Category Archives: family

New York City

Took the boys on a nice trip to New York during Spring Break. They’re old enough now that navigating Penn Station isn’t a concern and they have the stamina to walk a couple miles before running out of gas.

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The first place we went was the John T. Brush Stairway and Polo Grounds location. Ever since I visited a couple years ago they’ve been asking for me to take them. I even warned them there wasn’t much to see but they insisted.

Turns out they were plenty happy just walking down the stairs and seeing the plaque. Seeing Yankee Stadium across the river and learning about Coogan’s Bluff was enough. They asked me to describe where the rest of the stadium was and they were predictably interested in where centerfield would’ve been. I was surprised and pleased at how much they enjoyed this.

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We then headed to Central Park for lunch. We had to take the subway and change trains at Yankee Stadium. I totally forgot about Opening Day and so we could have easily run into crowds had I scheduled this trip a day later. The boys though enjoyed seeing the stadium as well as the Polo Grounds location from the station.

They played on a playground by The Met before running through central park for a bit. It’s great. Walking on city streets is a recipe for complaining but give them the same distance in windy paths and rocks to climb on? They will happily run the entire distance.

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They ran all the way to the Museum of the City of New York. There was a nice Jackie Robinson show there that I thought they’d enjoy. It was indeed a nice little exhibit. Lots of photos of him hanging out in the Ebbets Field dugout and in action on the field. The more interesting part was all the magazines—Look and Ebony mostly— with articles featuring him even before he’d actually played in the Majors. I suppose I’d realized that him signing a contract was a big deal too but I didn’t realize the degree the national spotlight was on him even before 1947. The kids liked the photos and videos—especially the one og him playing with his own family.

There was also a nice room of Corduroy drawings where the kids sat and read books for a bit. I never read these books as a kid but it’s clear that mine have. And we went through the New York history rooms to get a quick primer on the history of the city. They’re not ready to go through slowly and read everything* but they’ll absorb what they can from even small exposures.

*Since I’ve already gone through these rooms I wasn’t too upset about going fast this time.

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Then we walked back to the subway and really got into tourist stuff. We got off at Grand Central and I made sure they looked up at. They were impressed. Then I took them outside and made them look up at the Chrysler Building. They were impressed again.

We then made a visit to the Morgan Library (post coming later) to see an exhibition on Tolkien before I refueled them with a sandwich and we made our way to out final stop of the day.

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When I previously visited the New York Public Library I had stuck my nose into the children’s room and texted them a photo of Winnie the Pooh. so I figured they’d like to see the real thing. The eldest acted all cool about it* but the youngest was enchanted. Lots of fun to see his face light up as soon as he recognized what he was looking at.

*Yes it’s kicking in already.

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Then we wandered back to Penn Station. The boys got to see the Empire State Building as well as Macy’s for a last couple of highlights. And we took the train back home. All told, a ten and half our day of mostly walking and train riding. they were very tired that night but also had more than a day’s worth of memories they enjoyed recounting.

Getting Zapped in time for the Thunder Open House

As I, and my son, have gotten more and more into Trenton Thunder games I’ve started paying more and more attention to Kenny’s Twitter feed and blog. In addition to being a prolific trader whose Zippy Zappings are somewhat legendary, he’s a big-time Yankees prospector and autograph seeker. While the prospecting life isn’t for me, knowing who to expect to see in Trenton and who the likely big deals are is good information. At some point I suspect my kids will take over this knowledge base but for now Kenny’s my go-to.

Since Kenny is located in New York City he has access to the Staten Island Yankees (also the Brooklyn Cyclones but we don’t talk about the Mets) and sees Yankees prospects fresh out of the draft. When he realized that the Trenton Thunder were having their open house last Tuesday he put together a package of Staten Island extras and sent them to me and my boys so we could start prospecting on our own.

I suspect he’s also trying to convert them into being Yankees fans. Many of the local kids around here have turned their backs on their parents’ teams and have instead begun to support the Yankees. It would be infuriating if it weren’t so pure. Trenton is a good experience and the past couple years with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar, and Gleyber Torres all making the jump from Trenton to New York City means that the kids are really just following the players’ careers and being excited about them making The Show.

This would be super concerning to me if the Andrew McCutchen trade hadn’t gone down the way it did last year. But seeing Abiatal Avelino in Trenton and then seeing him play in San Francisco later that same season? Super cool. We also got to see Billy McKinney, Brandon Drury, and Justus Sheffield last season and none of those guys are with the Yankees anymore either. My kids have already learned that the Yankees like to trade for players during the season and that minor leaguers at the Trenton level are frequently exactly who gets sent the other way.

