was a blast.  I'd love to do it again, but even if I don't, it'll still be an awesome memory.  Also, these cards are from the San Antonio Missions team issued set, which are rad, because I'm a big fan of the 2013 Topps set, of which these are a blatant rip off.  I watched Gabriel Quintana in High-A Lake Elsinore a few years ago, and watched him that night.  The card at the top of this post is of Kyle Lloyd, who was the starting pitcher who went seven scoreless innings.  I'm not sure if anybody would really be interested in reading about any of these fringy Padres prospects, but if you are, I wrote about Quintana here and about Lloyd here.

Hope everybody's having a good weekend.  My collecting has slowed down a bit, but I have a few new (to me) cards that have made their way to my mailbox the past few days and I'll post up here soon. Take care.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Back From Vacation

All right, to be honest, I've been back from vacation in San Diego for a few months.  I just haven't been writing.  Well, I mean, I haven't been writing here.  I just started writing for Read Optional Baseball (robaseball.com) and have been writing more than I ever have.  It's not baseball cards, but it's still fun, and a lot more time consuming than I would've thought.  If you wanna check it out, that'd be pretty cool, it's a new website and there's some good stuff on there.

Anyways, vacation in San Diego was awesome.  Prepare for a super long post.

A little foreword: I exchanged some tweets with the Padres PR guy on Twitter a few weeks before we left about the price of Padres tickets.  We were going to be in town for a week, but there were only two games we could go to, both against the Yankees.  With dynamic pricing, the cheapest seats at Petco Park were $25, and they didn't even include a seat (general admission).  I mentioned to him that paying $100 for my family of four (well, the youngest is 1 and doesn't need to pay for tickets… yet) was less than family friendly, but overall I was pretty courteous in expressing my frustration.

Fast forward to my second day in San Diego, and I get a message on Twitter from the guy saying that the Padres would like us to be their guests at a game for the weekend, if we were still interested.

Uh, yeah, we were definitely interested.

That morning, we went to Target and picked up some Padres shirts for the kids (they both got Yangervis Solarte shirts, which I love more than I can really express) and a hat for my wife, and we were ready to roll.  Oh, and I wore this shirt that my sister Charlotte made me, in honor of Wil Myers (read my last post if you don't get the reference).

Anyways, we get to the game, and we're super excited.  We're not sure where we'll be sitting, but it was Harper and Foster's first MLB game (they've been to a handful of MiLB games in Round Rock and San Antonio).  The Padres PR guy, Wayne Partello, messaged me to pick up tickets at VIP Will Call and to let him know when we got to the game.

Well, our seats were pretty good:

It was a little distracting to be sitting almost directly behind the home plate camera, but, yeah, these are easily the best seats I've ever had to a major league game.  There wasn't a price on the tickets we were given, but these were easily triple digits, as we were only about 12 or 13 rows up.

This is the dream, right?  Incredible seats for a really good game (well, one of my debates with Wayne had been that the Yankees really shouldn't be that hot of a ticket since they were only slightly better than the Padres in terms of record).  What could be better for my kids' first Padre game?

Uh, going down on the field would be a pretty cool.  Wayne was super nice and came up to introduce himself (I was actually in the restroom with Harper, so he was chitchatting with my wife when I came back), and then asked if we'd like to go down onto the field.  It was a little rushed, since we didn't get to  the game that early, but a really cool experience nonetheless.  We saw the rest of the Padres front office hanging out on the grass between the dugout and first base, which was cool, even though I'm not a big fan of some of those guys.  

I think our kids failed to realize how cool this was, but I guess that's how it is when you're five and three.

To be honest, it wasn't super exciting most of the game.  Drew Pomeranz, who would make his last start at Petco as a Padre, had a really good game, and it was a cool vantage point to see the movement on his curve.  I realized how few players I know on the Yankees.  I had some highly recommended stadium BBQ and was sad that it wasn't nearly as good as most of the stuff I've had in Texas.  Some jerky Yankees fans were relocated to other seats because they were mouthing off at some almost-but-not-quite-as-jerky Padres fans.

After about the 8th inning, our kids were pretty tired (the game started at 7:05, which is about the time they're getting out of the bath and ready for bed) and started asking when we could go home.  I was so glad that my wife was on the same page with me: these seats are so incredible that there is no way we are leaving until we have to.  To be honest, there are some really cool things around Petco Park that I like to check out usually, but the Tony Gwynn statue and the brand new Padres Hall of Fame would have to wait.

I was SO glad we stayed.

This picture was taken right after Melvin Upton Jr. broke up the tie game in the bottom of the ninth with a walk off, solo home run.  It was AWESOME.  It's pretty funny, because my wife doesn't follow baseball that much, only what I talk to her about, but Upton Jr. is her favorite player now.  The walk off, coupled with the "Upton Funk" song that they played on the big screen, really sealed the deal.  Of course, he was traded to the Blue Jays a few weeks later, but that's okay.

After buying most of the Topps Now cards, I've decided to cut back.  In part because really, there's not a whole lot worth celebrating for the Padres this year, and also because they're pricey, even if you can find a deal on eBay.  But I HAD to get this one.  A card commemorating my kids' first baseball game?  Man, this is awesome, probably one of my all time favorite cards now.  Wish I could buy a few more copies, but yeah, maybe down the road.

