Monday, May 12, 2014

Chihuahuas vs Isotopes graphing in El Paso

Southwest University Park opened its doors on April 28 and is the new home of the El Paso Chihuahuas (AAA Affiliate of the SD Padres).

I was really excited since the beginning of this project because I'd be able to cover AAA baseball and get to watch a lot of baseball in the city I'm currently working in.

This was my first weekend of going to games with the objective of getting autographs (I work M-F and get Saturday's & Sunday's off), and what a better team to do it with than with the AAA affiliate of my LA Dodgers: the Albuquerque Isotopes.

Stadium doors open 1 hour before first pitch, so that takes BP out of question and makes autograph opportunities a little bit more limited for fans, but fortunately I'm not in LA where there's hundreds of graphers.

I had a ticket for a general seating area (lawn in center field), so the first thing I did was go to it and put my Brooklyn Dodger fleece blanket to mark my territory. Great view and a great deal for $5!

With 35 minutes left until first pitch I walked over to the first base side, where there was a small crowd of approximately 15 people waiting for autographs (only 5 or 6 with baseball cards or ROMLB baseballs, all the others rookies with tickets, Chihuahuas programs, etc.).

As the players started walking out they were all really cool and walked over to the fans and signed. Clint Robinson was the first to sign for me, I went with 8x10's that day.

Joc Pederson was personalizing most items, I have no issue with that because I don't sell or trade.

Trayvon Robinson and Cuban sensation Alex Guerrero didn't sign before stretching, they said they would get us later. They didn't disappoint, Trayvon actually caught me off guard, just asked: "Still want my autograph?". I had a picture of his amazing catch on his MLB debut, asked him to give me a second to get a silver marker, he personalized it too .... this has to be one of the best autographs I have in my collection.

Alex Guerrero was the player that had the most fans wanting his autograph, I had 2 pictures but he was signing 1 per. Unfortunately I gave him a blue marker (thinking he would sign in the white jersey area), but he signed in the darkest part, so you can't notice it a lot. But still, I had the experience of meeting this great player.

I was surprised to see starting pitchers walking out and signing too ..... Zach Lee being one of them, he signed my 8x10 and I was pissed I didn't give him a silver or metallic blue marker.

As I was walking back to the center field general seating area I noticed that Paco Rodriguez was in the bullpen, I had a picture of him so as Stephen Fife finished his warm-up pitches with Fed-Ex I called Paco over and he signed for me, man does this one look amazing with the silver auto!

This was my first time watching a game from center field, it's a great view and it was really cool congratulating Joc Pederson after each of his 2 homeruns and even more awesome him saying "thanks!" afterwards.

Alex Castellanos, former Dodger player & now with the EP Chihuahuas, was cool enough to toss a ball at me before the start of the 8th inning. I was so happy I didn't drop it that I decided to give it away to a kid that was decked out in Dodger blue, hope that it made his night better.

Sunday was a 1:05 pm game, so I got to the stadium around 12:40 pm. I stopped by the press box first to get a lineup card and a roster ..... to my surprise AJ Ellis waas in town with the Topes! I was pretty disappointed because I didn't know about it and he's a pretty hard autograph to get at Dodger Stadium because he's the catcher and they're pretty busy.

 If I had known I would've taken a picture I have of him I bought like 3 years ago. For this game I had an assigned seat I bought at the Santa Fe Pavillion for $18.50, so I didn't rush to leave my stuff and took my backpack next to the dugout. Met another grapher' named Robert and started talking to him about the hobby at the stadium and how AJ Ellis was in town, caught him by surprise to and I won't lie ..... as we were talking about AJ, he walks right by us. Wished him luck!

First 2 players to walk out to stretch were Clint Robinson & Joc Pederson, how I had already gotten them to sign 8x10's the previous day, I started a team baseball with them, the other 8 players that ended up signing it too were: Matt Magill, Colt Hines, Zach Lee, Paco Rodriguez, Griff Erickson, Carlos Triunfel, Trayvon Robinson & Mike Baxter.

While waiting between one autograph and the other, I started talking to Robert about wanting to get AJ's autograph and he told me that at the end of the game some players sign autographs next to the dugout, so I already had a plan for the end of the game. Unfortunately after the position players finished stretching I walked upstairs and AJ Ellis signed around 4-5 autographs after him & Red Patterson finished warming up in the bullpen. 

