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TopProspectAlert.com Minor League News & Autograph Blog Home


Arizona Fall League Trips Helps an 18 Year Old Restore His Love for the Game

By: Joe Mathieu

For most people the 18th birthday is the biggest birthday one can have, but for an autograph collector, however, 18 can be an awkward age to be getting autographs. A lot of baseball draft picks are drafted at eighteen, and some players are signed at an even younger age. For example, Mariners prospect Felix Hernandez was signed at 17 years old, and he was playing California League (High-A), by the time he was eighteen.

As an autograph collector, and a high school student looking at possibly attending Arizona State University, a trip to Arizona to see the Arizona Fall League seemed like a great idea. Still, I had a couple of concerns. I wasn't sure if I was going to be getting autographs of any players around my age, and I wasn't sure I wanted to be getting autographs with some obvious dealers. I remember going last year, and a guy from Great Britain was getting players to sign 40 or 50 cards, it was ridicious.

After a long car ride, I arrived in Peoria to see them play Scottsdale. I had one of my most amazing days as an autograph collector. It was amazing how many star players were in one stadium at the same time. Luckily, everyone on the roster was at least a year or two older than me.

Several people were there trying to get pages and pages of cards signed. You could tell the players were getting frustrated with all these cards getting stuffed in their face. Still the players would sign for everyone.

When you've got men with beards trying to get Conor Jackson to sign 20 cards, you know they aren't all going into their personal collections. Still Jackson signed all the cards.

When Conor saw I had two cards for him to sign and had a couple of compliments for him, (I saw him play at Lancaster, and had many things to congratulate him on) he actually thanked me for being a real fan. Rickie Weeks, Anthony Gwynn Jr., Jason Bulger, and James Loney were all friendly with me. I actually had some things to say to them, and they were more than willing to sign my 1 card. I felt a little different than the dealers who would get 20 cards signed without even talking to the player. In fact, the dealer would be looking for the next player that he would try to get to sign 20 cards.

I then went and saw Peoria at Mesa. It was amazing! While I was getting autographs, the director of the stadium approached me and said that there were no batboys for the game. He asked if I wanted to be the batboy for both teams. I've never been a batboy in my life, and it was a truly amazing experience!

I was directed toward a locker space in the Mesa clubhouse. I was changing in the same room as Delmon Young, Joey Gathright, Adam Wainwright.....Wow! In fact the first person I saw was Delmon Young reading the latest issue of Baseball America. After I changed, and I checked up on the Peoria dugout. I got introduced to Coach Pevey and Coach Niemann, who let me call him Nimo.

I was getting a little nervous and I had to use the bathroom right before game time. When I went to the bathroom I saw a Texas Rangers jersey with the number 10 and Kinsler on the back. Ian Kinsler was there putting black sunblock under his eyes. I was waiting to go to the bathroom after Ian Kinsler!

The game then started, and I got to pick up their bats, and each guy had their own model bat. It was great picking up a bat that said Aaron Hill, then a Freddy Sanchez, then picking up Delmon Young's bat. I got to have some great conservations during the game with some guys that were raised near where I live (Southern California) such as Delmon Young and Alberto Concepcion. I got to see Bobby Bradley cuss himself out after he was removed following a shaky start.

Three hours later, the game ended when Delmon Young hit a walkoff single, and all the players, including myself, celebrated and ran out to congratulate Delmon. It was awesome! Then I went to the clubhouse, and I got a few Mesa autographs, before the guys hit the showers.

Rockies prospect Pedro Lopez was so excited to be asked for an autograph that he began showing players in the clubhouse the cards I had of them. They'd graciously sign as Lopez would look over my shoulder. Some players were discussing their night time plans, some were listening to music, others were reading Baseball America, some were listening to their CD players, and Ronnie Cedeno was signing his mail.

An eighteen year old was about to give up collecting autographs, well not anymore.


 

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