Anyway I got my first Zippy Zapping on Monday. Just in time. Inside were three piles of cards—one each for me and the boys.* Plus a bunch of other ephemera from Staten Island. Like I said, I think he’s trying to convert us.

*Yes plural. The youngest is old enough to go to games now and has been jonesing to go for a while. He’s super pumped for the season and is more than ready to join his big brother.

One thing the Trenton is great at is giving away the program at every game. It’s fantastic and welcoming. I thought perhaps this was just a Trenton thing but since Staten Island appears to also do it maybe it’s a Yankee thing. I’d be impressed if it were.

I think this is a complete run of monthly programs from 2016. The first one has an embarrassingly low-resolution cover image but it’s really interesting to see how much roster turnover there is form the first program to the last one.

Also two ticket stubs from last season. I may as well link to Kenny’s post about these games. I’m kind of shocked at the prices. Trenton isn’t cheap but is cheaper than this (San José meanwhile papers the house so everyone feels like they can afford to buy BBQ and churros). I hope the food at Staten Island is affordable since this seems like it would be tough to take families to.

On to the loose cards. Two of the Chromes are for me. The Abreu is for getting signed at Trenton. And the other three Minor League cards are to be divided among the three of us.

Kyle Crick is the guy the Giants sent to Pittsburgh (with cash) for Andrew McCutchen; who then turned into Abiatal Avelino and Juan De Paula. De Paula meanwhile just got shipped to Toronto with Alen Hanson and Derek Law for Kevin Pillar. So in a sense the Giants got rid of Crick, Hanson, and Law and received Avelino and Pillar in exchange.

Kyle Holder is currently with Trenton with Albert Abreu. David Sosebee is with the Yankees’ AAA club in Scranton. And Josh Roeder is now in the Marlins organization. Travis Phelps meanwhile played a couple years in the Majors for Tampa Bay.

Like the Abreu, the rest of the cards were intended for autograph hunting. I didn’t have time to scan anything before the Open House so instead I’m scanning what got signed  and moving into a rundown of the event.

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DSC_0157I took the boys directly from school. The event started at 3:00. We got there around 3:45 and just wandered around the stadium before grabbing our $1 hot dogs once batting practice started. They loved just watching the players hit.

One of my favorite things as a kid was to get to the park early and watch the teams practice too. There’s something very calming about it and it warms my heart that the boys share my mindset. I’m glad we can all watch together.

Around 5:00 we went up to the autograph line. They were excited—a little too excited—so I gave them each a Thunder baseball and told them we’d try the cards another day. Juggling everything was going to be tough. Which meant I was the only one getting cards signed. I gave the notebook method a shot this time and it’s pretty nifty. Definitely a timesaver if you have a lot of cards you’re managing.

The autographs were managed so well that everyone finished signing like 20 minutes early. Finished in this case means that all the fans in attendance had gotten everyone’s signature. This is just as well since it was pretty chilly and as much as I like minor league ball, the way the players get treated (and not paid) is making me feel really guilty about enjoying it.

Anyway, to the autographs. Two non-team-set cards are of Jorge Saez and Trevor Stephan. Saez has been stuck in AA for too long. He’s better than this and is a perfect example of many of the things wrong with the way Major League Baseball treats minor leaguers. He enjoyed the blast from the past with this card featuring him with the Blue Jays though.

Stephan was the only top prospect to show up (Albert Abreu was on the list but ended up not being in town) and sort of carries himself like he knows it. Still nice enough but definitely someone who’s already been asked to sign a ton of autographs.

Kenny sent us three 2015 Staten Island Yankees team sets. A lot of the players in this set are with Trenton. I don’t normally go for minor league sets but I figured, what the hey, if I have the cards I may as well try and get them signed. Jeff Hendrix, Jhalan Jackson, and James Reeves are ones I recognize from last season. Kyle Holder and Brandon Wagner are new to me but joined Trenton after I’d stopped going to games in June.

Of note here is how different Holder’s signature looks from the certified one Kenny sent.

He also sent us three 2016 Staten Island Yankees sets. Only a couple of these guys are with Trenton. For now. Ben Ruta was on the team last year and Angel Aguilar was a late late promotion. Kenny suggests that a lot more of the guys in this set will make their way to Trenton before the year is up.

I like the way they signed in the white space on these cards. A marked difference compared to the the signed cards that Kenny sent me.

I’ll sit on my copies of the team sets for additional autograph purposes. The boys are already making noise about putting theirs in the binder. Yes they also want to get them signed. I’m going to have to talk to them about how it’s one or the other for now.

That finishes up my Zippy Zapping. Thanks Kenny for getting the new season off on the right foot!

