Who is this? former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Adam Loewen What is this? An autographed card from the 2005 Donruss set Where'd I get it? Loewen signed it for me before Sunday's game between the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and the Trenton Thunder in Trenton How much did it cost? I'm pretty sure I got the card out of a pack. Why is this so special? Adam Loewen was the fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft, the highest spot a Canadian player has ever been selected. He was once considered the top prospect in the Orioles' farm system.
In 2006, Loewen played for Canada in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Later that year, he made his major league debut with the Orioles. He made 19 starts in his rookie season, finishing the year with a 6-6 record and a 5.37 ERA.
In 2007 and 2008, Loewen missed a substantial amount of time due to injury. During the 2008 season, he made the decision to give up pitching.
Loewen's autograph looks like nothing more than some loops and scribbles, but I do give him credit for signing for everybody who asked.
What is this? An autographed card from the 2009 Binghamton Mets team set
Where'd I get it? Wabick signed it for me before a game between the B-Mets and Thunder in Trenton earlier this month
How much did it cost? I got the team set for $10 or less
Why is this so special? Despite being a 25th round draft pick, Wabick has fought his way up the ladder in the Mets' system. Last year, he was selected to the Eastern League All-Star team even though he doesn't really seem to have the power you normally look for from your outfielders.
I'm tempted to point out that Wabick's autograph isn't very legible... but it looks great compared to some I got today from members of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Who is this? Binghamton Mets reliever Derrick Ellison What is this? An autographed card from the 2008 Bridgeport Bluefish team set Where'd I get it? Since I kept missing him at the ballpark, I mailed it to Ellison and asked him to sign it. I got it back about a week later. How much did it cost? The team set cost about $5-$6, plus shipping Why is this so special? Ellison wasn't drafted by any major league team, so he began his pro career with the Richmond Roosters in the independent Frontier League in 2001. He got his first taste of affiliated ball in 2005, when the Seattle Mariners signed him and sent him to Inland Empire in the California League.
Ellison wasn't very successful there, but he went back to independent ball and tried again. In 2008, he got off to a strong start as the Bridgeport Bluefish closer and was named to an Atlantic League All-Star team. After the All-Star Game, he was signed by the Milwaukee Brewers and sent to their Florida State League team.
Last year, he spent most of the year with the Brewers' AA affiliate in Huntsville, but he also spent time in the Mets' organization with both Binghamton and Buffalo. He also pitched for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the Atlantic League. This year, he's back in Binghamton. At age 31, he probably will never reach the major leagues. But he just doesn't seem to be the kind of person who will ever give up, and you never know what kind of opportunities may present themselves to a determined left-handed pitcher.
Ellison has a neat autograph, featuring his full name. He also inscribed a Bible verse, Hebrews 11:6 - "But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."
Who is this? Former Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Daryle Ward
What is this? An autographed card from the 2005 Topps Total set
Where'd I get it? I got it signed before a Newark Bears game earlier this year
How much did it cost? The card came out of a pack of Topps Total, purchased in 2005. I really don't remember how much they went for.
Why is this so special? Ward spent parts of 11 seasons in the majors and currently has 90 big league home runs. He spent two seasons in Pittsburgh, 2004 and 2005. During that time, he hit for the cycle -- becoming part of the only father-son tandem to accomplish the feat.
He also was the first player to hit a home run completely out of PNC Park in Pittsburgh and into the Allegheny River, though he was not playing for the Pirates at the time.
Ward has one of the best-looking autographs I've gotten this year.
Who is this? Bridgeport Bluefish outfielder Danny Putnam What is this? An autographed card from the 2007 Topps 1952 Rookies set Where'd I get it? I got it signed after a game between the Bluefish and the Bears in Newark earlier this year. How much did it cost? 25-50 cents Why is this so special? Putnam, a former California high school player of the year, was a first-round pick of the Oakland Athletics in 2004. He appeared in 11 major league games for them in 2007.
He currently plays for the Bridgeport Bluefish. In 43 games, Putnam is batting .200 with 2 home runs and 15 RBI. His autograph is remarkably legible for a current player. It hasn't changed much from the one Topps used when creating his card, though Putnam signed "Danny" instead of "Daniel."
Who is this? Lancaster Barnstormers pitching coach Danny Cox What is this? An autograph card from the 1989 Score set Where'd I get it? Cox signed it for me after a game between the Barnstormers and Bears in Newark last week How much did it cost? Not much.
