Opening Day giveaway: Eric Hosmer relic and some Donruss stars

I had a ton of fun watching baseball and opening cards yesterday. Thanks to an MLBPA giveaway I got to open a hobby box of Panini Donruss baseball and it convinced me I’ll be buying a box of it every year. It’s just fun going through this and reminds me more of collecting in the 90s and all the inserts and chases that weren’t autos, though those are available in this product also. The inserts just give someone something else to chase. The designs are fun and shiny and would be fun to get signed someday.

The giveaway

My giveaway from the box will be a stack of stars and also the Eric Hosmer relic I pulled. To enter just retweet my pinned tweet, thoughts on Opening Day. The winner will be randomly chosen Monday evening. Only active collectors are eligible. The card pictured below is the giveaway, with some more base star cards added.

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My Oh My it just continues

This is baseball

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Baseball is a part of my core self, the place I go to when I truly need peace and a haven from everything else going on. It’s something in the special pace of the game that allows me to breathe and rest and truly know the moment in front of me. That time when a ball cracks against the bat, or smacks into the catcher’s mitt. There’s a pureness there that I can’t find or see elsewhere. It’s a simple and complex game. We’ve all heard these types of words before on Opening Day. I know mine fail to capture what I really feel and see in the game. But I have to write something.

My oh my it just continues

Baseball has been with me since I was a little kid. It was there every day as I grew up and dealt with what we all deal with growing up. Bullies, frustrations, successes. When the Spring came and with it Opening Day I knew I could always turn on the radio and just listen. For me it was Dave Neihaus. He was the voice of my childhood and there as I became a teenager and more. There was just so much joy and genuine kindness in that man that came out during every game. My team, as one might expect now, was the Seattle Mariners. I grew up in the 90s and instead of being a part of the tech boom or a fan of Kurt Cobain, it was baseball, books, reading, writing, outdoors, and yes, video games (a lot of Star Wars). I can’t really describe how much it meant to me. Instead I’m going to link to Macklemore’s My Oh My and just ask that you listen. Just listen. This speaks to me so much. I can’t really say how much. Thank you Macklemore for this piece of art.

It’s what I grew up in. Collecting cards. In drawers, binders, boxes. On my desk right now. That radio, staying up late for games. Still do. Autographs. Griffey. Edgar Martinez. Jay Buhner. Rich Amaral. Alex Diaz. Luis Sojo. I’m slowly working on collecting signed cards from that 95 team.

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1995 was my year, a cornerstone year. I was there for all the Yankees-Mariners playoff games. It just continues. I couldn’t believe it. Good things did happen even for a bullied kid like I was. Good things happen. My Oh My. They do. They really do and will again. That’s what baseball was to me and still is. Back then it’s what could get me out of the spirals and fear. It was baseball. Now it’s more. Now it’s my family and kids and photography. But baseball’s still there and always will be. 1995 was proof to me as a kid that the underdog could succeed. That you could believe and just refuse to lose. The whole city believed in that team and I’ve rarely seen anything like it. It shows the power that sports and baseball have to unite us in one thing. Sports fan can hug and high five strangers and have drinks with them like long lost best friends. It’s one of the best things in this world. Sports can turn that stranger into a friend.

Eternal hope

My first teams were the early 90s Mariners with Jay Buhner, Tino Martinez, Joey Cora, and others. We’d pay maybe $10-$15 for a game. I was lucky enough to get to about 10-15 games or a few more each year. So I really felt like I got to know the players and I knew the Kingdome as well as anyone. Every year at this time as a kid I’d go through the team and learn as much as I could about each player. This time of year was and always will be full of hope. This could be our year if things break right. I loved thinking about who might help us get closer to the playoffs. Who the next hot rookie would be (Bob Wolcott, Tim Davis, Ben Davis, Alex Rodriguez).

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Alex Rodriguez signed this in person at Spring Training. Took a full minute or more to sign it. I’m never parting with it.