I went to my seat in the SFP I was talking about earlier, this time neither of the center fielders threw a ball at me. Not even the Dodgers bullpen catcher who I called by name .... sometimes you're lucky, sometimes you're not. But hey, the view was amazing!

At the start of the 8th inning I left my seat to buy a ROMLB, because I wanted AJ Ellis to sign it instead of my team ball. Team store sells them for $25 plus tax ($27.5, pretty expensive). Lines were moving quickly, so I just missed around half an inning. Went next to the dugout and also took out my Stephen Fife 8x10 that I couldn't get signed Saturday because he was the starting pitcher.

 As soon as the game finished me and a group of around 6 people stood next to the dugout and Fife was one of the first players to walk out, asked him for his auto and he was kind enough to sign the 8x10.

AJ was picking up his equipment and he had his hands full, I told other people "I doubt that he's going to sign". Guess what? We asked and he said he was putting his equipment away and he would walk out ..... he did it. Got thim to sign the ball in the SS, pretty rushed but I don't care about it .... I got AJ's autograph once in LA and once in EP!

A huge surprise while Ellis was signing autographs was that Clint Robinson walked out and put his bat up and after nobody said anything he just said: "Does anybody want it?", of course I said: "ME!", but a little kid was a better option .... I guess my day was good enough already with 12 autographs, so I can't complain.

For this being the first time I ask for autographs at Southwest University Park I consider it a great success! Had fun, way easier than the majors, got to see the Dodgers AAA prospects and the starting catcher of our major league club.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Summerslam Axxess Sunday - Session 3

Sorry for the delay, I've been crazy busy at work! I'm at Ft. Lauderdale waiting a connection to another flight that is going to take 3 hours, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to finally attach the pics to this post that was supposed to go up 3 months ago:

Last session for fans to meet fans. WWE had announced a list of Superstars/Divas that were scheduled to appear, but didn't specify if they would sign autographs, make an appearance in the NXT ring or otherwise.

This time as I entered I went straight to the National Guard stage, which had like 15 fans in it already . . . . but when I heard that Kofi Kingston was going to be the Superstar signing I decided to go to another one (no disrespect to Kofi, but I was looking for a bigger name).

I went over to the Doritos Jacked stage, which was the only one without anybody in line, waited there for around 10 minutes without nobody getting onto the stage. I was freaked out about the possibility of a tag team to go there because there was 3 markers with 3 different autograph pages set up there.

But I was lucky enough that Damien Sandow (current WHC Money In The Bank holder - NOT ANYMORE) was the designated superstar to sign there. I was the very first one to get his autograph & a picture with him, he was kind of serious . . . but I was just happy for hitting a homerun in that opportunity.

 Sandow attracted a lot of fans to his lines, which left the other ones not that big for the rest of the fans.

Saw that the Zack Ryder line was like a 20 minute line and took advantage of it. Got his autograph, which he inscribed with his WWWYTHI (Woo Woo Woo, You Know It) inscription and a photo with him too.

Right next to him were 2 superstars in the same stage: Justin Gabriel & Tensai/Sweet T, which had a very short line. So with the intention of getting the most amount of autographs in the session I went in it.

Gabriel signed an article from the April 2013 WWE Magazine he was featured in and Tensai this picture that was also from another WWE Magazine issue.

The WWE person that was up there taking pictures for the fan cut off Justin Gabriel from the pic, so I only got a photo with Tensai.

 There was 1 hour left before the Superstars/Divas switch from the ones that were there to the new ones. I saw that Kofi (line I was first in and then bailed) was signing with Rosa Mendes, like I mentioned in the previous post . . . . I have a huge crush on Rosa.

While I was in line, I was carrying 2 foam 30x20's that were protecting my Shawn Michaels 30x20 photo I was going to get signed. I thought that a cool way to attract Rosa was to do a "I love Rosa" sign in Spanish.

Line was easily going to take 1 hour, so while I was in it I made that sign and sure enough while she was going on stage after signing for handicap fans, she noticed it, waived at me and blew a kiss to me.