Why is this so special? Danny Cox spent 11 years in the majors, retiring with a 74-75 lifetime record. He pitched in three World Series - 1985 and 1987 for the Cardinals and 1993 for the Blue Jays
After he retired, Cox managed the Gateway Grizzlies in the Frontier League for three seasons. He is currently the pitching coach for the Lancaster Barnstormers in the Atlantic League.
Score had one of the better card designs of 1989, but as I remember it included a lot of photos like this. Cox's card uses an action shot that would be decent, except for the little fact that a shadow obscures most of his face. Still, it looks better signed -- and it will most likely be the last card I ask Cox to sign this year.
Who is this? Akron Aeros pitcher Bryan Price What is this? An autographed Farm Hands insert card from the 2008 TriStar Prospects Plus set
Where'd I get it? This was my guaranteed autograph in a clearance blaster box How much did it cost? Two TriStar blasters, shrink-wrapped together, sold for $10. Why is this so special? Bryan Price was a first round selection of the Boston Red Sox in the 2008 draft (45th overall). He struggled in Boston's farm system, and somehow moved over to the Cleveland Indians organization.
This year, he's pitching out of the bullpen for the Akron Aeros in the AA Eastern League. He's 1-2 with a 4.76 ERA in 17 games, and it looks like a longshot for Price to ever reach the major leagues.
Still, stranger things have happened. Even if he never moves past AA, Price has been more successful than most people who have set foot on a pitcher's mound.
If anybody reading this is a teacher or has school-age children, I'd love to know how much time they spend on penmanship now. It didn't seem especially important when I was in school, and that was before computers became so dominant.
Of course, it's also likely that Price's signature looks like that because he knew he was going to have to sign hundreds of stickers for TriStar, and mine could have come from near the end of the batch. You never know.
Who is this? St. Lucie Mets pitcher Brad Holt What is this? An autographed card from the 2008 TriStar Prospects Plus set Where'd I get it? I got it signed before the Binghamton Mets played the Trenton Thunder in Trenton last weekend How much did it cost? I got the card out of a clearance blaster, so it was nearly free. Why is this so special? Brad Holt was a first round pick in the 2008 draft, 33rd overall. He showed a mid-90s fastball when he pitched for the Brooklyn Cyclones that year and he dominated the Florida State League with the St. Lucie Mets in 2009.
Unfortunately, he struggled at AA Binghamton after he was promoted last year. This year, he's been abysmal - 1-5, with a 10.20 ERA and a 2.200 WHIP. On Friday, Holt was demoted to St. Lucie. Hopefully he can recapture the promise that the Mets saw when they drafted him.
Brad Holt has one of the most legible signatures of any of the minor league players I've asked this year.
Who is this? Bridgeport Bluefish pitcher Antonio Alfonseca What is this? An autographed card from the 2008 Upper Deck set Where'd I get it? I got it signed before a game between the Bridgeport Bluefish and Newark Bears earlier this year. How much did it cost? I think I got the card out of a pack.
Why is this so special? I already wrote about Alfonseca yesterday, so I won't repeat myself. While I like the 2001 Bowman Heritage cards for autographs, I think Alfonseca's signature works better on this 2008 Upper Deck one.
Who is this? Bridgeport Bluefish pitcher Antonio Alfonseca What is this? An autographed card from the 2001 Bowman Heritage set Where'd I get it? I got it signed before a game between the Bridgeport Bluefish and Newark Bears earlier this year. How much did it cost? I probably spent about 50 cents for the card.
Why is this so special? Antonio Alfonseca spent 11 seasons in the major leagues. He won a World Series ring with the 1997 Florida Marlins, and he led the National League in saves in 2000. He also pitched in the post-season for the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies.
Alfonseca may be best known for having six fingers on each hand. He's also quite a character; if he's not getting ready to come into the game, you're quite likely to see him dancing around in the dugout to the music being played in between innings.
Alfonseca may not have the prettiest handwriting, but he takes care signing his name.
Who is this? former Long Island Ducks outfielder Nook Logan What is this? An autographed card from the 2008 Long Island Ducks team set Where'd I get it? Logan signed it before a Newark Bears game earlier this year. How much did it cost? The team set cost between $6-8 Why is this so special? Exavier Prente "Nook" Logan is something of a rarity in modern baseball - a player with a nickname. (I'm not quite sure where "Nook" came from, though I'd love to find out.)