I’m not sone with this post though because I also brought a few of my own cards as well. Jason Phillips is the Trenton bullpen coach but played catcher for the Mets for a few years. And I’d grabbed some 2018 Topps Heritage Minors cards from Tampa since that’s the lazy method of prospecting that appeals to my lower attention span. Unfortunately only Stephan showed up at this event.

The main autograph thing I was planning on working on was a team ball. I had one and I gave each of the boys one as well. I’m not planning on a compleat comprehensive ball but it’s nice to get one with 25 signatures on it. They’re good reminders of the event and the boys are both in love with theirs.

My ball is is an Official Eastern League ball. Supposedly they’re switching to the generic Official Minor League balls this year but I like having things being as specific as possible.

Image 2 is manager Patrick Osborn #13 who signed last but all the players left him the sweet spot.

Image 3: Brody Koerner #24, Trevor Stephan, Raul Dominguez #23, Jhalan Jackson #30, Mandy Alvarez #3, and Chris Gittens #34.

Image 4: Angel Aguilar #7, Kaleb Ort #29, Jeff Hendrix, Kyle Holder #6 and Bullpen Coach Jason Phillips.

Image 5: Pitching Coach Tim Norton #40, Jorge Saez #18, Francisco Diaz #8, Will Carter #11, Daniel Alvarez #31, and Trey Amburgey #15.

Image 6: Brandon Wagner #10, James Reeves #26, Ben Ruta, Wendell Rijo #12,
Nick Green #45, Trevor Lane #9, and Bat Boy Tommy Smith #48.

I like having the signed cards. I also like having the single ball as a memento. Small enough to store and display easily but also represents a memory, and set of memories much more than a card can.

I’m not going to run down the boy’s baseballs the same way since we all have the same signatures. I gave them the cheaper fake-leather balls since they have the Thunder branding and I was (correctly) expecting these to get beat up a little. Kids love their treasures but also tend to love them to death.

It’s a lot of fun to watch but also a serious marker into observing when they‘ll be ready for nicer things. They can graduate to real leather balls once they can buy them themselves and handle them better.

At least they’re happy having these in cubes and displayed in a place of honor on their desks. Could be worse. They could’ve been chucked into the big box of athletic equipment with all the other balls.

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All in all a very successful afternoon. Worst part of the day was getting them to calm down after we got home. They’re both amped and ready to go to their first game and are even asking to go early so we can watch BP. April 14 can’t come soon enough for them. Good thing they’re part of Boomer’s Kids Club. It’s going to be a fun spring.

Sky Zone

The kids are so old now that I don’t get to photograph birthday parties nearly as much as I used to. Last time we went to the trampoline park I went baltzing outside. This time I decided to stay inside where it’s warm and take photographs of the kids.

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On getting into TTM requests…

When I was a kid, through the mail (TTM) autograph requests were one of those things that intrigued me but which I never really pursued with any real intensity. I had some friends who were pretty successful and I remember being kind of jealous of their success. But I was also having a lot of fun with in-person hunting at San José, Stanford, and Scottsdale* and was a staunch believer of the experience of meeting the players and connecting the autographs to my memories.

*Yes I’ll eventually scan and write posts for Stanford and Scottsdale.

I did still send out a few. That I probably chose my subjects poorly by focusing on stars meant I didn’t have much success. The only card of mine that I got back signed was this Willie McGee. I don’t remember much about it now aside from being happy to get it. Definitely not the kind of thing I could pin a memory to.

I also received this postcard from Nolan Ryan. This confirms what kind of players I was sending to. Early 1990s Nolan Ryan was the biggest non-Rookie player in the hobby. By. Far. So for me to be sending him a TTM request was insanely optimistic thinking on my part. I remember being disappointed in the return because I suspected it was an autopen.

Thinking about it now, if Ryan were going to autopen TTM responses he’d’ve been better off autopenning everyone’s cards. So I’m more inclined to believe it’s real now. Also it’s been kind of fun to discuss these early requests on Card Twitter and find that I was not the only person my age with such a postcard.

Anyway, after dabbling in TTMs I concluded that writing letters to players would never match the in-person experience. Given that that was my mindset, I was probably correct to stop doing it.

My mind has changed this year. This is partly because it’s been great fun to see other people sending letters and getting responses. But the big change was making my Giants set and realizing that sending copies of the cards to the various players was something I wanted to do. The letter doesn’t just have to be a polite “please sign my card,” it can be about the player and my project and include things for the player to keep.

Instead of fixating on getting things, I can just enjoy writing and sending out cards. And if things come back? Even more fun!

