Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cubs @ Nats on 8/3/2012

Hope you brought a lunch, this will be a long one...

So as excited as I was to receive that package I wrote up yesterday, I had been looking forward to the Cubs @ Nats game on Labor Day since I received the tickets for Father's Day. My wife works with a guy whose brother works for the Nats. He hooked her up with an employee discount on some crazy expensive Diamond Club seats behind home plate. Included with the ticket was an all you can eat and all you can drink buffet. Adult beverages included!

I'm not much of an alcohol drinker at all. But let me tell you, when you tell your wife that you want to go to the game several hours before the gates open and possibly stay for a couple more after the game ends, its nice that she can toss a few back without worrying about the ol' wallet. She has her days when she despises my hobby but she also hates to be left out of anything. So while waiting around always sucks, when players start showing up, she's right in there helping. 

Waiting at the player's parking lot pre-game, we saw a bunch of player's come through and a couple stopped to sign. These will go into my son's collection since they're Nats. I'm not sure how we ended up with 5 Tyler Clippard's because we usually just try for one of each player. One of us must have handed him 2 stuck together and he pulled them apart. We also each got one from Gio Gonzalez and one from Drew Storen.

2011 Tyler Clippard All-Star and Base
2012 Tyler Clippard Base
Gio Gonzalez 2012 Archives, Archives Gold, Bowman Gold, Opening Day
Drew Storen Gypsy Queen, Topps Base, Legendary Lineage, Gold Futures
Now on to the good stuff! No offense to the Nationals who have put a pounding on the Cubs this week, but I think we all know which team I pull for. Once we were let inside the gates, my wife and younger son decided to go check out our seats/buffet. My older son and I made our way down to the third base line for Cubs autographs. After a bit, we decided to split up, me staying along the line, him going towards the dugout. I brought two sets of my custom set in case a player wanted one or was somehow able to get both signed.
Because it was a day game, there was no batting practice. Because there was no batting practice, there wasn't this ridiculous netting that normally runs from the dugout to the foul pole on both sides of the diamond. While this may prevent injuries to unsuspecting fans who are just trying to find their seats during BP, it also prevents a lot of pregame autographs.

With no BP, the bullpen pitchers all came out and did their stretching along the third base line. Nobody was signing just yet so I was mentally matching up names and faces. The pregame warmup jerseys had numbers but no names. There were a ton of Cubs "fans" at the game around me but with all the roster changes this season, nobody really recognized anybody except maybe Carlos Marmol.

I was worried I wasn't going to recognize a lot of the new guys too but I guess making the customs really helped. I found myself calling guys over and as they were walking over, people were nudging me saying, "Who is that?" Meanwhile, some of the players themselves seemed shocked that I had a card for them to sign. My autograph book is a little spiral bound 6"x9" book that I attached two cards to each page with photo corners. None of the players said anything about my custom cards but a couple of them just stood over my book for an extra second or two before they realized which card to sign.

Jeff Beliveau, Michael Bowden, Shawn Camp, Tony Campana, Adrian Cardenas, Lendy Castillo
It was kind of funny because they came over, signed for me, maybe one or two other people and then left. I had knocked out about 8-9 guys and they all started to head in to the dugout. The position players didn't seem to be coming out so I headed over towards the dugout to find my son. He had gotten David DeJesus who had been talking to Gio Gonzalez (former A's teammates) and James Russell who for some reason hadn't been warming up with the rest of the bullpen guys. 

Pretty happy with our successes, we decided to head up to our seats and get some food and drinks. We made or way through the buffet, sat down to eat and looked down towards the dugout. Of course, now all the position players were hanging out, not signing autographs but warming up and shooting the breeze. We scarfed down our food and headed back down to the top of the dugout. Lined up along the front of the dugout on the top step were a bunch of players. My son called "Mr. So & So" and when they turned around he held up a card and sharpie. The player nodded for him to throw it so clipped the sharpie to the card and tossed it. The player signed it and threw it back. Then my son called the next guy and then the next guy etc and they all did the same thing. This is how we got Adrian Cardenas, Tony Campana (!), Justin Germano, Brett Jackson, Chris Volstad and Travis Wood. Luis Valbuena was the last one we tried but he said the game was about to start. Some of the cards did get a little dinged when they were thrown back and forth but I think it just adds to the story. Not selling them, nobody wants these homemade pieces but me anyway!

Steve Clevenger, Manuel Corpas, David DeJesus, Justin Germano, Brett Jackson, Joe Mather
During the 9th inning, we headed back down towards the dugout. The Cubs were in the middle of a rally, down 2-0, then 2-1 before the game finally ended. It was pretty neat to be that close to the dugout (managed to get to the 2nd row) and hear the players get excited. When the game ended, the only player we got was Joe Mather, but still a great day overall.

Blake Parker, Anthony Rizzo, Chris Rusin, James Russell, Josh Vitters, Chris Volstad
During the course of getting autographs, we heard one of the players tell some family members which hotel the players were staying at. Since my wife was a couple adult beverages in, I managed to talk her into just "checking it out" to see if we would see anybody else. No real expectations and we were quite happy with what we got at that point. We found a place to park about 2 blocks away and just started casually walking around. Less than 2 minutes from when we left our car we see Manny Corpas walking down the street. He had already signed my custom card and his Iowa Cubs card for us at the stadium so I didn't have anything else. We made eye contact, I said "tough game today" and he looked at me confused for having recognized him. Then he smiled, said yep and kept walking.

We go closer to the hotel and I spotted Josh Vitters coming back from the drugstore up the block and he signed his custom and a Heritage Minors card for us. As Vitters is finishing up, Anthony Rizzo walks out of the hotel. I had multiple cards but didn't want to press my luck so I just handed him my custom.

I was hoping to see Tony Campana again but I had told my wife "just 30 minutes" since the kids were starting school the next day. Not a bad way to finish!
Travis Wood

Manny Corpas, Chris Volstad, Josh Vitters, Tony Campana
No, I didn't get any/many of the stars (what stars? Its the Cubs!) but when completing a team set, I figure its better to get some of the smaller pieces that might not be around as long to get. Guys like Castro and Soriano make appearances where worst case scenario, I could pay to finish up the set. But some of these young pitchers might not be around later. And whether they said anything or not, I like to think these guys were happy to be recognized and have something personalized to sign, unlike a program or ticket stub..

Whew, if you made it through all that, thanks for reading!