I wasn’t that great about picking up their cards. I’d usually buy packs. Except A-Rod. I did pick up some of his, and managed to get some of his autographs in person during Spring Training. I still have most of them and have always had a soft spot for A-Rod since. In school at this time I would often draw the Mariners logo in notebooks while in class. None of those drawings actually survived but I got good enough that when we had school events I got requested to do face paint for them.  Talent, right?

The soul of the game: A place of peace 

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Mark Hamburger at peace in his element

For players I think baseball has to be where they are at peace the most, truly themselves. On the mound or at bat it’s just that moment and that time. They are truly in their own element and fully who they are. I saw this with Mark Hamburger and the Saints. He’s someone who just wants to play and loves the game so much. It’s in every fiber of who he is. This is shown by his career, how he just refuses to stop playing, hoping for another chance to play. Full disclosure. I’ve met Mark and his family and fully support him in his career and want him to succeed. He is so good with fans also. He’ll sign autographs, spend moments with fans, talk to them. One of those rare players who just gets it. To me this just shows baseball is his place of peace.

It’s been my place so often in life. In middle school and high school I was bullied relentlessly. Verbal abuse nearly every day. Good days were when it was minimal and I could avoid them. Baseball and my family were constants and my rocks. I loved my family and of course still do but when I could get away to a game on my own for a Saturday it was when my spirit was truly at peace. I feel this at other times now as well, through photography, and my own kids when I can be in the moment with them. It’s very had for me to just be at peace. My mind races and can conjure up negative thoughts and dark places easily. Growing up baseball was the place where that was the easy escape. A place where I could rest and be calm. It still is. But I’m getting better at just being there day-to-day. Thanks to baseball and what it is for me, what it initially showed and taught me. I’m not sure I’m explaining this well but that doesn’t matter. I just want to say it and perhaps others will get something from it. This peace is a part of what truly makes baseball the best sport in the world and why it has endured so long. This is the soul of the game and is something our culture sorely needs. We need a sport like baseball to remind us to slow down and just be in the present. No phones, no noise, just baseball. A chance to let our minds rest and process and be calm. We don’t always have to be racing so fast.

A place to be in the moment

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This is baseball’s real lesson for all of us and why I love it so much. Why I tune in when I can, listen, and watch. It’s why I collect baseball cards and autographs and take photographs and write. All of these are ways to stay at peace and in the moment. All these activities calm those negative spirals and keep the darkness away. I hope you have something that can push those thoughts out. For my whole life it’s been baseball, and now my family and my kids and my photography. In my photography I’m always trying to capture what I feel for the game. I’m looking for that in baseball and in life. It helps me focus on that.

Those are my opening thoughts on opening day. I hope everyone can enjoy a little baseball today, some peace, some quiet. Just be.

A small giveaway 

I am blessed to get this today. I’ll even have some baseball cards to open and go through. Just like when I was a kid. Thanks to the MLBPA no less, and a little luck. I won the box in their Totally Distorted Tuesday giveaway. In return I’ll give away something from the box. Not sure what, as I haven’t opened it yet. I’ll pin this post on Twitter and just retweet it to enter. I’ll have it open for the first weekend of baseball and draw the winner on Monday next week.

Opening the box will be happening this afternoon after work as I watch the Twins. My new adopted team. I love my Mariners still, and always will, but I live in Minnesota now. The Twins have a strong place in my heart now and I hope my kids will love them and baseball as much as I have. I want them to see the values in it, the joy in it, the peace it can offer.

Let’s play ball! And go Twins, and Mariners! This is our year.

 

 

 

Through the mail card of the day: Tim Biakabutuka 1996 Donruss Elite Series

BE79DEA6-A3F8-409D-8885-B9A7AF26588EThis Tim Biakabutuka 1996 Donruss Elite Series is one of my favorite cards out of the collection I bought. There’s something about the design I really like. Looking back now it feels like this set was a tough one to pull. I did manage to pull a Ken Griffey Jr Donruss Elite from a pack back in 96. When I found this Tim B in the set it brought back fun memories of that Griffey. There were a couple others in this collection, football players, but they don’t sign. Tim Biakabutuka was the only one and I knew I had to send.

