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!

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

Profile of a collector: @TTM_ Todd

TTM Todd
This past half year or so, I started following the thread of @TTM_Todd.   His feed quickly became a favorite.  His collection of TTM autographs includes a legendary list of All Stars and Hall of Famers.  In my opinion, if there was a TTM – “through the mail” autograph Hall of Fame, @TTM_Todd would be in it.  If you are a collector you need to follow him!
I am lucky enough to present an interview of how Todd got started – way before any of us – and he also shares some strategies and tips to the new “Through the Mail” collector.
Thank you Todd for the great answers.  This is a must read!
When did you get started? What inspired you to start? 
I’m pretty sure it was around 1974, when I was 7 years old. I grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia, home to West Virginia University (WVU). Morgantown and the whole state can’t get enough of WVU athletics, especially since there aren’t any major professional sports teams in the state. I can remember going to WVU football and basketball games at a young age. In fact, the first WVU basketball game I remember seeing — in December of 1974 — featured a sophomore guard named Bob Huggins, who is today the Mountaineers’ head coach and one of the winningest head coaches in college basketball history. Asking for an autograph was one way to get close to the players. I soon got into TTM collecting. I think my parents figured it was a good way for me to practice my writing skills. They happily provided stamps. I used to write to WVU players and players from other schools. It was big thing checking the mailbox every day to see what I got. In fact, it still is today. Most of the players would write notes back to me. It meant the world to a young kid.
I’ll share one of my favorite TTM success stories that led to a meeting with a player. I wrote a Richmond basketball player named Kevin Eastman, who later became a college and professional coach. He was an assistant with Doc Rivers with the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers and was a well-respected talent evaluator. Eastman sent me a wonderful letter, reminding me that I was young, which was good basketball-wise, but that I should never forget that school is the more important. He offered to meet with me before a WVU-Richmond game that season and we did, getting together with a couple of friends in the hotel lobby on the day of the game. Morgantown is only 75 miles from Pittsburgh, so I went to a lot of Pittsburgh Pirates games. I can recall writing a lot of MLB and NFL players. I didn’t know about the concept of the SASE at that time, so I never sent one, and many players still responded. That wouldn’t happen today!
How has doing TTM changed in the hoby from when you started to now?
Now, there are so many more people doing it. Back in the 1970s, you could write a player without an SASE and get a response. Few folks were writing minor-league baseball players 30 years ago. It turned out to be the proverbial gold mine for me, as I got replies from the likes of Derek Jeter, Mike Piazza, Kris Bryant and Mike Trout, guys you aren’t getting today. Many of today’s touted minor-league players receive as much or more mail than major-leaguers. You really have to do your research and work on your letter-writing skills. Of course, back when I started there were no cell phones. The internet did not exist. Kids today would rather be on their phones than going through a stack of fan mail. I’d probably be the same way. Fortunately, there are many former players who still sign for free TTM as long as you write a polite letter and include an SASE.
How do you choose which players to send to?
I still try to get young players. I’ve written to many of the MLB draft picks from this year. I’ve gotten a few of them back and am hoping to receive more before the season ends. Over the winter, I’ll write to retired players I have a card of who I admired as a child.
What do you say in your requests? Are they long or short? Typed or handwritten?
I introduce myself and tell them that I’ve been following their career. I try to show them that I know some facts about their career and that I’m looking forward to following them on their way to the big leagues or NFL or NBA. I ask for the autograph and thank them for their time. I try not to make the letters too long. I’ve always hand-written my letters. I think players appreciate that. It’s more personal.
What are your favorites?
My favorites tend to be the ones that I had to work hard to get. It took three or four requests to get Phil Niekro. He kept refusing my letters, but I kept sending them and he finally came through with a signed card. I think he charges now. I remember in the 1980s being really pumped to get former Royals outfielder Willie Wilson, who did not have a good reputation, either in-person or by mail, for signing autographs. I ended up researching a home address and getting him. I also got Cal Ripken Jr. in 1986 at a home address I researched, and that was a big thrill. It took three or four letters to get NFL quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The success came from a researched home address. My letter emphasized my support for him at a time when he was having some legal problems. People just starting TTM shouldn’t necessarily cross a big name off their list, but it is going to take some work. Every now and then you will hit the jackpot.
Do you do in-person graphing?
Yes, there is a short-season rookie league baseball team in my area, so I’m out there on occasion. It’s not the best stadium for in-person graphing, but the team does have an autograph booth with 2-3 players signing before every game. The players I’ve encountered — most of whom are just beginning their pro careers — are quite receptive to signing. I try to hit baseball games — either MLB or minors — if I’m in the area on vacation.
Advice to TTM newcomers?
Don’t get discouraged. It can be a frustrating when you don’t get immediate replies to your letters. You have to be patient. So do you research, tell the player in a letter why having their autograph is important to you and ALWAYS include an SASE.

