Monday, April 20, 2015

Blogging Takes Far More Time Than I Was Expecting

I'm 7 posts in and have already broke my rule of trying to keep writing 1-2 solid posts a week.  What can I say... I tried.  Writing a full blown post like I tend to do is extremely time consuming.  Each of the previous posts has probably taken me roughly 2 hours to complete (sometimes more).  Coming back to this paragraph after finishing this post and it's 5:52pm.  I started writing this at 3:15pm with a brief break for a phone call from a car dealer.  Holy crap... I haven't even edited the post yet...

So now I get to go over excuses of why I wasn't able to write anything at all last week!  I take it for granted that very few people enjoy listening to random excuses that may or may not be true (think back to 5th grade and all the creative homework excuses that we had to come up with), but I'm going to attempt to turn these into half-way decent stories... and everyone likes stories!!!  If you don't, why are you reading blogs in the first place???

Excuse #1: Family Wedding.

While this excuse only explains away this past weekend, it still counts in my book.  My cousin just got married this past Friday evening in North Carolina (YAY!).  In any case, my sister and I had to work Thursday up here in Connecticut, so while the rest of the family was already down in Raleigh, the two of left Bristol at 6pm to make the roughly 10 hour trek to North Carolina.  Extended driving at night is already not one of my favorite things to do, but couple that with attempting this after a full day of work and... well, there was lots of caffeine, sugar, sleeping, and switching drivers involved in the trip.  We got about 45 minutes from Raleigh (at about 3:30am) before I called it quits and simply stopped on the side of the road to sleep.  My sister woke up at 6:45 and...

<HUGE PARENTHESIS> (coding would be so much cooler if you could do this...)
My sister woke up roughly 3 hours after we stopped because of exhaustion and the fact that we couldn't keep our eyes open to drive.  3 hours... That's insane.  I feel I must qualify this.  My sister works with horses for a living and tends to wake up fairly early.  By no means is my schedule simple either... some days I have to wake up at 3:30am and others I have no obligations at all until 4:00pm and then I'll be up until 2:00am that night.  Regardless of my schedule, I still feel horrible if I don't get at LEAST 6 hours of sleep.  Apparently my sister is a zombie.  Either that, or she is programmed to awaken at the crack of dawn no matter what.  Perhaps there is a chemical reaction in my sister's brain that occurs when she receives Vitamin D...

...drove the remaining 45 minutes to Raleigh.  We arrived at the hotel that the wedding was in and the staff graciously let us check-in to our room super early and we promptly collapsed and slept until the early afternoon.

The wedding itself was that evening and wasn't anything super special.  The only relevant story from the whole escapade was regarding the bar.  Immediately following the ceremony, there were pictures taken and then there was a roughly hour long (wouldn't ya know!) cocktail hour.  During this hour, there was an open bar that was serving beer and wine.  I've been to weddings with both open bars, money bars (or whatever they're called), and ones with no bars at all.  This wedding was something unique.  The open bar here lasted ONLY for the cocktail hour.  The bar existed afterwards, but after the hour, all the drinks were no longer free.  On the surface, this doesn't seem like a horrible idea.  It's probably much cheaper for those paying for the wedding and theoretically, the main problem of having an open bar (lots of drunk people running around), shouldn't be as much of an issue.  Both of these things did seem to hold true.  What was interesting, however, was the mad rush of some people trying to get their hands on lots of alcohol before the bar closed.  Towards the end of the hour, I saw someone go up to the bar and actually order and carry away 12 beers... granted, he eventually gave most of them to others, but it didn't stop the hilarity of the situation.

My sister and I left Raleigh Saturday morning and got back here that night because I had to wake up at 3:30am yesterday to head into work!

Excuse #2: Work

This one is far more boring... I simply have had lots of work recently between my many jobs.  My main job at ESPN has had slightly changed hours because of the advent of baseball season.  I also have recently applied for a promotion and have had to dedicate some time into making sure that ESPN thinks I'm the best candidate!  Wish me luck!

Excuse #3:

I have mentioned before that baseball cards aren't my only passion.  In fact, I would say that baseball cards definitely come in third to my two other passions in my short life.  God and my family would be first and second would be my love for games and strategy.  Even in baseball, the behind-the-scenes strategy of baserunning, lineups, and substitutions have always been more fun to me than the one-on-one aspect of pitcher vs. hitter.

