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2018 Season update

We’re somewhere between one-quarter to one-third through the 2018 baseball season here in southern New England, and so far, so good.

I’ve only been to nine baseball games, aside from our Little League games.  But four of those have been MLB games (including three with Sean), which is more than usual.

We’ve gotten at least one ball at all four MLB games, and at least one lineup card at three of those four games.

The baseballs include two 2018 Florida Spring Training balls and one 2017 SunTrust Park Inaugural Season ball.  We have been able to trade for two of this year’s commemorative baseballs: the Royals and A’s.

Lineup card-wise, we have gotten lineup cards from three MLB teams that we had not gotten before: the A’s, Blue Jays and Braves.  We also got a Red Sox “today’s lineup” card.

2018 MLB lineup cards

 

Biggest misses: We tried to get lineup cards from the Nationals and Rockies, but were turned down.

Biggest gets: The A’s lineup card is the nicest lineup card we’ve ever gotten, in my opinion.  Getting cards from the Blue Jays and Braves is icing on the cake.

MLB cards: We have now gotten 16 MLB lineup cards, 15 of which we have gotten from bullpens, and the other was from a game we did not go to that was given to us.  We have gotten cards from nine teams: Red Sox, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Nationals, Orioles, A’s, Indians and Rays.

Looking Ahead: July will likely be our big month baseball-wise, with a few days and possibly even overnight trips.  We’ll try and get at least a couple more MLB lineup cards before the season ends, along with some Minor League cards, and maybe a few summer collegiate league cards.  We’ll also be trying to add some new baseballs to the collection over the summer months.

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5/14/18 – A’s Bring 50th Anniversary Celebration To Fenway

The Oakland Athletics are celebrating their 50th season in Oakland this year, and brought some of the celebration to Fenway Park for a series against the Boston Red Sox earlier this week.

Namely, the A’s are using commemorative baseballs in home games this season, but they also have been bringing some of them on the road as practice balls.

With a rare night off from Little League and other activities Monday night, I headed to Boston for the series opener. Unfortunately, it’s just too long a trip/late a night for Sean or Kate to join me on a school night, so I flew solo.

Gates opened at 4:40pm, and the Red Sox were hitting.

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There were enough ballhawks to make it competitive, but not so many to call it crowded.

The Red Sox were good about tossing balls up to fans.  I got David Price to throw me a ball that turned out to be a 2018 Florida Spring Training ball, the only one I saw.

I later chased down a BP homer from an unknown Red Sox player.  It was a ROMLB that I gave to a boy later on.

The real fun started around 5:20 when the A’s took over BP, providing a chance to score a commemorative ball.

And at least some of the BP balls used by the A’s were in fact commemoratives. Based on the small sample of balls I saw, I’d estimate about half were commemorative.

One ballhawk scored two pretty quickly.  He was super nice to trade for the FL ST ball David Price threw me, as he didn’t have one of those yet.  Later on, I also gave him an Atlantic League 20th anniversary ball that I had brought with me.

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Oakland 50th anniversary commemorative baseball

I got a toss-up from an Oakland pitcher shortly thereafter, but sadly, it was a ROMLB which I gave to a kid.

Even worse, that would be the last ball I would get.  The stadium started to get crowded.  I headed to the area behind the A’s dugout thinking I’d have a better chance at getting a ball or two, still hoping for another commem.

But the A’s were not very generous with toss-ups.  I saw one ball given to a boy, and that was it.

I ate dinner quickly, then headed out to the Oakland bullpen. One of the bullpen catchers was nice enough to have a brief conversation with me about the commems.  He said they did not have any in their bullpen bag, just ROMLBs.  He even took a quick look in the bag.  It’s possible he was just brushing me off, but the only ball I saw come from the bullpen was in fact a ROMLB.

I was able to snag a “today’s lineup” card from the Red Sox.  This is the second one of these we have gotten.

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The stadium was crowded, but I was able to jump around and watch the game from different spots.

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In a good pitching matchup between Oakland’s Sean Manaea (who no-hit Boston last month) and Boston’s Rick Porcello, the A’s used three home runs to come away with a 6-5 win.

I tried for a post-game toss-up, but nothing was thrown near me.

I was all but sure both teams had lineup cards in their respective bullpens.

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The red arrow points to what I am all but certain was Boston’s bullpen lineup card

I decided to take a shot at getting the A’s bullpen lineup card since 1) they won and might be more likely to give it away, and 2) we already have a couple Boston lineup cards, but not an Oakland card.  So I hustled to the Oakland bullpen.

