While the Minor League Baseball playoffs are just getting underway, my 2018 minor league graphing season has just wrapped up. I went to a lot of games this year. In total, I graphed the Charlotte Knights and visitors at BB&T Ballpark on 32 separate gamedays, the Kannapolis Intimidators and visitors on 9 gamedays, and the Durham Bulls and Gwinnett Stripers in Durham, NC on 1 gameday.
In just my 2018 MILB graphing season, I got 554 autographs in 42 games. My 2018 graphing average turns out to be about 13 autographs a game.
This year has been nothing but crazy as far as graphing. One game I left with 6 autographs, one game I left with 42 autographs. I’ve had struggles in not being able to get Alex Jackson for my 2014 Draft set, but I’ve also had blessings in the form of days with multiple Michael Kopech (more on him later), Eloy Jimenez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. autographs.
I’ve met some bad apples in the hobby, but I’ve also met gotten to know some familiar faces and some new ones too. Here’s a few of my favorite memories and stories from this year’s insanity that was MILB graphing.
My first day of MILB graphing this year was a disappointing start to the year. Scranton Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees AAA affiliate, was in town to play Charlotte. I was there with 1 mission, to get Gleyber Torres for my 2016 Bowman Draft set. While I was getting Ryan Cordell to sign a card for the exact same set, Gleyber walked right behind me and didn’t sign for anyone that whole day. In total, I walked away from the ballpark that day with 8 autographs. This was by far my worst graphing day of the year. A small victory that day was getting Chance Adams for my master 2017 Heritage set. He was nice enough to sign 1 for each person graphing, even though he mocked us by yelling “Run little dealers run!”
Another story that sticks out is when I graphed Pawtucket, the AAA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. They had a first baseman named Adam Lind, who has 2 cards in the master 2017 Heritage set that I’m working on completing. He walked out of the door with a few other players postgame; I then asked him if he had time to sign. He signed 1 of the cards and tried to hand me back my Sharpie. I asked if he wouldn’t mind signing the second card, as I’m working on the set. He then looked at me and said “No, one is enough.” He then throws my Sharpie at my open book. It was not the first time I’ve had a Sharpie thrown at me, but this time sticks out as Adam was not exactly the nicest player I’ve met.
While I have a multitude of bad stories, nobody likes bad stories. Autographing is about the good successes, not the bad failures.
One of the many blessings was the ability to connect with some of the hometown faces. Eddy Alvarez, the Knights middle infielder and 2014 Sochi Olympics Silver Medalist, quickly became a friend after I met his aunt through one of my college classes. Carson Fulmer, the White Sox 1st round pick in 2015, was possibly my vote for nicest player of 2018. Even when he was in a rush to get food or get out of the ballpark, he would always stop and ask you how you were doing.
But I think the guy that has completely won my fandom for life is Michael Kopech, the White Sox top pitching prospect. He began to get a little tough as far as signing goes the last week he was here in Charlotte, but every game before that he never had a problem with signing or taking pictures. It was awesome to get to see him pitch multiple times and to interact with him nearly every game.
Kopech is a guy who signs 1 per person, but I do remember on the Saturday before Mother’s Day, the Knights had a giveaway of a baseball with a pink logo on it to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend. After the game, Michael was going into the tunnel where the players go to the clubhouse, and a bunch of kids asked him to sign their baseball they got at the gate. The problem was, none of them had pens. Basically, every time a kid wanted their baseball signed, Michael looked at me and borrowed my pen. After this went on about 7-8 times, I finally jokingly yelled “JEEZ MICHAEL, YOU OWE ME BUD!” He then laughed and looked up at me, winked, and said “I got you.” About 10 minutes later when I saw him leave the ballpark, he stopped and signed not 1, not 2, but 3 cards for me.
Probably my best day of MILB graphing was August 14th, when the Buffalo Bisons, AAA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, came to town. Now mind you, without going into any detail, that day, in every way except graphing, was a horrible day for me. But I believe I nearly made up for it by getting not 1, but 2 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. autographs. There were about 50-60 people every day of that series trying to get Vlad Jr. to sign something. The first time I got him was on arrival. I had to get in the way of some dealers, but I got Vladdy to sign the 5×7 I had in my book. I then got him again inside on a baseball, and also got a picture with him.
Graphing this year was nothing short of insane, but I had a blast. My sets are further along to being completed, with my closest set being the 2018 Charlotte Knights team set (missing 8 signed cards of 30), I lost weight from all the walking and occasional running, and I got to enjoy a great summer of graphing. April 4th, 2019 cannot come soon enough.