In any case, board games usually are my go-to games as they tend to have the most strategy in them.  Consequently, I own quite a few of them and played many heavily throughout college.  Recently, there have been only a handful of people I can play with, and most are 2 hours away living in Boston.  My games have been gathering lots of dust.

A friend of mine from college told me about a website called where people of similar interests meet in designated places.  I was very suspect of the site because I'm not big on social media and this conversation closely followed one about online dating (something she was trying to get me to try).  It took me four months to look at the site and search it for board game groups.  Obviously I found one... It helped that last Sunday the 12th was designated National Table Top Day and it made me more comfortable showing up randomly to some board game day with random strangers.

In any case, I have since been hanging out and playing games with about a dozen of these people since then which I have enjoyed immensely.

Excuse #4: BASEBALL!

The baseball season has obviously started and this brings about many changes for me!!  

I umpire baseball at the high school level and despite the extreme cold New England had been experiencing throughout March, the weather seemed to cooperate for opening week of the High School season.  I've already umpired 3 games and most of the teams have clearly had very little practice leading up these first games.  Two out of the 3 games have been complete blowouts with the losing teams having pitchers that couldn't reach the plate (let alone throw a strike).  

My other game was a very good 6-5 game but had other drama of its own.  I was umpiring the bases with a 71 year-old gentleman behind the plate that I had done games with before.  He called an extremely good game but, following the game, as we were walking to our cars, he physically collapsed no less than 4 times.  We had to call the ambulance for him as no one knew what was wrong with him and he was completely fine mentally.  Eventually we found out that this man had a problem with his muscles ever since he was young.  Apparently, the fact that he hadn't been very active over the winter and then suddenly umpiring for 3 hours triggered some kind of reaction.  In any case, he seems to be doing just fine at this point!

Baseball also brings fantasy baseball (not such a hot start...) and the start of the Atlanta Braves season!  As of my writing this, the Bravos are sitting at 8-4 having recently taken 2 out of 3 from Toronto in Toronto.  We start a series tomorrow at Citi Field which I believe could define how we play out the rest of the year.  If we are able to win yet another series away against one of the hottest teams in baseball, I believe that we move back to serious contender status in the NL East and move quickly from sellers to buyers (we certainly have the cap room now that Mr. Melvin is gone!).

The last thing that this new baseball season has done for me is increase my itch to pull out the cards and do something with them.  I've recently been organizing a bit and going through a whole bunch of want lists from other random bloggers trying to find people who need Ginter things.  My most recent trade has been with Greg over at Plaschke, Thy Sweater Is Argyle, but it hasn't quite been completed yet and so I'm unable to write much about it yet.  A post shall come soon!

In the mean time, I hope whichever team you're a fan of is having a fabulous start to the year (unless you're a National or Phillies fan)!  Enjoy this baseball season and the wonderful spring-time weather it brings with it!!!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Got antsy... needed to break something...

This is my offseason as far as baseball cards go.  While everyone else seems to be opening Topps flagship, I generally refuse to as I've never exactly been thrilled with the design, nor do I enjoy putting sets together that can just be purchased outright via a factory set.  I must say that this year I was VERY tempted to start breaking some.  I absolutely love this year's design.  Keeping in mind that I haven't touched vintage cards, this is easily the best design that Topps has created in [recent memory].  Even still, I told myself I would have ended up spending way too much money on fairly worthless cards if I did dive into the set.  Perhaps I'll buy this year's factory set for the first time.

In any case, Allen & Ginter typically releases mid-summer (late July to early August).  I get a case and usually end up buying random retail packs/boxes (mostly because there are different inserts in retail) until around Christmastime.  By then, I have a hard time justifying getting more as even minis start doubling up.  January - August then becomes my baseball offseason.  I typically end up filling this card collecting gap with two things: Bowman and Magic the Gathering.

Bowman has not made its way to 2015 quite yet so that was off the table.  I suppose I could have picked up some 2014 Bowman because I didn't get any of that last year.  I liked the Magic sets so much (Theros, Born of the Gods, and Journey Into Nyx were all really fun sets and I bought a box of each).  This year, the Magic sets (outside of Khans which was released way back in September) have been less than exciting, and while I've bought packs here and there, I haven't bought a box, thus the pack opening void I've recently experienced.  NEED TO OPEN SOMETHING!