Sure enough, the A’s left the lineup card in their bullpen.  I had to wait a few minutes, but eventually got a Red Sox security person to hand it to me.

It was well the effort and wait.

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We have gotten 14 other bullpen lineup cards in the less-than five years we have been collecting them, but this was the first time we ever got an “official” MLB lineup card, the same as they use in the dugout that are almost always sold these days (we were given a dugout lineup card last year from a game we did not go to).

It is 11″ x 17″ and includes the Oakland 50th anniversary logo as one of three watermarks. This is easily the nicest lineup card we have ever gotten at a game.

2018: 7 lineup cards (5 dugout/bullpen; 1 “official batting order”; 1 “today’s lineup”)

Lifetime: 164 lineup cards (112 dugout/bullpen; 48 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 2 “today’s lineup”)

Leagues: MLB: American League; National League; 2017 ALDS.  MiLB: International League (AAA); Pacific Coast League (AAA); Eastern League (AA); Southern League (AA); Carolina League (A); New York-Penn League (A), including 2017 NYPL ASG. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association; Frontier League. Colleges: NCAA – America East Conference; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; NCAA – Northeast Conference; Cape Cod League; NJCAA – Region XXI; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL); Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League. International: World Baseball Classic (qualifying round, 2016).

5/9/18 – K-Rod Comes To New Britain

Francisco Rodriguez, better known in the baseball world as K-Rod, made a visit to New Britain last week with the Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks.

K-Rod, 36, is a six-time MLB All Star with 437 career saves who is trying to make it back to “the Bigs” via the Atlantic League.

So far, so good.  He’s pitched 3 innings with two saves (including the game I went to) and has yet to give up a hit.

I caught the last couple innings of the Wednesday matinee game won by the Ducks, 7-4.  It was a school-day game with a listed attendance of over 6,000 at New Britain Stadium.  Even late in the game, there were far more people than there usually are at Bees’ games.

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Here is K-Rod warming up before the 9th inning.

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He shot the Bees down in order to notch the save and the Ducks’ win.

Long Island manager Kevin Baez squawked a bit when I asked him for the lineup card, but ultimately was nice enough to give it to me.  I like the notes he has on the lineup card, including batting averages against righties and lefties.

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There are a few other names of note on the lineup card.  Jordany Valdespin, Reid Brignac and Lew Ford all played significant time in MLB.  Manny Ramirez Jr. for the Bees is the son of former MLB great Manny Ramirez.  And Ozney Guillen is the son of former MLB player and manager Ozzie Guillen.

2018: 5 lineup cards (4 dugout/bullpen; 1 “official batting order”)

Lifetime: 162 lineup cards (111 dugout/bullpen; 48 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)

Leagues: MLB: American League; National League; 2017 ALDS.  MiLB: International League (AAA); Pacific Coast League (AAA); Eastern League (AA); Southern League (AA); Carolina League (A); New York-Penn League (A), including 2017 NYPL ASG. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association; Frontier League. Colleges: NCAA – America East Conference; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; NCAA – Northeast Conference; Cape Cod League; NJCAA – Region XXI; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL); Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League. International: World Baseball Classic (qualifying round, 2016).

 

 

Wally’s World Comes to New Britain

The New Britain Bees, looking for a much-needed spark both on and off the field (namely, more people in the seats), hired Wally Backman as manager in the off-season.

Backman is best known for his playing days, including winning a World Series with the Mets in 1986.  He was also the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks for all of four days in 2004. His short stay was due to some alleged legal and financial items that came up in a couple media reports immediately following his hiring.

Backman is fiery without a doubt.  One only needs to search his name on YouTube to find some entertaining antics.

The Bees played a couple pre-season scrimmages over the weekend.  Sean and I headed over on Sunday afternoon to see New Britain host a team made up of all stars from a Connecticut amateur baseball league.

The hope is that Backman will help put some more fannies in the seats at New Britain Stadium.  I’ve noted in this blog on several occasions how disappointing the crowds have been the first two seasons.

Sunday was no different, despite it being a nice spring day in Connecticut, and no admission to watch the game.

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Sparse crowd in New Britain

The Bees won easily, 11-1.

Sean and I watched the last half of the game.  He managed to snag three balls, and we found another outside the stadium.  The Bees were offering a ticket voucher for a free ticket to a regular season game for each ball returned to the concession stand, so we opted for that, thinking there will be more balls to come this season.