Time for some autographs and fishing lures

This week featured some great returns.  It started with an epic Monday.  Four returns.  The most I’ve had in one day.  This one was particularly fun because it was the Home Run Derby and meant I had mail to open while watching the best slug some homers! I for one love the derby and everything about the All Star Game.  Even the mid-action interviews.  I especially love these as it lets us glimpse the players’ actual personality and I think baseball needs more of this.  Is there a way this could be done to this extent during regular season games? Not sure.  It was done during Spring Training, and I loved it there also.  This is coming from an old-school baseball fan who wants nothing to do with clocks in baseball.

Back to the returns.  Trevor Hildenberger singed two 4 x 6 photos nicely in about 2 weeks.  Fast for an active player.  For those who don’t know him he has taken hold of the setup/8th inning role that is so important to teams.  They’ve been comparing him to some good names, I just can’t remember who as I write this.  He’s a sidearm guy who’s fun to watch.  Doesn’t have the high-90s heat but can pitch and get guys to swing and miss.  He doesn’t seem to get much mail right now so if you want a guy with a good signature and a quick return, I recommend sending.   I have the photos available (digital file) that I sent if you want to use them.  Contact me and I’ll send the file.  They should work for 8 x 10s as well.  In the future I’ll be posting my sports photographs on my site, Mindflare Photography.

The one on the left are all photos I took at a game of Hildenberger – and edited in Photoshop.  Walgreens didn’t believe I’d taken the photos (likely because of logo usage, and I know I can’t sell those) but I did.  I have similar customs out to Logan Morrison, who seemed to be signing some recently.  I sent at the same time as Hildenberger or close so will see if I get them back.

Next on the day was 4 / 4 from Ricky Bones.  It took probably about 2-3 months or a bit more.  I normally don’t send that many but I was experimenting a bit with that Fleer Ultra set and then the 1996 Upper Deck set.  I like both but they are mixed results I think for TTM purposes.  1996 has some great photography.  The surface seems odd for autographs though.  Not super glossy but slick somehow.  It might work, though, and I might try a few more from 96.  The Fleer actually has the strongest auto until it disappears completely into the dark uniform.  The 93 UD didn’t turn out as well as it usually does. 93 UD I’ve found is perfect for sharpies – never had a problem with bleeding or anything like that.  They don’t seem to require prep either.   But they clearly don’t work well with ball point.  I was a little surprised to see ball point for Ricky Bones, he usually seems to sign in sharpie based on his history.  I am still grateful for these – he was a good pitcher back in the day.  And I love that they are photos of him signing autographs.  It’s always fun to get those signed.   I wonder where those kids are now in that 93 photo, and if they still have the card signed by Bones(?).  Or if they know they are on the 93 photo at all.  Has anyone appeared on a baseball card in the stands like that?

There were still two more returns for Monday!  In the meantime I was enjoying the derby and thought Hoskins could win it at first, but that shifted fairly quickly.  I was able to go to the Derby in 2001 and I still remember Jason Giambi putting on a show in the first round. We all know about the PEDs but that was a fun time that day.

Back to the mail.  The next one is basketball, a sport I actually loved back then, but can’t watch now. It’s just too different and I still hold a grudge over my Sonics leaving Seattle.  Until Seattle gets a new NBA team I probably won’t be a fan of the current game.  It’s just too different.  I have strong memories of my dad and I going to KeyArena and seeing Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Detlef Schrempf, and the rest, play.  They were so entertaining.

Back then I actually watched other games on TV as well and saw Tyrone Mugsey Boughes play a few times.  He was so much fun to watch as well, high intensity, and a good player.  I’m really happy to get these two back – a blank signature card and then one I’ve had for the longest time ever.  Pulled from a pack way back.  The signatures turned out great. Probably about 2-3 months as well.  I love the shot – little guy pulling up his huge team mate.