He spent four seasons in the major leagues as a part time player with the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals, but did not get another shot at the bigs after being named in the Mitchell Report.
Logan spent part of the 2008 season with the Long Island Ducks in the independent Atlantic League. He either took the 2009 season off or played outside of the U.S. baseball system, because I can't find any stats from last year.
Logan's signature isn't very pretty, but I give him points for signing his Long Island uniform number instead of his Bears' one.
This season, Logan signed with the Newark Bears. Earlier this week, he lost his roster spot when the Bears traded for Victor Rodriguez. In 42 games, Logan hit .217 with 2 home runs and 11 RBI. He stole 6 bases in 8 attempts.
Who is this? Lancaster Barnstormers pitcher Nick Maness What is this? An autographed card from the 1999 Capital City Bombers team set Where'd I get it? I got it signed before last night's game between the Lancaster Barnstormers and Newark Bears in Newark How much did it cost? I don't remember Why is this so special? Maness was a one-time Mets prospect, selected in the 10th round of the 1997 draft. He made it as far as AAA Norfolk in 2002, and appears in several major league card sets from 2001 on serial numbered "rookie" cards.
I found and bought this minor league team set card back in 2005, when Maness played for the Newark Bears in the Atlantic League. I'm not sure if I got it out of a bargain bin or if I found it online while searching for Atlantic League players' cards, but I've had it for a long time. I never managed to get it signed that year, or in 2006 when Maness again played for the Bears.
I can't find any records for Maness after the 2006 season, and I assumed that he retired. But this year, he showed up on the Lancaster Barnstormers' roster -- after their first trip to Newark this season. Last night, I was finally able to get the card signed - and Maness has a nice looking autograph. Of course, I now have the sinking feeling that there's an unsigned Nick Maness card in my 2006 Bears team set that will continue to haunt me. ;)
While talking to Maness last night, we learned that his brother Dwight -- also a former Mets farmhand and Atlantic League alumni -- has retired from baseball and is playing competitive softball instead.
What is this? An autograph card from the 2009 Brooklyn Cyclones set Where'd I get it? I got it signed before Sunday's game between the Binghamton Mets and Trenton Thunder in Trenton How much did it cost? The team set was $10. Why is this so special? This is the first card I got signed from the 2009 Brooklyn Cyclones team set. Although I went to a couple of Cyclones games last year, the card set wasn't out. I didn't get one until well after the season was over.
Centeno was selected in the 32nd round of the 2007 draft, and it does not seem likely that the Mets consider him a prospect. This is Centeno's 4th professional season, and so far he has appeared in 80 career games. His lifetime line of .176 / .246 / .196 is not going to make a strong argument for more playing time, either.
Still, Centeno seemed like a good kid, so I hope that he does well. He doesn't have the best looking autograph, but you can read actual letters. With a roster, you'd probably have no problem figuring it out.
Who is this? Brockton Rox pitching coach Ed Nottle What is this? An autographed card from the 1987 Pawtucket Red Sox team set Where'd I get it? It was a gift from Jeff before Sunday's Trenton Thunder game. Why is this so special? Ed Nottle was a minor league pitcher in the 1960s. In 1972, he entered coaching and eventually became a minor league manager. He was named the International League Manager of the Year in 1987 and the first manager of the Sioux City Explorers in the Northern League in 1993.
Nottle's claim to fame is music. "Singing Ed" recorded an album, "To Baseball with Love" back in the 1980s. (If I had a working turntable, I would definitely be ordering this for the novelty value.)
My memory is playing tricks on me, because I clearly remember Nottle having a 1986 Topps card - and he doesn't. I must be thinking of one of the Red Sox minor leagues sets from the late 80s -- I did collect minor league cards even back then, but none of them really have a similar design.
I don't know what my fourth grade teacher would have said about Nottle's penmanship, but compared to the rest of the autographs I got on Sunday it's a thing of beauty. Unlike most of the minor league players, Nottle's signature is easy to read.