A couple weeks ago my son caught me finishing up some mailings and was curious what I was up to. So I told him about how TTMs work and asked if he wanted to try writing some letters himself. He has the bug so he was into it. Which is a good thing since if he learns about writing letters and what kind of power he has—especially as a kid—with regard to writing letters to people and companies*

*I’ve been trying to get him to write to Trader Joes about all the palm oil they use in their products. Palm oil is one of the things he’s learned is bad so we’re avoiding it as much as we can. Unfortunately this has meant dropping some of his favorite foods and he doesn’t realize what could happen if he wrote to them about it.

I wanted his first request to be something that would encourage him to write more. So I figured that sending to Pat Neshek would be the best bet. Neshek is a fellow collector who’s hit the dream scenario of being able to collect cards and autographs from his fellow ballplayers. He’s also deeply supportive of kids getting into the hobby and, as a parent, I deeply admire him for that.

My son of course knew exactly who Neshek was and which cards he owned.* I cautioned him about sending cards he’d really miss if they got lost so he picked a 2017 Update card rather than risking a card from his 2017 complete set getting lost in the mail. Then he sat down to write his letter.

*I miss having a photographic memory of ALL my baseball cards.

I almost didn’t want to mail this. The note is cute enough. The drawing though is all kinds of wonderful. It must be fun to be famous enough to get fan mail like this from kids.

I also wrote a letter thanking Neshek for being so supportive of kids in the hobby. Then I showed my son how a self-addessed stamped envelope (SASE) works and how to rub a card with a dryer sheet in order to prepare the gloss coating for taking an autograph well. He then addressed the envelope and we dropped it in the mail.

Despite my cautions that this would take at least two weeks to come back my son was counting the days. He wasn’t bugging me if anything had come in the mail but it was definitely something in the back of his mind. It only took 10 days for the SASE to return.

No good photos of him opening the envelope because he tore into it faster than he opens Christmas presents. But this smile speaks for itself.* One very happy boy and one brand new lifelong Pat Neshek fan. We may have to make the trek down 95 to Philly to see a game now.

*This was also exactly why I didn’t want to break out the Hunter Pence cards from Marc before the return arrived.

The card is in a penny sleeve in his main binder for now. I suspect that sleeve will see lots of action as the card gets shown to anyone (and everyone) who visits us for the next couple months.

It’s actually a great choice of card for a signature too. An All-Star card is always a nice thing to commemorate with a signature and this is a a decent action shot showing how his sidearm works.

Also this is just a ton of fun to compare to the drawing in the TTM request. I love how the beard and glove turned out and I’m glad I had the foresight to snap a photo of the letter before we mailed it.

Oh, and yes I also included a card of my own. The only one I had but I wanted my own memento to share this with my son. It’s not the first TTM return I’ve gotten since I started doing this but it’s the first I’ve opened*—or well seen opened by someone in the same room as me.

*I have over a dozen at my parents’ which need to be muled over to my place at some point.** The nature of TTM is that permanent addresses need to be used except for cases like Neshek where you’re certain a return will come back within a month.

**Yes this will also be a blog post once that first batch gets delivered.

I may send another letter to Neshek later this season since his 2019 Heritage card is perfect but no matter what happens it won’t be as cool as this mailing. And if my son is a fan for life, I’m not far behind.

Snowday

I haven’t been taking many photos recently but I can’t help but take my camera out with me and the kids during a snow day.

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San José Muni

This Christmas Santa signed my kids up for Boomer’s Kids Club. It’s a good deal and they’re both looking forward to going to a lot of games this spring. My eldest caught the Autograph Bug last year* and has successfully gotten my youngest excited about it as well. Hopefully we’ll be able to hit the fanfest so they can be satiated a bit up front.

*To be fair, I also got reinfected a bit.

Their excitement has rubbed off on me and I’m starting to check the opposing team coaching staffs and seeing who the ex-Major Leaguers are and whether they have any cards. They’ve also reminded me of my experiences collecting autographs at San José Municipal Stadium when I was a kid.

When I was a kid here was no COMC or Sportlots available to buy individual cards. I had to go to my local shop and hope that there was an affordable common available. The first time I did this was when I learned that Dick Dietz was going to be the San José manager. I didn’t recognize how the photo showed a glimpse of pre-enclosed Candlestick but I did bring this with me to a number of games until I was finally able to catch him after a game.

Jim Davenport was also a coach for the San José Giants at the time. I tried to find a card of his but had no luck in that department. Thankfully, being in Giants country, I was able to acquire an official 8″×10″ photo and the resulting signature is one of my favorites.