MBoughes

Last but certainly not least was All Star Blake Snell! I am so glad he got to pitch in the game.  He signed a Topps Heritage in about two weeks.  One of the faster turn around times for current guys.  He only seems to sign 1, though, so be sure to just send the card you want signed.  This one turns out quite nicely and is one reason I invest in Heritage each year.  They are perfect for autographs.  Though I do wish Topps would release a lower-end cost wise set just for autographs.  Similar to 1996/97 Fleer.  A set that has all the rookies, a long player check list, the works.  One could even include coaches and GMs.  Feature relics instead of autograph inserts.  Relic cards always look great signed.

Here is the Snell.

Blake Snell

That was just on Monday.

There was nothing else until Thursday, which is pretty typical for my mail weeks.  On Thursday I got John Offerdahl.  This was a super fast return of about 10 days.  Maybe less.  He must have gotten it in the mail, signed it same day, and sent it back.  Impressive.  The signature turned out great.  He’ll only sign one and I’ve heard he won’t sign his rookie card either.  He’ll just keep it.  This card came from a $5 box from Walgreens. I consider TTM guys my hits from those.  They’re a perfect way to acquire some new TTM cards.

 

Offerdahl

On Friday I ended up getting two more returns.  I’d gone through about a two week cold stretch (just 2) so this week ended up being pretty amazing.  Friday I got 2 signed back from John Olerud, a favorite player of mine from the Mariners and of course Blue Jays.  I played 1B in little league and through middle school and often imagined my game would be like Olerud’s.  Both turned out great as always.  Strong, bold signatures.  He personalized some for my sons last year and I sent this time for the 1993 UD, for my set building.  I won’t bother him again for a couple years at least.

Olerud

After Olerud, I got a success I’m super happy about.  Edgardo Alfonso signed 2/2! He has an amazing signature and they both turned out great.  He was at a 34% return rate on SportsCollectors.net until very recently he’d signed a couple.  I remember seeing him play (on TV) and loving how he went about the game, and his defense.  He currently manages the Brooklyn Cyclones and that is where I sent.   For more on Mr. Alfonso, see his Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgardo_Alfonzo.

I love these signatures – there is so much personality to them.  The 2001 Fleer Tradition set is one I’m going to take another look at autographs for.  I’m a bit mixed on the design.  It seems a little too busy but the surface is good.  The Topps Reserve was a bit of a risk.  I sent because of the light-white background and felt the autograph would look great, but it’s highly glossy or it felt that way.  It turned out just amazing.  These are two of my favorite signatures now.  I love the #13 on there as well.

Edgardo Alfonso

Finally a HUGE shout out to my friend @waxpack916 on Twitter.  He sent me a surprise care package with some amazing PC Mariner cards and some actual packs to rip.  I’m waiting until Topps Archives comes out so I’m not buying much right now, and it’s been a busy time at work.  So it was great to have these packs to rip.  I’ve decided I like the 17 Allen and Ginter design more than this years.   It’s cleaner in my opinion.  But they are both nice.  Still, I won’t spend too much on it.  The oddball cards are growing on me – from the 2017 set, I’ve decided I have to somehow use the fishing lure cards in TTM.  Perhaps for players who like to fish?

I loved the Mariners cards. He got it for my PC.  It was just fun opening those packs and a great way to end the week.  It also helped that I got a Gary Sanchez relic.  He needs to choose the rest of my packs from now on!

Sanchez relic

So thank you very much for the surprise package.  It capped off a great week of returns for this hobby.  Hopefully this post has helped encourage someone to jump into the hobby of through the mail autographs.

Happy collecting!

 

Time for a few photos

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This past week I had a wonderful vacation in Door County, Wisconsin.  Sister Bay.  Lake life.  Nearly every morning I got up and took advantage of the perfect coffee spot.  A screen porch where I could listen to the waves and watch the birds.  It proved to be a productive space in time as well, and I dove into figuring out more about Photoshop.  My goal was to create a generic custom photograph or card that I could use to send to players through the mail.  That turned out to be more difficult than I thought.  In the process I ended up making customs for Logan Morrison and Eddie Rosario.

I don’t really have the right photograph for it yet.  The one I found works well enough but it’s lacking something still.  I added the MLB logo to it and for now I’ll use it – and will NOT sell it (or any signatures obtained on the photos) of course, since I am using the MLB logo.  This was more just for fun and experimentation.   Please feel free to use any of these custom designs for yourself – but just know the logos are copyrighted, of course.  Apologies, but I just had to use them and try it out.  Please contact me if you want a digital file of these.