Who is this? Newark Bears outfielder John-Ford Griffin What is this? An autographed card from the 2001 Bowman Heritage set Where'd I get it? I got it signed before a Newark Bears game earlier this year. How much did it cost? Not sure - I probably spent about 50 cents for the card. Why is this so special? John-Ford Griffin was the first round draft pick of the New York Yankees in 2001. The next year, he was included in a complicated three-team deal that sent Jeremy Bonderman to Detroit and brought Jeff Weaver to the Yankees. Griffin spent less that a year in Oakland's system before being traded to Toronto for Jason Perry.
Griffin finally reached the majors for a cup of coffee in 2005, and got another brief shot in 2007. Since then, he's played in the minors for the Dodgers and the Cubs. This year, he's a Newark Bear. In 44 games, he's hit .260 with 4 home runs and 20 RBI.
Griffin's signature is a bit of a muddle, but if you try I think you can at least pick out his initials.
Who is this? Birmingham Barons infielder Fernando Cortez What is this? An autograph card from the 2007 Topps 52 Rookies set Where'd I get it? I got it signed before a Newark Bears game earlier this year. How much did it cost? Not sure -- maybe a quarter? Why is this so special? Fernando Cortez was a ninth round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2001. He worked his way up through the farm system and earned a cup of coffee in 2005. He was traded to Kansas City in 2006 as part of the deal for J.P. Howell.
Cortez earned another brief shot in the majors with the 2007 Royals, and that was it. Since then, he's played for a number of minor league teams and even found himself in independent ball this year. In 35 games for the Newark Bears, he hit .313 with 3 home runs and 14 RBI.
Earlier this month, the Chicago White Sox signed Cortez and assigned him to AA Birmingham.
Cortez has an illegible autograph, but maybe it looks better if he has more time to sign. He was quickly signing for me and a few other people before he had to get ready for the game.
Who is this? Mobile Bay Bears pitcher Barry Enright What is this? An autograph card from the 2008 TriStar Projections set Where'd I get it? I pulled it out of a discount blaster box How much did it cost? I bought a box of 2008 Projects and 2008 Prospects Plus that were shrink wrapped together on closeout in the Newark Bears gift shop for $10. Why is this so special? Barry Enright was the second round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2007 draft. A starting pitcher, he's shown some promise at every level.
Who is this? 1980s St. Louis Cardinals pitcher John Tudor What is this? An autographed card from the 1986 Topps set Where'd I get it? I wrote to Tudor in February and asked him to sign it; I got it back on Monday. How much did it cost? Not much. I think 1980s Topps cards breed in my storage boxes. Why is this so special? John Tudor spent five seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals and went to the World Series twice. He didn't get a ring until his third trip, but that one came with the L.A. Dodgers.
Tudor's best season was 1985 - he went 21-8 with a 1.93 ERA. He led the league with 10 shutouts. If not for a young pitcher named Dwight Gooden putting together one of the best seasons in the history of the game, Tudor would have won the National League Cy Young Award.
For a lefty, I think Tudor has pretty good handwriting.
Who is this? Binghamton Mets pitcher Brad Holt What is this? An autographed card from the 2008 Razor Signature Series Where'd I get it? I got it signed before a game between the Binghamton Mets and Trenton Thunder last month. How much did it cost? The card cost around $1, if I remember correctly.
Why is this so special? Until the Mets selected UNC pitcher Matt Harvey with the 7th overall pick in the MLB Draft tonight, Holt was the last first-rounder they chose. He was the Mets third first-round pick in 2008, a supplemental selection obtained because the Atlanta Braves had signed Tom Glavine as a free agent.
Holt progressed quickly through the Mets system until he reached AA. In his second year at Binghamton, the 23-year-old right-hander is 1-4 with a 9.38 ERA and a 2.208 WHIP in 8 starts.
On the plus side, I think Holt has better handwriting than I do. :)
What is this? An autographed card from the 2008 TriStar Prospects Plus set
Where'd I get it? I got it signed before today's game between the Flying Squirrels and the Trenton Thunder.
How much did it cost? I got the card out of a clearance blaster double pack, so not much at all.
Why is this so special? Conor Gillaspie was the San Francisco Giants' first round draft pick in 2008. Later that year, he made a brief appearance in the major leagues. He got his first ML hit off of Dan Haren.
Gillaspie spent last season with the San Jose Giants in the California League, and this year he's in AA with the Richmond Flying Squirrels. He's struggling a bit, but he did have two hits in the game today.
Gillaspie has a nice signature, even though he did have to shorten it to fit on the baseball card.