The only other signed 8″×10″ I have is a Robby Thompson photo I got signed in Philadelphia. I have since realized that this means my two signed 8″×10″s happen to be two of the four players who played over ten years in the majors but only every for the Giants.

I kind of want to get the other two now but they’re difficult for the exact opposite reasons. I’ve been unable to find an 8″×10″ of Scott Garrelts and Matt Cain is readily available but expensive.

I was usually unsuccessful getting autographs of rehabbing Giants players. They tended to get mobbed and their appearances even then were sort of circus affairs. Mike Benjamin though was my one success here. Both these cards are pulled from packs. I don’t know why there are two different pens. I suspect I got signatures on two different days and he just used whatever pen he was holding for everyone.

Draft picks though were a different scenario. This is back in the days before Bowman had cards of all kinds minor league players and it wasn’t like I had access to just pick whatever card from those sets anyway. Instead my choices were limited to cards from sets I owned. So definitely Topps Flagship and Topps Traded. And in 1991, Score as well. So if a player showed up on a First Round Draft Pick or a Team USA card, I made sure to note whether he was playing in San José.

Unfortunately, the Giants were not so great at the draft in the early 1990s. I was kind of prospecting here. Not in terms of building up inventory, just in terms of trying to get prospect autographs and hoping one of them would hit it big. And yeah they can’t all be Mike Mussina.

These signatures were mostly from hanging over the dugout rail but I do remember waiting forever for Hyzdu to come out from the clubhouse one night.

My luck with prospects carried over to visiting teams as well. Like when the Modesto A’s came to town I got Rossiter and Grigsby but Jason Giambi didn’t even make the trip (I had his Team USA cards).

Oh, and while I did eventually get the 1993 Topps set, this Grigsby is another pack pull. No I don’t know why I was buying packs still when I expected to get the set but it might’ve been specifically in hopes of finding the Gold cards.

Where I did end up having a lot of fun and success is with the opposing coaches. No this isn’t a ton of signatures but I was only doing this a couple of seasons and was mostly limited to the cards I had on hand.

But coaches are nice and seem to be in the game because they love it. They know they’re supposed to be role models and they’re all in that teaching mode. Opposing coaches are easier to get after the game too because usually the visiting team goes straight to the bus.

My favorite in this bunch is obviously Mario Mendoza. It’s not everyday you get someone who has something in the game named after him—no matter how infamous it is.  But Rick Dempsey is great and Tim Flannery became a Giants coach and yeah all of these remind me of those summer nights (always nights) closing out the ballpark when I’d be hanging by the bus or the clubhouse doors and my mom would be watching them put away the field and turn on the sprinklers.

Yes I’m totally looking forward to watching my kids embark on this trip as well.

American Beauty

I came back from a trip to California last week and found a few surprise maildays waiting for me. The first was a plain white envelope from Mark Hoyle which was an extra surprise since I had so recently received a package from him. I was definitely not prepared for what I was to find inside.

Mark is a Jim Lonborg collector. Since Lonborg is a Stanford guy I obviously collect him too and Mark felt my collection would be improved by adding one of his extra 1976 Safelon Super Star lunch bags to it. It certainly is.

This is something I had never even heard of and it’s foreign to me on multiple levels.By the time I was a kid in the 1980s, lunch bags were no longer being made out of plastic. Yes they frequently included multiple plastic bags inside but most everyone (in California at least) was trying to reduce our plastic consumption. The idea of buying packages of cheap disposable plastic bags like this feels like something from another world.

Also, the idea of including player pictures like this as part of a national product issue speaks to an age when kids knew all the players in the sport. That I initially thought that these had to be a regional Philadelphia issue confirms how much things had fragmented by the time I was a kid. I can only imagine the equivalent of these from my youth featuring team logos and being sold on a by-team basis.

Now to figure out how to store this. It’s slightly too tall for an 8.5×11 sheet but I’ll probably just fold the bottom up when I put it in. And then my Stanford binder will get a little more odd and a little more wonderful.

Mark also included ten junk wax cards of Hall of Famers for the kids. So we had a little draft.* It’s fun to see what they choose and why. The Biggio was a hit because of the photo. Gossage was the last card standing but only because my eldest didn’t realize that Rich and Goose were the same guy. Both of them were happy to get a Gary Carter because he had also played for the Giants.

*I’m not going to lie. I was kind of tempted to steal that Schmidt All Star Glossy (I didn’t though)

The boys then proceeded to play some kind of War* game with their stacks of cards where they’d pick two cards, compare a certain stat, and then celebrate if their card had better stats. THEN they had to sort these into their binders. I had no idea that ten cards could turn into two hours of fun.

*Or TEGWAR since I couldn’t figure out what the rules were.