Flash – Mike Trout

Mike Trout The Flash One image I’m really proud of though is Mike Trout.  These photos are all ones I took during the rain delayed Angels vs Twins game.  My boys and I almost got Mike Trout that day on a photo, but he didn’t stop where we were.  That really made me want to come up with something special on the off chance that we have another opportunity to try and get his signature.

As I worked on this I kept thinking about who he is as a player and one moniker keeps sticking in my head to describe him.  “Flash.”  Simply Flash.  Not “The Flash”, though that works, but takes too long to say.  It’s the title of this photograph because it works as a title, but just a tad too much for him.  One word can describe him, and to me that is Flash.  He’s so fast and quick and confident with everything he does.  He’ll be standing still one moment and then pure motion the next.  I hope this image reveals some of that.  That’s the goal for it.  So please enjoy the use of my photograph.  My next chance at getting Mike Trout to sign it might be next year when the Angels visit the Twins.  I’ll have an 8 x 10 of this ready for him.  If I do get lucky, it’ll be a piece my boys (ages 6 and 3) and I can enjoy for a long time.

I’ll be posting more photographs as I edit them.  And as always, unless otherwise stated, please feel free to use for your own graphing needs.  All photos and edits are mine.  Camera of choice is a Canon Rebel t4I and I am learning Photoshop CC 2018 for the edits.

 

 

Mindflare Photography: Inspiring joy and grit in sports and life

Twins Legends River of History Final

I have loved taking photos my entire life.  Doing so calms my mind and helps me stay in the present, holding off the negative thoughts that can push me toward depression and anger.  It’s been a safe place and a sanctuary for me throughout the years.  For a long time I also wrote and while I enjoyed that, it always seemed to make me cranky and angry and not a person I really liked to be.  For ten years I focused on the writing and wrote four bad books.   I’ve at last decided to switch to what is becoming my true passion: Photography.   I want so search for those moments of joy, of grit, of raw emotion that all of us feel.  I want to show those kids out there, and adults, that we all feel the same rawness.  You aren’t alone.  You don’t have to be angry and isolated all the time.  I felt that way often growing up as a bullied kid.  I didn’t know how to handle the negative thoughts, and I still don’t really, but I am starting to learn.  I’m determined to learn how.  For my family and my kids.  I want to show them and everyone out there that it isn’t dark all the time.  You can punch through to the light and the goodness.  It’s a battle.  I know it is.  I face it every day.  I coped with the writing, but the photography will help me grow and push through it and enjoy life.  Deliberately seeking grit and joy and staying in the moment will do that.

Eddie Rosario (taken this year, 2018)

Eddie Rosario Final

So as part of that this past week or so I’ve finally dived into learning Photoshop.  I love it.  I easily lose track of time while editing a photo or searching for that perfect shot that goes with a background.   There’s so much I want to show through this – and can show – that I am finally feeling that creative vibe and energy that’s been missing for a while.  It’s back.  I’m embracing it with my photography.

Torri Hunter (photos of Hunter taken during last year playing at Target Field)

Torri Hunter Draft 1

I posted a few pictures this week online and got a lot of positive feedback on them.  So for those who have asked for a photo of a Twin, I’ll be posting them here on the blog over the next few weeks.  I love doing this.  This is going to be fun and a learning experience for me.  So these photographs are all going to be free.  Just contact me or download them from here.  To me these photographs – these moments – are ones that I think captures some grit or joy in life.  Each photo I choose will, I hope, have some aspect of this.  They’ll capture joy and grit – moments of it, or show someone enjoying life or experiencing the trials and joys that get you through the worst times.  The raw emotion.   And compassion.   These are what I’ll be searching for and sharing on this blog (along with my own joyful hobby of baseball card collecting).

Brian Dozier (taken during Fernando Romero’s debut)

Dozier MinnePaul

The images in this post are some of the first ever I’ve done in photoshop.   Please keep in mind that I’ve only been doing Photoshop for a week!

Thank you for reading and I’ll keep sharing pictures and thoughts and searching for those mindflares.  Those moments in sports and daily life that show there is good and joy in this world, and that you are not alone.

