But even with all that knowledge, I have never been to a minor league game.
Until tonight, that is.
I mentioned last night that I am in Midland, Texas, for work. It sucks. There is nothing cool about West Texas (visually). Just flat lands, cotton fields and tons of oil derricks (which funds my paycheck). However, my hotel just happens to be just a few yards from the home of the Midland Rock Hounds, the Double A affiliate of the Oakland A's.
Sidenote - why the hell do the A's have their Double A team in west Texas? Couldn't they find anything closer?
Anyway, last night I checked to see who the Rock Hounds were playing today and was delighted to see that they were taking on the Frisco Rough Riders, the Double A affiliate of my Texas Rangers. This meant one thing: Joey Gallo was in the house! I went online and bought my ticket.
What a deal - $10 got me this view:
First row behind the Riders' dugout. Combine that with free parking and you have one hell of a deal. I can't get free parking or a $10 ticket to my high school's varsity football games, so I'll take that deal every time.
I got to the park a few minutes early and was talking to a gentleman about where the best place for autographs were. He told me as the gates were opening, and then gave me a heads-up to grab a bag when I entered the park. Turns out that the club was giving away "goody bags" filled with all kinds of stuff in them. They said that no two bags were the same. I honestly didn't think anything of it at the time.
I followed the gentleman to the left field corner where the visiting team came onto the field. We grabbed a seat and waited. I brought a bat that I wanted to get signed by Gallo and a ball I was hoping to get signed by catcher Jorge Alfaro. The gentleman guiding me told me that Alfaro was elusive - he had tried the past couple of nights with no luck, so I tempered my expectations.
While waiting for Gallo, I decided to look and see what was in my bag.
|Coupons for junk food|
|The bag itself|
|A seat cushion for what I assume is a local semi-pro soccer team|
|An ugly Midland High School hat|
It says "2010 California - Carolina All Star Game." And those aren't pre-printed autographs....
Those are real autos! A team signed ball from the 2010 California LEague All Stars! But there was one autograph that looked out of place, because I was pretty sure the person I initially thought it was didn't play in the California League:
Yeah, my stupid self got a little excited and thought the signature belonged to Bryce Harper. This is impossible for two reasons. First, as I mentioned, Harper didn't play in the Cali League. And second, Harper was drafted in 2010 and was ineligible for that game.
You can't fault me, however, for seeing the resemblance. The signature actually belongs to the skipper of the squad, Brian Harper. No relation to Bryce Harper.
Anyway, here was the lineup for the Cali League All Stars that year: Ethan Hollingsworth, Brad Brach, Tyler Chatwood, Craig Westcott, Eric Surkamp, Ken Kasparek, Justin Fitzgerald, Brian Woodall, Nathan Eovaldi, Jordan Pacheco, Jose Felix, Brandon Belt, Alexi Amarista, Cole Figueroa, Drew Cumberland, James, Cesario, Stephen Parker, Rich Poythress, Juan Perez, Blake Tekotte, Tyson Auer, Jay Austin and Dan Robertson.
MOst of these names I don't know. Some of them (Eovaldi, Pacheco, Belt) I do. However, there is one name that I am familiar with - Dan Robertson. Dan, a.k.a. Daniel, was traded to the Rangers earlier this season from the PAdres. He's been a solid player for us. He hustles, plays with a lot of heart and is hard not to love. I'm glad he's on this ball. Somewhere!
So I was pretty stoked to find that ball in my bag. I put it back in the bag and continued to wait. The starting lineups were announced and Gallo was *not* in the lineup. My heart sank. So I decided to chat with the usher for the section, who had a game used bat signed by all the Rough Riders except a few. He told me that he only needed Nomar Mazara and a couple other guys. Turns out, this guy used to be the visiting clubhouse manager and has a game signed bat from every team that visits, along with a handful of autographed balls of assorted players. He's been doing this for more than 15 years. Can you imagine what his memorabilia room must look like?!?!?!?!
While we were chatting, Gallo finally came out. I quickly stepped up and asked if he would sign the bat for me. With a smile, he obliged!
Okay, so that picture doesn't do it justice.
I quickly noticed that the Sharpie was a bit sketchy. I'm sure Beckett would happily grade the auto with a "1." I am glad that I don't care - I got Joey Gallo to sign a freakin' bat for me!!!! This is instantly my favorite piece of memorabilia in my collection!
I waited a bit longer - until first pitch actually - to try to get Alfaro's auto, but, like Gallo, he wasn't in the lineup for the game. He came out and went directly to the bullpen, bypassing fans, so no one had a chance to ask him.
I'll be honest - I don't even care. The Gallo auto made this entire work trip worthwhile!