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Sean with a snagged ball; the amateur team was using generic Rawlings balls when they were in the field

The Bees are under new ownership, and the baseballs they use are slightly different, namely, with the signature of new owner Anthony Iacovone.

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2018 Atlantic League baseball used by the New Britain Bees

After the game, we headed to the New Britain dugout to ask Backman for his lineup card.  Not only did he give it to Sean, but he also signed it!

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Here’s to hoping for a good year for the Bees both on the field and at the gate!

2018: 4 lineup cards (3 dugout/bullpen; 1 “official batting order”)

Lifetime: 161 lineup cards (110 dugout/bullpen; 48 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)

Leagues: MLB: American League; National League; 2017 ALDS.  MiLB: International League (AAA); Pacific Coast League (AAA); Eastern League (AA); Southern League (AA); Carolina League (A); New York-Penn League (A), including 2017 NYPL ASG. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association; Frontier League. Colleges: NCAA – America East Conference; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; NCAA – Northeast Conference; Cape Cod League; NJCAA – Region XXI; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL); Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League. International: World Baseball Classic (qualifying round, 2016).

4/12 – Nats Park (Part 2)

For the final full day of our trip, Plan A was to go to the Blue Jackets @ Capitals NHL playoff game if my brother who lives in the area could get tickets.  As it worked out, he was unable to get tickets.

Plan B was to catch another Nationals’ game, this time against the Rockies who had just come to town for a four-game series.

Plan B wasn’t a bad alternative as we would go with my brother and nephew, which would be fun.

To start the day, Sean and I headed into Washington DC to visit the Smithsonian Air & Space and American History museums.  We’ve been to both museums in the past, but had missed sections so this allowed us to see what we had missed in the past.

Sean was very excited to see the Batmobile from the 1989 Batman movie, on loan from Warner Brothers.

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As for the game, as we were going with family, ballhawking was not a priority.

For starters, not only did we not go for BP, we ended up not getting to the game until the second inning due to traffic.

It is too bad in one sense because there was a chance to possibly get either the 25th anniversary commemorative the Rockies are using this season, or an Arizona Spring Training ball.

We still had a chance given that we sat right behind the Rockies’ bullpen.  Sean and my nephew were trying for toss-ups.

Sean finally got one late in the game, a nice mud-rubbed ball that did not look like it had been used.

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Of course, it was not the Rockies’ 25th or AZ ST ball we were hoping to get, but a nice one nonetheless.

There was no lineup card posted in the Colorado bullpen as best we could tell.  There was one in the Nationals’ bullpen, so I tried there while Sean tried for the Rockies as well as to try and get another ball.

We both struck out.  Nationals bullpen coach Henry Blanco acknowledged my request, but shook his head “no” and kept it himself.  I wonder if the fact that the Nationals lost had anything to do with it.

Sean got ignored and neither he nor my nephew scored another ball.

Still, it was a great trip.  We got eight balls total over three games, including a Braves 2017 commem and a 2018 FL ST ball.  We also got two more bullpen lineup cards from teams we had not previously scored lineup cards from.

Time to start looking into going to our next MLB game!

4/11 – Nats Park (part 1)

After seeing the Blue Jays-Orioles game the night before, Sean and I headed from Baltimore to Washington DC the next morning for a Braves-Nationals matinee.

We got there a few minutes before the 11am gate opening, and there was hardly anyone else there.

When we got in, we found out there was unfortunately no batting practice.

However, there were a few Nationals players warming up and a Braves’ pitcher was also throwing a bullpen session.  We decided to watching the Braves pitcher as there was essentially no one else there.

The Braves’ pitcher was Sean Newcomb, who we had seen pitch when he was at the University of Hartford.  After 10-15 minutes, Newcomb swapped balls with Chuck Hernandez, and I asked Chuck for the ball, which he threw to Sean.

I had been eyeing the Braves’ ball bag directly below us.  It was clear to me that there was a mix of standard ROMLB balls, some Florida Spring Training balls, and it looked like another logo that I couldn’t make out.

 

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The ball Hernandez tossed to Sean turned out to be the latter, and the logo was last year’s inaugural SunTrust ball, which I had somehow forgotten about!  The logo was a bit beaten up, but still a great score.

More players came out to warm-up.  We got Atlanta third base coach Ron Washington to toss us each a ball.  Mine was a ROMLB.  Sean scored a FL Spring Training ball!