As usual I wrote a handwritten letter with SASE and 1 forever stamp for each envelope. The address can be found on SportsCollectors.net. For Mr Tim Biakabutuka it seems to take anywhere from 1-2 weeks to 1-2 months, so if you send it could be a wait. When I found this card I knew I had to send. It’s a favorite insert set, and he was a solid player and had a good year for Michigan in 95. He’s also the first Zairian to play in the NFL. This is all taken from his Wikipedia page.

Im really happy with how this autograph turned out. Even in black pen it still jumps out. This is one reason I like the Elite Series set and similar inserts. The silver type background really helps the auto jump off the card. Holographic style cards also have this effect from what I’ve found.

So I highly recommend taking another look at these inserts as options to get signed. I think they would all turn out well.

A collecting shift and through the mail treasure hunting

Recently I bought a large collection of various sports – basketball, hockey, baseball, football, and even some soccer tossed in. It came in big blue tubs full of storage boxes. There were also sets of 90 UD, 92 UD, 91 Topps, 88 Fleer. It was a blast going through cards from the late 80s on into the 2000s. There was literally over a decades worth of collecting history in this and thousands of cards. It’s really interesting seeing how rookie card designs changed. I’ll have some upcoming posts on what I find design change wise. That was a major focus for this collector. Rookies. I didn’t find anything too major. My biggist find was a 1959 ToppsJim Taylor rookie, in excellent condition. I haven’t decided if I’m selling it yet. That was the oldest card in the collection.

I also found some 1960s baseball and even some 60s football. Most of it was 90s-2000s, though. Some of my favorite finds are old prospect names like Ben Grieve, Todd Hollandsworth, Todd Van Poppel, Kevin Mass. I probably have a pretty decent Poppel RC collection now. This theme carried into football as well. I’ve got a very good collection now of Ron Dayne, Jake Plummer, Warren Sapp, and plenty others. It’s a strong lesson and reminder of just how many top prospects don’t make it. It’s helped me realize I’m not going to be much of a prospect hunter from now on. That can be fun but also tough to make money on. I really enjoyed going through this old collection. It made me feel like a kid again, getting excited for the inserts and names and subsets. I was able to find a few notable cards from back in the day that I’ve always wanted.

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One is the Carlos Delgado Flair Wave is the Future insert. This was a hugely popular insert set from what I recall and Flair was on the high end of what I could get back then. This was a hot card back then. Not worth much now but happy to have it.  This collection helped me realize again that I do love 90s inserts. I’ll somehow make this part of my PC now. Not quite sure on the focus (teams or players maybe, or just fun designs.  I did also find a good number of Flair base and Topps Finest base cards in the collection, which I’ll keep as well. Again because of the design. I’m not sure either how they fit into a PC yet. Maybe because they were a big part of collecting history in the 90s.

Other fun finds included a stack of Bowman from 92, 93, 94, including some Bowman’s Best. Nothing too major again but there is an Orlando Cabrera Refractor (numbered to 400 I think or less).

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The basketball was filled with a lot of Joe Smith, Glenn Robinson, Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess, and names like David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, John Stockton, and other stars. I did find a McGrady RC. Took me back to  when I actually enjoyed the NBA. I found a good stack of Sonics cards from those entertaining years with Kemp and Payton.

Through the mail gold

So while there were not many huge finds money wise, there were a lot of sentimental ones. There was also another value to this collection. Cards of guys who sign through the mail. I’ve filled about 2/3rds of a 900 count box so far of guys who sign. All sports. I’ve still got a ton of cards to search for other TTM guys. My goal is to fill the 900 count box with guys to send to.  It’s got me excited again to get these out and in the mail. I got a few out in the past two weeks and already got a lot back. These are just some of the TTM cards I found.

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Buying this collection has helped me focus how I want to collect. I’d rather buy old collections like this than new boxes. I feel like it’s the same risk as buying a box. Less so with my luck and boxes. Even if I don’t “hit” with a collection  there’s always the TTM angle. I usually try to send out a couple cards to guys, so I have one for trade. This can help build my PC.