That was good, but the line was pretty slow and surely enough 3 people before me the line was stopped because R-Truth had arrived to do his autograph session, I was looking to Rosa and she told me: "I got you".

Sure enough, Rosa told the WWE personell to let me walk up, they also allowed the 2 guys that I was talking to in line to get their autographs and a picture taken with Kofi and Rosa.

 Rosa & Kofi both signed an autograph for me.

Afterwards Rosa let me take a picture with her standing next to me (but Kofi kind of blocked part of her face). 

Rosa also asked me to take a picture with her for her twitter account that she later uploaded on instagram and twitter. Now that was awesome!

When the switch for other superstars happened I started walking around to see who was there. No doubt that I wanted to get Jim Ross' autograph (WWE HOF announcer). While I was in line for J.R. a huge crowd started roaring, Rob Van Dam was on his way to the stage that was next to ours. Some fans left J.R. line, but I stayed because I had already met RVD when he was with TNA last year.

Line wasn't too bad, got to the stage like 40 minutes later. Jim Ross is a huge Oklahoma Sooners Football supporter that travels with the team to most of the games they play, OU played their season opener last year in El Paso against UTEP . . . . but I wasn't able to meet him because I was up at the press box calling the game and he was on the field. Talked to him for a minute about college football, it was great meeting a legend of wrestling broadcasting ..... never thought that his 'retirement' would be announced a month later.

 After getting JR's autograph I went back to the Shawn Michaels VIP signing, fortunately one of the guys that I met at the Rosa & Kofi line was kind of in the middle of the pack and told me to get in line with him, that easily saved me around 20-30 minutes.

Like I mentioned earlier, I had a 30x20 from Shawn Michaels' entrance in his final match ever (Wrestlemania 28) ..... a lot of people in line thought it was pretty awesome when I took it out. And that's what I was thinking about when I paid that kind of money for these autograph's (Cena, Punk & HBK), better get something very cool signed by them if I'm paying that much.

When I saw Michaels I noticed his beard, no doubt the picture didn't come out like I expected it ..... that facial hair makes him really hard to distinguish as the 'Heartbreak Kid'.

As he signed my picture, I asked him if he could please inscribe 'Mr. Wrestlemania' ..... the WWE assistant immediately said "No personalization", I replied that it wasn't a personalization .... Shawn simply said "Sorry man, there's a lot of people in line and if I inscribe for everyone it'll take me forever". I understood it, still think it came out pretty sweet.

All in all I think that session 3 was my favorite session of the weekend, got lucky with the Sandow line .... got 5 more 'superstars' to sign in the first group and then got a pair of HOF'ers in the last couple of hours.

There's rumors that Summerslam might be heading out of LA for next year. Hope that doesn't happen because I enjoyed building my vacation around it and had a blast at the show that was a really good card from start to finish.

Hope you enjoyed the post!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Summerslam AXXESS Saturday - Session 2

Well, after having my tacos I went back in line for Session 2 (scheduled to start @ 4 pm).

Did the same drill, walked around to see which superstars would be signing to find which one was better. Didn't risk it on getting in a line without knowing who would sign there.

Big mistake, 'The Bella Twins' Nikki and Brie were signing at the National Guard stage (right next to the entrance) and I got at the end of the line that was by far the biggest one of the day.

It was a 2 hour wait, and even though I met them 2 years ago, I wanted to get their autograph in a poster of them that was published in the July edition of WWE Magazine.

Girls are smoking hot! Everybody's jaw dropped every single time that they went down to sign and take pics with fans at the designated area for handicap people.

10 minutes before 6 pm (time when the superstar switch happened) I finally made it to the stage for my autograph. When I said hi to them Brie said: "Hola papi, how are you?", that was definitely one of the highlights of my vacation. Got Nikki to sign in red & Brie to sign in blue (color of the blouses they wore in that shoot), I think it came out awesome!

Also got my picture with these 2 beauties (again)!

Did a little bit of time walking around before the next pool of superstars came out and bumped into the 'Brock Lesnar' guy (Mike) and Frank The Clown, 2 guys that are at a lot of WWE Events around all the country. Great dudes!

Noticed that Fandango & Summer Rae were finishing their autograph session, totally bummed I didn't get their autographs this year, but I don't regret on getting the Bella Twins autograph & picture again.