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There was no more action on the field at this point, so we had lunch. By the time we came back, the starting pitchers were starting to warm up.

Braves’ assistant coach Sal Fasano was working with starting catcher Kurt Suzuki in the bullpen.  When they were done, Fasano tossed Sean a ROMLB, Sean’s third of the day.

That would be it for baseballs for us on this day, but who can complain about a total of four balls on a day with no BP?

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Sean and the FL ST ball he snagged in warm-ups

The game would go 12 innings, with the Braves eventually winning, 5-3.

Well before the game, we had asked Atlanta bullpen coach Marty Reed if we could get his bullpen lineup card, and he had said yes.  From past experience, we know that doesn’t always mean we will end up getting it, however.  In fact, former Braves’ bullpen coach Eddie Perez had blown me off three years ago after telling me I could have his lineup card after the game (https://lineupcards.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/june-2015-major-league-dis-by-braves-eddie-perez/)

In the picture below, our seats were on the right side of the Braves’ bullpen.  The lineup card was taped to the wall on the other side of the bullpen (arrow).

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We moved to that side of the bullpen late in the game. When the game ended, we again asked Reed for the lineup card, and he obliged.

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As bullpen lineup cards go, this is one of the nicer ones we have gotten. The watermarks, in particular, are neat.

It is the 8th different team we have scored a bullpen lineup card from (Nats, Marlins, Indians, Rays, Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays are the others), and is our 12th bullpen lineup card.  We have been very fortunate!

2018: 3 lineup cards (2 dugout/bullpen; 1 “official batting order”)

Lifetime: 161 lineup cards (110 dugout/bullpen; 48 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)

Leagues: MLB: American League; National League; 2017 ALDS.  MiLB: International League (AAA); Pacific Coast League (AAA); Eastern League (AA); Southern League (AA); Carolina League (A); New York-Penn League (A), including 2017 NYPL ASG. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association; Frontier League. Colleges: NCAA – America East Conference; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; NCAA – Northeast Conference; Cape Cod League; NJCAA – Region XXI; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL); Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League. International: World Baseball Classic (qualifying round, 2016).

4/10/18 – Charm City

Sean and I headed down to Charm City (aka, Baltimore) for a short spring break/baseball trip.

Our first game was the Blue Jays @ the Orioles, a Tuesday night affair.

It is supposed to be spring, but the temperatures say otherwise.  The game time temp was 49, but it went down pretty significantly from there.  So the crowd at Camden Yards was small (8,640 announced).

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There was batting practice before the game, and after a slow start during the Orioles portion, it picked up during Toronto’s turn.

We got three balls, all ROMLB.  Sean scored a toss-up from Baltimore’s Miguel Castro, and we each got a hit ball during Toronto’s session. I probably should have had at least a couple more, but so it goes.

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One of the BP balls Sean got; he also took the picture

After eating, we headed to the bullpen area to watching the starting pitchers warm up.  Without us asking, Baltimore bullpen coach Alan Mills hooked up Sean with a pouch of bubble gum, which was awesome.

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The point of this picture…

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…was to get the no-shirted “Captain Bird Man” (I made that name up.  I have no idea what name he goes by, if any) in the background. He was still shirt-less at the end of the game, when the temps had to have dropped about 10 degrees.

The game moved quickly.  Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez took a no-hitter into the 8th inning.  The Blue Jays scored top 8, but the O’s answered in the bottom of the frame.

Curtis Granderson hit a two-out solo blast in the 9th for the Blue Jays which would prove to be the game-winner.  It was neat to see another ballhawk, Alex Kopp, snag the game-winning HR on the fly.

Blue Jays’ bullpen coach Dane Johnson was nice enough to hook us up with Toronto’s bullpen lineup card after the game.  It was the 7th MLB team we have gotten a bullpen lineup card from.

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2018: 2 lineup cards (1 dugout/bullpen; 1 “official batting order”)

Lifetime: 160 lineup cards (109 dugout/bullpen; 48 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)

Leagues: MLB: American League; National League; 2017 ALDS.  MiLB: International League (AAA); Pacific Coast League (AAA); Eastern League (AA); Southern League (AA); Carolina League (A); New York-Penn League (A), including 2017 NYPL ASG. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association; Frontier League. Colleges: NCAA – America East Conference; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; NCAA – Northeast Conference; Cape Cod League; NJCAA – Region XXI; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL); Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League. International: World Baseball Classic (qualifying round, 2016).