One issue I’ve run into with this strategy though is organization. I need a good setup – a place to sort through cards (a nice big table or desk), shelving, and a place for supplies. It’s going to force me to reorganize my current space. I want to make it a relaxing and fun space for sorting these collections. What have others done? How have you set up your space? Any advice is appreciated!

Going through this old collection was a blast. There’s no price on that. Later this year (end of the summer or fall) I’ll be looking for other similar collections to buy and do this all over again. Once I get my zen collecting corner all set up. My shift will be from trying to keep up with modern to buying more collections like this, and more vintage, but slowly.

Has anyone else bought collections like this? What are your favorite finds?

Twins Caravan: celebrating cultural differences and apologizing for home runs

eddie rosario autograph photo

In the dark cold of Minnesota winter there’s always a fun event I look forward to each year. The Twins Caravan. It’s almost always a gaureenteed day for frigid temps, howling winds, deep snows, or a combination.  It’d be easy for the Twins to do nothing. But they don’t. Instead of staying huddled on they get on the road in buses and travel Minnesota. It’s really quite remarkable. Arguably our two top players spent the afternoon ice fishing and then drove to Mankato for a wonderful evening of baseball talk and dreaming about warm weather.

I got to the Caravan at 5:30 right as the doors opened. I’m glad I did. The crowd looked bigger than in years past and that was confirmed when they announced that over 700 tickets were sold. Quite a turnout on a cold Monday night!

This also meant that the hot dog line got long fast, so I went and got mine early and settled in until the festivities started at 6:30. The hour went by quickly and soon enough after a highlight film the players were getting introduced. They ended up walking right by my table. Unfortunately the iPhone didn’t cooperate and my photos ended up blurry. This was the best one of Eddie Rosario sauntering in (he never just walks in according to Kris Atteberry).

Too many home runs

The question and answers started out tough from a woman who asked Berrios point blank how many home runs are you going to give up this year? Berrios handled the question well and ended up apologizing for giving up too many last year, and saying he knows it’s a bit of an issue. It was well handled with good humor.

Joy in cultural differences and bring down walls

Another question that stood out to everyone was one that brought up the fact that it was indeed MLK day and it shouldn’t be ignored. The question ended up being incredibly thoughtful – the person asked about cultural differences and what that was like in the clubhouse. They just wanted to know how that worked. There was nothing malicious in the question at all. I’m bungling how it was phrased. Eddie Rosario was the one who answered and said, essentially, that that was the best part. He got to experience different cultures – and enjoyed learning about Germany from Max Kepler – and that differences were something to be celebrated and enjoyed. A sentiment I completely agree with. It was a phenomenal question and answer from Eddie. A great reminder of an aspect about this game that I love. It bridges barriers and knocks down walls. Players from Germany, Puerto Rico, and many other locations share a close knit clubhouse and enjoy each other. This is something to aspire to and remember. Just enjoy learning from each other!

Eddie also talked about how he approached each game and his mindset. He approaches each day with joy and as a blessing, getting up and going. I’m missing some of the details of his answer but what I remember is his comments about joy and meeting each day with energy. I wish I’d written down exactly what he said. It was along the lines of take each day as a new opportunity. Something I can struggle with so it was great to hear this again. Eddie Rosario is quickly becoming my favorite Twin. I’m going to enjoy watching him this year for sure.

Time for the autographs and a nickname for Rocco? 

rocco auto caravan

I got lucky this year and ended up sitting at the table which was called first for autographs, so I didn’t end up waiting very long. Maybe fifteen minutes or so. I always like to get photographs signed, my own when I can, or at least custom edits as I learn Photoshop. I had a Jose Berrios edit I was particularly happy about, an Eddie Rosario photo from the Puerto Rico Series, and a custom edit of Rocco Baldelli.