Who is this? Former Texas Rangers second baseman Julio Franco
What is this? An autographed buyback card from the 2004 Donruss Timelines set
Where'd I get it? Found it at the local card shop
How much did it cost? $10
Why is this so special? I went to the card shop today hoping to find a card of Richmond Flying Squirrels pitching coach Ross Grimsley. I struck out, but I found something better - this autographed buyback card of Julio Franco.
To me, it seemed like Franco played forever. He "only" played in the majors for 23 seasons, though. During that time, he accumulated 2,586 hits and was a three-time All-Star. He finally retired from the game in 2008, months short of his 50th birthday.
Franco spent parts of two seasons as a pinch hitter for the New York Mets, which added to my interest in acquiring the card. He now manages the Mets Gulf Coast League team.
The Sharpie that Franco used to sign the cards was starting to dry out, but it still looks great signed.
Who is this? Former Toronto Blue Jays prospect D.J. Boston
What is this? An autographed card from the 1994 Signature Rookies set Where'd I get it? Out of the dollar box at my local card shop How much did it cost? $1 Why is this so special? I'm continuing the Signature Rookies theme that I started on my own blog today. Signature Rookies helped launch the trend of prospect autographs by producing a set of minor league players and including an autographed card in every (expensive) pack.
They came along right around the time I was finishing up high school, so fortunately I didn't have the money to really collect them. Now, it's fun to pick up cheap autographs of players I remember.
D.J. likely made it into the Signature Rookies set because he won the South Atlantic League MVP award in 1993. He never made it past AAA, unfortunately. I remember D.J. from the Atlantic League, where he was a star for the now-defunct Nashua Pride and the Bridgeport Bluefish.
After he retired in 2006, D.J. went into coaching. He got his start with the Atlantic League's Road Warriors in 2007, and move back into affiliated ball with the Greenville Astros in 2008. Last year, he was the hitting coach for the Gulf Coast League Astros.
D.J.'s 1994 signature is a little nicer than I remember the ones I got during his Atlantic League days.
What is this? An autographed card from last year's Southern Maryland Blue Crabs team set
Where'd I get it? I got it signed before the game between the Blue Crabs and the Newark Bears on Memorial Day
How much did it cost? I think I spent around $8 for the team set.
Why is this so special? Rayborn, now 35, has been pitching professionally since 1997. According to Baseball Reference, he has a lifetime 61-34 record in 198 games through the 2009 season. Last night, I watched him earn his third victory of the season against the Bears.
I own a fair number of minor league and independent league cards, but you rarely see players pictured in their road grays. It's just easier to have the team's photographer take all the shots at home.
The Blue Crabs ended up getting a few photos from the Newark Bears' photographer to use in their card set last year. Since Newark did not produce their own cards in 2009, these are the only ones that picture the redecorated Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium.
Rayborn's signature isn't the greatest, but he didn't have a lot of time to sign before the game started.
What is this? An autographed card from the 2008 St. Lucie Mets team set
Where'd I get it? I got it signed before a game between the Binghamton Mets and Trenton Thunder last month.
How much did it cost? I think I spent between $8-$10 for the team set.
Why is this so special? Hector Pellot was the Mets 4th round draft pick in 2005. I remember being at a Mets game at Shea Stadium in 2005 and seeing this skinny kid in a Mets jersey on the field during batting practice. Team officials took photos as he met countryman Carlos Beltran, and Pedro Martinez later came over to greet the kid.
Five years later, Pellot is still in single A ball and he'd never quite managed to put his offensive game together. Pellot is only 23, but time is running out for him to live up to the potential that the Mets saw when they drafted him. I'm pulling for him to succeed.
For a modern ballplayer, Pellot has a pretty sharp looking autograph.
Who is this? Former Houston Astros pitcher Jeriome Robertson What is this? An autographed card from the 2007 Newark Bears team set Where'd I get it? I got it signed during a Newark Bears game in August 2007 How much did it cost? The team set cost around $5. Why is this so special? Robertson won 15 games for the Houston Astros in his rookie season in 2003.
Robertson signed the card on an angle, so he didn't have to squish his signature too much to make it fit. It's not really the easiest signature to read, but you can tell that it is an autograph and not just a bunch of squiggles.
I'm only putting autograph-related links in this blogroll. However, if you have a blog or a collector site not specifically about autographs, but with an autograph page or an "autograph" label on your blog posts, I'll put that link here.