To put a bow on the baseball game portion of this post, man, it was SO awesome.  Being a fan since the early 90's at Jack Murphy Stadium, I have never really felt that much of a connection with Petco Park.  Yeah, it's nice to look at, but I dunno, it was just lacking something for me.  But getting to experience a game like this was unforgettable, definitely feel that connection now.  Not that they will read this blog, but big thanks to Wayne Partello and the Padres.

Alright, second big part of the trip was our last full day, the first day of the All-Star FanFest.  We actually extended our trip to have it work out, and man, it was totally worth it.

We got there about 45 minutes after it opened, which was about halfway through a Trevor Hoffman Q&A.  It was pretty cool, though I can't really remember a whole lot of the conversation.  He mentioned that he wasn't the one that chose his "Hell's Bells" walkout music, but he really liked it from the beginning.  He's also a pitching instructor for the Padres minor league system, and he mentioned that he really liked Jason Jester, a relief pitcher who was in San Antonio at the time (although by the time I made it out to a game this summer, he'd been promoted from the Missions to the El Paso Chihuahuas).  If you watched the All-Star Game, he brought out the ball to the mound, and I got goosebumps when I heard the bells ring again.  So cool.

Here's a wall of Padres history, from it's PCL beginnings, all the way up to Matt Kemp's cycle.  This was pretty cool.

The coolest "thing" I saw was this prototype Padres uniform, designed after the '84 season.  I can't say that I like it better than what they ended up going with, but pretty cool to see an alternate look.  There's a different looking friar on the sleeve as well that is pretty interesting.

We went to a few other Q&A sessions: former Padres great Randy Jones, Giants legend Orlando Cepeda, and players from the All-American Girls League (they were easily the best session, I was bummed we only caught the tail end of that one).  

Without a doubt, the highlight of the whole day was the Q&A session with Archi Cianfrocco, my favorite living Padre (RIP Tony Gwynn).  When I saw that he would be doing a session on the only possible day I'd be able to go, I knew I had to do my best to get there.  It's not like he makes a ton of appearances or anything.  But I was a little nervous that I might be letdown, that he wouldn't be as awesome as I hoped.

My fears were unfounded.  He was great, a super humble guy.  I asked him what it was like being on the team when they swept the Dodgers in '96 to win the NL West (even though he didn't play), which was the peak of my Padres fandom (I was 12 at the time). He talked about the atmosphere and then driving back to San Diego afterwards with Bob Tewksbury and their wives.  I also showed him the shirt that my sister Charlotte made, which you can see above.  It has "Cianfrocco" painted on the back, with his number (29), which he thought was really cool.  Afterwards, I waited in a pretty short line and got a souvenir ball autographed.

Here's how it looks in a display on my desk at school.  Also pictured are my old-school San Antonio Missions ice-cream helmet, a Tony Gwynn figurine, and autographed balls given to me by my brothers, Tommy Medica (from Sam) and Eric Owens (from Ammon).

While it would've been cool to get some of the brown and gold All-Star memorabilia at FanFest, it was super expensive and our funds were running low, so I settled for the cheapest thing I could find.  Keychains are cool, I guess.

I'll wrap up the post with some baseball cards.

The lines for autographs were pretty long, so the only one I waited in besides Archi's was Chris Gomez'.  The line was really short, and he was really nice.  It was also located next to a San Diego radio station set up, so I got to meet Darren Smith and tell him I was a fan who lived in Texas and listened to his interviews via his iTunes podcast. 

There were a bunch of booths selling cards, but this was the only card that I paid for at FanFest.  I am seriously lacking in Sterling Hitchcock cards, so I picked this one up, even if it cost a whole dollar.

These were the two big "hits" of the whole experience.  I bought a few cheap packs of Topps flagship, and opened them up at the Topps booth, which allowed me to pick a special FanFest card.  I chose Matt Kemp, the lone Padre (though he's been traded since then).  I also waited in line a long time to spin a wheel at the University of San Diego booth, and after winning a ASG logo'd bag, I also got a free Kris Bryant card. Nice.

Topps always does a custom card photo booth (well, at every All-Star FanFest I've been to as an adult, which is two), and we followed the tradition of doing a family group shot.  Our last name is Pond, thus pun-tastic nameplate below.

In addition to getting a ball autographed, I brought my two favorite Archi Cianfrocco cards.  These are awesome.

All the autographed cards and balls came with stickers to certify their authenticity, which was pretty cool, I guess.  It looks better on the card than the ball, I think.

Anyways, I need to wrap this up, but that's what (part) of my summer vacation was like.  I guess this can be my "back to school" post, since we just finished up the first week of school here in central Texas.  I'm not sure how active I'll be on here, since I divert most of my free writing time to RO Baseball (and I've also started doing a few short write ups on Padres minor leaguers for a blog called Padres Public).  But I still need to do a writeup on my trip down to San Antonio (where I got to go into the dugout and interview a few Missions players - it was awesome, two of the interviews are on RO Baseball), and I'm still picking up an occasional card on eBay and busting a few packs here and there.

Y'all take card, card collectors.  I don't check out my blogroll as often as I'd like, but I'm on Twitter all the time, and I still keep up with the collectors who link to their blogposts on there, so if I'm not following you yet, lemme know (@marcusSDTX).

I'll try to get back here soon.