I also like to get nickname inscriptions when I can and asked Rocco for his. He told me he didn’t really have one.  So that’s something we as Twins fans need to remedy. Rocco the Rocketeer? Maybe? There’s got to be a better one out there!

jose berrios autograph

Berrios was generous and gave me a great “La Makina” inscription when I asked and really took care not to smudge the auto as he added it. He did seem to like the photo as well, and was very gracious. I admire that a lot especially after a long day including ice fishing and answering questions from fans.

jose la makina auto

Eddie told me he really liked the Puerto Rico photo I brought. He mentioned it a few times and gave me a great signature with a smile on his face. Both Berrios and Rosario have great attitudes. There’s a lot of joy with them.

Let them play

A theme of the night to me among the answers was that Rocco Baldelli’s goal is to just let his players play. With joy. I think this is wonderful to hear and could be very important. Making a random connection here – when I watched this year’s National Championship, Clemson vs Alabama, it quickly became apparent that the Clemson players were having the time of their life. They were enjoying every moment and fed off of it, giving them even more energy and drive. That’s the power of joy. I struggle to reach it but when I do I feel it. It’s pretty amazing, really.

I am very optimistic now going into Spring Training for the Twins. I want to see them embrace joy in the game. If they do they’ll take off.

It’s baseball. It’s January. The time to dream. And remember joy to get through the cold.

 

Remembering the heroes: Sage advice from a veteran

In December I’ve decided to write to a few of our World War II veterans and just let them know we remember them and their sacrifices and what they did for our country and every one of us. Today I got back Mr. Clement Leone. You can find out more about what he did here. I asked what advice he had for us, and his replay is priceless in my honest opinion. Something to live up to.

Clement Leone advice

As I can in December I’ll be writing more letters to our veterans just to let them know we remember. This is always important, but especially this time of year.

Thank you Mr. Clement Leone for taking the time to sign and give us some wonderful advice to follow.

Clement Leone signature

Time for some kindness and autographs: Brian Propp

This is why we collect and why we love this hobby. There are certain players out there who go the extra mile and clearly enjoy signing. Mr. Brian Propp is one of those. I sent him the two custom photos which came back with great inscriptions and the extra cards. Including the Daniel Malgin Rookie.

This is why I love this hobby – I can still find kindness and good people in the world out there even when things can seem dark and negative. We really need to focus on that in all days and all things.

To send a little bit of kindness back to the world I will giveaway the Jamie Benn oversized card, and add something to it. Retweet the pinned Tweet to enter by the end of November.

Thank you and happy collecting everything!

Through the Mail starting lineup

 

I got asked a question online that made me decide to write this post.  Who would you start with for through the mail autographs?

Looking back, these are good, sure names to begin collecting autographs through the mail. If there’s a cost to their signature, I’ll list it.  When you see a fee it just means including that amount as cash.  These are all guys I’ve sent to with success. I have some addresses listed here but others can be found easily at SportsCardForum and/or SportsCollectors.net.