Kyle Gibson (series of photos taken after the 3 1/2 hour long rain delay at Target Field)

Kyle Gibson Strikeout

Time for an autograph: Stan Williams

A9A3C005-6A78-4758-AC3B-F9A52CB9B9E4

This week I received a very nice autograph from Mr. Stan Williams.  My connection to him is through a memory I have of getting his signature on a blank sheet of paper in Spring Training one year when he was the Mariners pitching coach.  He was an All Star in 1960 and 2x World Series Champion.  What I love about this return is his immaculate and steady penmanship.  It’s part of a different time and mindset before texting and email.  Im honored that Mr. Williams took the time to answer some questions I had.  There was one line that makes this even more amazing.  He responded to one question saying he does have more stories to share, but not today – he just got out of the hospital – a heart operation.  I was stunned to read that.

ED5E35E3-E900-4F4A-B148-8B588E2266C1

One wouldn’t be able to tell from his handwriting that he’d literally had heart surgery that same day.  This shows incredible character and compassion that he took the time to write me on this day.  This, to me, truly embodies the spirit of grit.  I can’t imsgine how he must have felt while writing out his answers and signing two gorgeous signatures with inscriptions.  Personalized to me as well, which I will treasure.  These signatures will help remind me of this mindset, this grit to take the time and this care about a task like this even when one is not feeling 100%.  Or when things aren’t going your way.  This is what I struggle with, keeping the mindset when I get home from a workday and my youngest son has an accident that I have to clean up.  I’m horrible at controlling my reaction and mindfulness in these situations.

Building triggers – CTC – Control the Controllables

I need to build triggers, reminders, code words to help.  I’m going to put one of these on my desk on a new “grit board” – a board that will be full of triggers to hold to this mindset.  The board is not my idea, it’s from the author of Beyond Grit, Cindra Kamphoff.  Full disclosure I was lucky enough to hear her give a talk on the high performance mindset just this week..  She had a lot of great things to say – I recommend looking her up.  She gave us some of those code phrases yesterday to help.  One is CTC – control the controllable – and recommends to say this to yourself when the negative thoughts arrive.  Another one she had was APE up.  A for attitude and p for preparation and e for effort. For some reason I really like this one as well.  It’s easy to remember.  I think Mr. Stan Williams really embodies all these aspects, as demonstrated by the care in his writing and the fact that he took the time to write on a day that he had heart surgery.

He had other great answers to my questions – here, I ask (in horrible handwriting, I know) – What about playing baseball brought you the most joy?

A5AAC2BA-88EF-46EC-99D0-C6A66599A9D2

What was your favorite moment in your career?

56736DFA-64E5-48A2-9CFA-E9208C3CAE49

Returns like this one really are priceless.  I hope through this post that I can help pass on to others some of this meaning and value.

Thank you Mr. Stan Williams for taking some time to write.  I know you don’t own a PC, so I will print this out and send it to you so you can know how much your response meant and how it’s helped.

D59F93CA-3E82-4ECF-B37F-CD225D3477E2

 

Feeling like a kid again: Some autographs and Romero’s debut in the middle of the work week

A few weeks back I decided to take a day off and go to a Twins game on a weekday.  It was a 12:10 start and I figured it would end late afternoon with enough time to get home before dark.  It’s about a 90 minute or so drive for me to the stadium.  It really was the perfect setup.  I’m lucky enough to have a job where I can take a day off about once a month if I want.  This is something that really helps my mentality and staying away from negative spirals and depression.  Knowing I have some time set aside for myself, self-care, really helps.  It gives me a chance to slow down and pause and focus on something fun.  It’s akin I think to Google’s policy of having employee’s use 20% of their work hours for any project they want.  It gives one permission to relax, to dream, and work on moving that dream forward.  Or to get your mindset right.  For me it’s more about the mindset and recharging.   For me a day at the park does wonders.  It was like this for me as a kid and still is for me now.  Something about baseball must trigger the calm mindset, letting me truly relax and pause and embrace the now.

Since I was a kid I’ve added photography to this.  I’ve also realized that to me photography is a form of meditation.  It helps me see the world as it is right now.  To find moments of joy, emotion, and beauty in an ordinary day or a regular baseball game.  With my sports photography I want to focus on the joy in baseball, the beauty of it, the emotion and grit in it.

Originally this game didn’t really stand out on the schedule.  It was just a chance to see the Blue Jays, a team I don’t see often, and try to get some autographs.  I debated about trying for the Jays but have heard they don’t sign well as a team.  So instead I switched gears and found a second row seat in section 104 on the Twins side.  I’d never sat that close for an MLB game.  It was everything I’d hoped.   The players were close enough that I could hear them snapping out instructions to each other, though I couldn’t quite make out what they said.  The crowd noise was just enough to take that clarity away.  So was the perfect breeze.