I decided to go super cheap and take a flyer on something.  I gave EBay $35 (including shipping!) and they graciously sent me a sealed hobby box of 2007 Topps Chrome.  I had done literally zero research on what could be in this box... but com'mon, $35 for two guaranteed autos (even if they are no namers) and a bunch of shiny chrome cards?  Deal.  Here's what I got:

A box!  With a bunch of packs!  Horray!!! I get to open them!  I got 24 of these plus the two box loaders you see.

BORING...  I remember these.  I'm sure I have a bunch of these hanging around from collecting in 2007.  Such a silly idea.  Topps even threw these into 2007 Allen & Ginter packs and they looked completely out of place.  Not to mention that, outside of the huge number, every card front is EXACTLY the same.  Completely unoriginal.  God bless those that tried to complete this set...

The second box topper yielded some Chrome color.  A pink? refractor of Jose Guillen numbered 1/99.  Not going to complain... at least its someone I've heard of, even if it was because he was associated with PEDs.  After opening the rest of the box (and as you'll see below), I wondered if this was commonly the only significant color that came in the box (perhaps why the boxes are so cheap).

Here is the only other color I received in the entire box.  These are white refractors numbered to 660.  Nobody super special (I suppose Sheffield is kinda cool, but he's not in a Braves uniform so I couldn't care less).  

One of the main selling points of this set was the fact that "every pack contains an insert or parallel!"  I like color (doesn't everyone?) and I received four white refractors and 8 regular refractors (they were all terrible so I didn't even bother taking a picture).  The other 12 packs contained inserts of some variety.  Typically I get excited about inserts, and perhaps this is because I'm spoiled by the eccentric and wonderful Allen & Ginter inserts.  However, these inserts left much to be desired.  The first seven all had to deal with Mickey Mantle.  Why?  This is 2007 Topps Chrome (what I would call a "modern" set with lots of shiny things), why are we putting old-timers in here and dedicating TWO full insert sets to him?!?!?!

The top insert set pictured is that of the Mickey Mantle Story.  I'm okay with this set.  I feel like they could have put it in a different Topps product, but at least the pictures of Mantle are all different and sufficiently interesting.  Even still, I would never consider collecting the set as, not did I only get 3 out of 30 of the cards, but there are even more of these in other Topps products spilling over to the next year of Topps Chrome... WHYYYYY???  Stop this nonsense.  First A-Rod and all his homers, and now Mantle and his life spread over multiple products/years.

Oh, that's not enough??? How about an ugly insert set spread out over multiple years/products featuring cards that are nearly indistinguishable from one another and feature the EXACT SAME PLAYER!  So exciting.... that's those four Mantle cards on the bottom if you were wondering.

The last 5 inserts were Generation Now inserts.  Yet another insert set spread out over multiple products.  The design is pretty mediocre on top of that...  need I say more???

My two rookie autograph hits for the box.  Sorry for the dark pictures... that's Chris Narveson of the Cardinals who popped in and out of the majors from 06-13.  So at least it's someone who actually played for a little while which, looking at the auto list from this set, can't be said for about half the guys.  The second is Miguel Montero who is still playing!!! Hooray!  A decent hit.  Probably one of the top 4 autos of the set (and he's still got a bit more time to do more).  I'm quite happy with these two cards!

We didn't get too many base rookies from this box, but here's one of them.  This probably (read: definitely) used to be worth quite a bit more and was probably the most sought after card from the set.  Probably not so much anymore, but I still love it.  I loved watching Dice-K pitch in his two good years for the Red Sox and its unfortunate that he never quite got it back together.

All in all, this box was horrible.  There's definitely a reason it only sells for $40... there's simply nothing in it.  The base cards and inserts are not exciting at all, and any color seems to be quite rare.  My autos saved the box for me, but I would expect that this would absolutely not be the case on average.  Look at the auto list... its horrible.  Either way, I still enjoyed taking the time to open something new and different, so it was worth it to me (and who knows, maybe Montero will keep making All-Star teams).