A blog about baseball cards... and the Padres

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.