I was actually able to get up to the game right as the gates opened.  I only had a few minutes to wait.  Since it was a day game the crowd was smaller and I didn’t have to deal with that many people this early.  A good spot in the first row awaited me and I settled in. The atmosphere felt relaxed and easy instantly reminding me of when I was a kid in Seattle, going to Mariners games in the Kingdome.  We of course were indoors but it was the chill attitude of the fans around me that took me back.  It somehow felt different from a night game on a weekend.  This felt like a different crowd.  These were fans here to enjoy a baseball game.  There was a student promo, I think, related to tickets, so there were a lot of students there as well, simply enjoying the fact that they weren’t at school on a weekday.  That was it.  We were all there to just enjoy the day.  The gorgeous, near cliché picture perfect weather.

We were also lucky enough to be there for the debut of Fernando Romero, a top prospect for the Twins.  I will admit that although I’d gotten his autograph at TwinsFest in January, I still didn’t know much about him.  He was in the back of my mind though at this point as I just chilled and watched the players warmup.  They were right in front of me.  A lot of them were relievers – Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rodgers, Zack Duke, Phil Hughes, and others.  Max Kepler and Robbie Grossman joined them later.  It was just fun watching them toss a ball and stretch out.  This was the game I remembered from being a kid.  Players out warming up.  They were relaxed as well, it seemed.  More in the moment, perhaps.  There’s definitely a different attitude around a day game that I was feeling.

Of course I’d brought my autograph notebook (can be found at Target for $5) and hoped to get a signature or two.  I wasn’t that optimistic – I hadn’t had much luck at Target Field.  Today would prove otherwise.  In the end I got five and just had so much fun with it.  I was a kid again.  Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rodgers, Matt Maghil, Fernando Rodney, and Max Kepler.  I still had my old skills and philosophy.  Always be polite, never push, and let the kids get their autographs first.  Help them if you can.  I always like to have an extra pen or a card on hand in case someone needs it in a pinch.  At the previous game I went to this year I was able to give a kid one of my blank MN Twins auto cards, and he got Jim Brower.   There were a lot of kids and students near me today so I was extra careful not to be aggressive.  It paid off – players can see this, and I’ve seen them stop signing or not come over because of poor attitudes.  This is really important and I can’t stress it enough.

The one player I really had hoped to get at the start of the game was Fernando Rodney.  I had a phot of him I’d taken from the All Star Game in 2014, in a Seattle Mariners uniform.  Luckily he did come out near us and warm up.  I got my photo out and watched, hoping.  I got a few other players during this time and ended up near a group of younger kids.   This is where Rodney came over.  I wasn’t in the front row, not near it, really, and hung back.  I was just starting to think I’d miss out when a random girl turned around and asked if she could hand my photo to Rodney to sign.  She seemed about middle school age (these years were not good for me as a kid!).  I’ll admit it felt weird saying yes, but she was being super nice and I didn’t do anything to prompt it.  So it wasn’t like I was paying her (I know this happens and can’t stand it) to get an autograph for me.  So I handed her the photo and he signed it nicely.  I am fairly sure he knew it wasn’t hers, but still signed it.   I just want him to know I didn’t pay her to do that – that isn’t how I go about getting autographs.  It’s not my way.  But thank you Mr. Rodney for signing the photo! It’s going to be framed for my wall – it’s a favorite photograph I took, and from when you were a Mariner as well.

Getting my own photographs signed is something I really enjoy doing.  It’s a big part of why I like taking photographs at a game. I challenge myself to get top quality photos for this.  And today I was going to push myself – I was going to use the manual settings on my Canon Rebel T4I. I’d spent the previous weekend playing around with them and taking photographs of my kids and backyard.  It seemed I’d found some good settings to try at the game, including taking shots in RAW format.

They did work well for most of the game.  I found that they worked best for portrait type shots and less so for action.  During the warm ups I focused on Robbie Grossman and Max Kepler and came away with some of my favorite photographs.  I’ve always loved the reflection effect in players’ sunglasses and I actually managed to get this with Kepler.  In this photo he actually seems to be looking right at me.  Maybe he was – I was pretty obviously taking his photograph.   I also never realized he had the 030 tattoo.  Now I’m curious as to what it means. 124FACB4-7123-4438-AE9D-A0CE31E5C35E

 

I got some other fun pictures of the guys warming up.  Including Fernando Romero in the outfield.  I can only imagine the thoughts going through his mind as he stretched and began tossing the ball.