  • Billy Sample – legendary signer! Will sign pretty much anything.  But he appreciates it when you don’t send a ton of cards.  In general I think 2-4 cards for anyone is the right amount.
  • Edit to add Pat Neshek! He is the greatest of all time for current players.  Google for his website.  No fee!
  • Ron Gant – Send to his work address.  He’ll sign pretty much anything. Often pretty quick as well.
  • Sid Bream – 115 Sable Run – Zelienpole PA 16063.  Has a fee of $1 per card, great signature. Usually pretty quick.
  • Juan Gonzalez, Ext Catoni A-9 Vega Baja, Puerto Rico 00693 – He is amazingly consistent and seems to sign multiples.  It might be up to 4, but maybe more.  I’d send 2-3.  You can use US postage for Puerto Rico, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! That actually happened to me, at the post office.  He’s usually fairly quick also.
  • John Olerud – P.O. Box 606 Medina, WA 98039.  Batting champion, great 1B.  He seems to sign 2-3 total.  It can take longer, 1-3 months, but usually very reliable.
  • Shawon Dunston – Send to San Francisco Giants.  Again it will take 1-2 months, maybe a bit longer, but he always signs and will sometimes include extras!
  • Danny Duffy – Send to Royals.  Not sure about the offseason, but great during the season.  He signed 2/2 for me.
  • Blake Snell – signed 1 card quickly during the season, sent to Rays.
  • Anthony Banda – send to Rays Spring Training facility.  He’s great on social media also.  Follow him on Twitter!
  • Quentin Holmes – just got him today.  Signed 1/2.  Answered a question.
  • Mike Bilecki – Retired relief pitcher.   Send to 1505 Habersham Dr Crownsville MD 21032. I sent him 3 cards, 1 as a Pirate, 2 Cubs cards.  He has a great looking signature and is reliable.
  • Ryne Sandberg – $5 fee.  260 Shore Acres Circle Lake Bluff, IL 60044. Reliable, but probably has a lot of mail to go through.  But it’s a strict $5 per card, and please respect that!
  • Brooks Robinson – 11320 John Carroll Rd. Owings Mills, MD 21117.  $10 per.  I think it is now $10 per card. $5 I think might get a signature, but $10 might get you a HoF inscription.  But I am not certain of that.  Please respect his fee and don’t take advantage.
  • Gil Coan – 83 Douglas Circle Pisgah Forest, NC 28768, answered questions.
  • Johnny Edwards
  • Bobby Shantz – 152 E Mount Pleasure Ave Ambler, Pa 19002.  Mr. Shantz is on the level of Pat Neshek, except for older players.  He’ll often do a lot of inscriptions.  No fee but a small one tends to get a lot of inscriptions.
  • Carl Erskine – AMAZING signer, super nice to fans.
  • Bud Selig
  • Danny Darwin
  • Joe Carter $5 per card, and is a strict $5 per.
  • Jim Rice is $5 per, and is VERY strict. Will not sign without the fee.  I learned the hard way.
  • Zane Smith – great looking signature, reliable signer!
  • Mark Gubicza
  • Stan Williams
  • Mike Cameron – super reliable signer.
  • Tom Kelly – consistent signer.
  • Mike Timlin – fairly consistent
  • Steve Buechele – consistent.
  • Bob Mlacki
  • Jay Bell
  • Brian Harper – can take a while, but fairly consistent.
  • Bill Swift – consistent!
  • Rich Amaral
  • Lou Pinella $5 fee.  I got lucky with no fee and I think a good letter, but he’s consistently got a fee.
  • Brooks Kieschnick

For addresses, there are two sites I use.  SportsCardForum is a free site, though you do need to register.  They have a handy “Top 25 TTM signers” feature for each sport.  SportsCollectors.net is $15/year and worth it in my opinion. It has a nice feature where you can sort by Hall of Famers for each sport.

Hopefully this list can help you get started!

 

 

 

Time for an autograph: Use your brain, heart, and shut your mouth!

Bob K.

This is one of my all time favorite returns.  Bob Kuechenberg.  He was part of the Miami Dolphins 17-0 team, a lineman, and key member of the team, close to getting into the Hall of Fame (see Wikipedia).  When I got the envelope it was heavily water damaged and I thought for it was a goner. But Mr. Kuechenberg had folded my letter around the index cards and signed cards, and they survived.  A bit warped but that adds character, especially when the autographs themselves look great!

When I send I like to ask a question or two, and one of mine is usually “What advice do you have for when things get tough?” I have gotten some interesting responses before.  This one is actually true – all of it.  Sometimes it really is better to say as little as possible.

I can tell he meant this in the best way possible, with how he wrote it down on the card.  I love it, especially the “yer new pal” inscription.   This will be a good reminder for those times when doing less is more.  Not showing that frustrated or angry reaction.  That is extremely tough for me.  I don’t have a good filter for it, with some of what I’ve got going on.  So sometimes simple advice like shut your mouth sticks.  It’s also just fun to get an answer and reply like this.  This is why I send through the mail.  For these genuine moments that show true heart and emotions that we all feel and go through.   There are times indeed for using the brain, the heart, and as little mouth as possible.

Thank you Mr. Bob Kuechenberg for taking the time for an autograph.