36821AF9-C25D-472F-B045-4B0C2A5C8193

I love the next photograph of Romero holding up the ball and staring at it, as if he’s talking to it or just praying that it’ll obey his commands for the day.  I wish the photograph was a bit clearer but the focus was slightly off.

71CF3532-6E57-4DD8-8F1F-63AE41A0ADBD

There was one other moment in particular that caught my eye during warmups.  When Gregorio Petit came out – he was just called up, this was his first game as a Twin, I think – he and Logan Morrison shared a close conversation.  It seemed like the type of moment that good friends share, or even brothers.  I really want to know the history behind it.  It also was clear to me as I watched him throughout the game that Petit was thankful to be in the Majors.  He seemed to thoroughly enjoy every moment of the game.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Clearly there is a friendship between Petit and Morrison.  Soon after taking a few more warmup shots, I focused on Romero at the mound.  I really wanted a “Topps Now” type first pitch photograph.  But I soon realized this might be difficult.  From my angle Logan Morrison set up to essentially block the pitchers mound! I managed to get some decent shots of Romero in his debut, but not one that really jumped out at me.  I’ll have to try again at another start of his to get that one shot.  The one I like the most in the slideshow below is of him raising his gloved hand to the sky.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Despite the odd angle toward the pitchers mound, I did find I had a great view of players running to first base.  I was really able to capture some great shots throughout the game in this moment.  The one I like the most is of Mr. Solarte just after he crossed first base, the look of frustration and intense emotion clear on his face.  Somehow I even got a sun flare off the helmet.  This is a moment that really shows the grit of the game how it can humble anyone.  We have all had these moments.  When no matter what you do, it just doesn’t break right.

4C80AB0B-C4EA-4160-B6AE-4B4D44506BFB

It was fun watching players up close through the camera on the way to first.  There were various expressions and emotions happening on each play.  These are some of my favorite photographs from the day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was also in a good position to get shots of the base paths and some action at second base.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These are just some of the photographs I was able to take during the middle of a Wednesday.  The entire day was just relaxing and good for the soul.  It was a good reminder to take the time to pause and rest.  Do what you need to do for your mental health.  Take the time.

I know I enjoyed it.  Whatever it is for you, I hope you do as well.

 

 

Joy and grit in the history of the game: Tony Dungy, Steve Raible, and John E. Hetki

In the past few weeks, I have gotten more great returns from both baseball and football players.  I’ve written to guys with just a few months of professional experience to a Hall of Famer in Tony Dungy.  It’s clear to me that all have a deep joy in the game they play along with an even deeper grit and willingness to push through hard times to reach their goals.

About two weeks ago I got one of my favorite returns.  Mr. Tony Dungy! He was kind enough to inscribe both cards I sent and include a note.  I asked “What part about coaching football brought you the most joy?”  His response: “Seeing our players improve and grow!”

IMG_5398 2.JPG

The signatures are bold and easy to read, along with the HoF inscriptions.  Thank you Mr. Tony Dungy! His address can be found on Sports Card Forum if you want to try sending.  It did take at least 2 months or so, probably more than that.  I love how he took the time.  It shows care and grace and it’s always inspiring to see that.

Steve Raible, original Seahaw and voice of the Seahawks: “The roar of the 12’s” and lifelong friendships

IMG_4408.JPG

Another return I am really happy to have is Steve Raible.  He was an original Seahawk and the voice of the Seahawks.  I didn’t listen to nearly as many Seahawks games as I did Mariners games, but I can hear Mr. Raible’s voice in my head from the ones I did listen to.  He is also a news anchor at KIRO NEWS 7 which I listened to a lot as a kid.  If I recall right, they had the Mariners games, and I also listened to their talk shows.  That’s right – as a younger teenager, I’d listen to some talk radio over music.  Or oldies instead of the current stuff.  The one station with current (90’s) music that I listened to was The Mountain.   As a member of the 12s (and also a Vikings fan) out here in Minnesota, it’s great to get a return from Mr. Steve Raible.  I sent to the KIRO NEWS 7 studio.  The address is on SportsCollectors.net if anyone wants to try.  It took maybe just a week.  He also had some great answers to my questions.

“What part about being a news anchor do you enjoy the most?”

 “The opportunity to inform our community everyday of the most important, relevant meaningful news stories.”

“What part about playing football did you enjoy the most?”

“Lining up on Sunday against the best in the business was exciting.  The roar of the 12’s when your team makes a big play was incredible.  But the best thing is the lifelong friendships made with teammates and opponents alike.”

“What part about announcing did you enjoy the most?”

“I enjoy the entire process of broadcasting a game…from preparing during the week…to interviewing players and coaches…to working with my broadcast partners on game day.  The best thing is calling a touchdown in a big game, when it’s all on the line.  My favorite moment – when I got to say…”12’s they’re bringing the trophy home.  Your Seahawks Super Bowl 48 Champions.”

IMG_0656.JPG

IMG_5709.JPG

 

John E. Hetki: Never say I can’t

John Hetki was a reliever who played for the Reds, St. Louis Browns, and Pirates.

The attitude of “Never saying I can’t” is a trait that I think all of these players share.  It took incredible grit and determination and joy to play at their level.   This is an attitude I try – and struggle at most of the time – to emulate.  I love Mr. Hetki’s return because he wrote a quote down that my wife echoes all the time for me.  I am going to get a special top loader for it and have it on my desk as a constant reminder.  It really is a quote to remember.

“Never say I can’t always say I’ll try.”  Simple and to the point.

IMG_2644.JPG

He also answered a couple questions – and reminds us to not ever take anything for granted.  Form him he was happy that he got to play against “top notch” talent and win.  He played from 1945-1954 (eight seasons).  There are so many legends of the game that played during that time.  I can only imagine what it was like.  It was a completely different era than today’s game.  This is one reason why I love getting responses from guys who played then.  I get glimpses of what that was like, and little ideas and hints of what it took to get to that level.  What Mr. Hetki sent – the quote – is something very tangible that I can have on my desk to help remind me when I get in those dark spirals.

IMG_6793.JPG

So thank you very much to Mr. Hetki, Mr. Steve Raible, and Mr. Tony Dungy for writing back and sharing thoughts about the joy and grit needed to acheive it.

 

 

Finding another level: Ray Ripplemeyer

Last week I received another success that resonated.  This one is from Ray Ripplemeyer (link is to Wikipedia page), who had about three months in the majors as a pitcher with 1 win and 1 start.  If you read through the Wikipedia page as I did it became clearer that he was a lifelong baseball man, a coach who loved the game.   I didn’t have any cards of him so I sent some blank cards from TheAutographCard.com and asked a few questions written out on index cards.  He sent back in under two weeks, signing both blank cards and adding two extras of his own, a 2011 Topps Heritage “Players Sample” and the Tides pitching coach card.  These are now favorites of mine because he sent them.

Ray Ripplemeyer

But his answers to my questions are what stands out.  In particular, his answer to “What is your advice for when things get tough?”

He answered:  “You have to reach down to another level and fight your way back in sports and life.”

IMG_3604

I also enjoyed learning about the favorite moments of his career – winning 1 game, getting 28 hits, and getting a home run!

In his answer to “Do you have other stories you want to share?” he also talks about how you “have to outwork other people.  I’m lucky to enjoy a wonderful life now because of it.”

IMG_1439

These two phrases connected with me.  I can have trouble bearing down and reaching that other level he talks about.  So it always helps to hear that is what is needed – and that it can lead to a wonderful life.  I need to remember that when I get cranky and depressed about life itself.  When I get into a negative spiral and thought-pattern I just have to remember that “this too shall pass.”

I am actually reminded of a quote from Lin-Manual Miranda.  I didn’t think I’d be connecting Ray Ripplemeyer to Lin-Manual Miranda in this, but the underlying principle is there.  From a coach and big league pitcher to Lin-Manual Miranda, one of the biggest stars in Broadway theater.

Miranda quotes:

“This feeling will pass.  This workload will pass.  These people will pass.  But look at you, with the gift of memory.  You can time travel to the good stuff just by closing your eyes and breathing.  Then come right back to now, eyes up for the good stuff ahead.  You magic thing.”

“Come back to now.  Eyes up for the good stuff ahead.”   This is the line that is reflected, I think, in the quotes from Mr. Ray Ripplemeyer.  It takes hard work in the present, the now, and you have to reach for that other level when things get tough.  But it is all worth it.  One just needs to remember it as Mr. Lin Manual Miranda so elegantly states.  I will be keeping this quote in mind along with Mr. Ripplemeyer’s.  I hope that by sharing these with you I can help you at least a little.

IMG_2598

Quote by Lin-Manual Miranda, photo by Alex Kent.