Natalya and Alicia Fox came out to replace The Bella Twins, Natalya is a real sweetheart (she even follows me on twitter), but I wanted to try my chances to get a bigger superstar's autograph (No disrespect to Natty). BTW, I heard that the Bella Twins were asked down the stage so that Natalya & Alicia could start signing, but The Bella's said that they would sign 15 more minutes for the fans that were there for them, that's just great!

A.J. Lee (Divas Champ) and Big E. Langston were walking out, so I stood right next to her and started taking some pictures. In one she noticed me taking them and in the second she even smiled! Thanks A.J.!

 Line was very big, but for A.J. it was worth it! She started around 6:10 pm, I had a CM Punk VIP ticket for which he was scheduled to sign from 6 to 8, so I thought I had a shot at getting both.

At 7 I went to check how the C.M. Punk line was and it was moving really quick and I had heard that the VIP superstars left the moment when there was no more fans in line, so I didn't want to risk missing out on Punk and asked one of the guys in line if he could save my spot for 15 minutes, he was cool enough to help me out.

I went to the CM Punk line and there was only like 15 people left, so it didn't take long. Unlike Cena, Punk was just signing only 1 item for most fans (he has a bad reputation, so I didn't want to push it). I asked him to sign my WWE October 2011 magazine cover with a silver marker, bad decision . . . didn't come out great. But the experience of having (even though it was short) a one on one interaction with him was well worth it, he's my favorite wrestler.

Went back to the A.J. Lee line and Jose (guy who saved my spot in line) recognized me and called me in. Can't thank him enough. WWE personnel didn't allow fans to take pictures with the A.J. anymore because the line was moving very slow, and that actually sped things up. I hooked up Jose with a purple marker for A.J. to sign his trading card with and the guy behind me with a sweet picture from a WWE Magazine article she was featured on, gotta help out the people who help you out.

I got this picture of A.J. looking at John Cena from a feud that featured Dolph Ziggler, A.J.& Big E. Langston not that long ago. Got her to sign it with a purple marker and I love how it came out!

Big E. Langston signed a WWE Magazine picture from 3 months ago, he didn't grab the silver marker I had for him . . . . but I didn't really care because I was in that line for A.J. and not Big E.

No doubt it was a great day, had a lot of fun meeting WWE Superstars & Divas, but the best was yet to come!

5 autographs from 3 Divas & 2 superstars, wish I could've done better . . . but lines were huge!

Summerslam Axxess Saturday - Session 1

Like many of you know, I'm a huge wrestling fan. Summerslam was held in L.A. once again, so I planned my vacation considering that.

WWE usually has a 2 day Fan Fest before Summerslam where fans get to meet superstars (wrestlers) & Divas (female wrestlers).

I bought tickets for 3 VIP sessions: John Cena, CM Punk & Shawn Michaels.  Buying VIP tickets allows you to enter before the general admission ticketed fans, plus a guaranteed autograph and photo with the VIP Superstar you paid for.

I arrived for the 11 am session @ 9:30 and there was already 100 fans in front of me. 30 minutes later there was already like 400. For general admission there was easily 1,000.

VIP ticketed fans were allowed in 10 minutes before 11 am. So, being inside with less than 150 fans would be a great chance to get an autograph with no line ..... the issue was that WWE didn't let you know where, which and when superstars would be signing. So I had 2 choices, get in a line without knowing who would sign there or wait until the superstar/diva came out.

Daniel Bryan was walking around with Larry King before signing his V.I.P. session, ignored every fan that even said hi to him.

I wandered around until I saw the 'Primetime Players' come out, got into their line (I was like the 6th). Got their autograph quickly, unfortunately the WWE employee that was there didn't want to take a picture of me with O'Neil & Young.

Afterwards I noticed that Eva Marie was signing autographs,  she's a new Diva featured in the E! Entertainment show "Total Divas".

 She had like a 15-20 minute line , so I decided to give it a shot. Plus I had the Maxim Magazine issue she had a feature in, so it would be great to get it signed.

When it was my turn I asked her to sign with a red marker I had. She taught that was really cool because it combined with her red hair.

She was cool enough to take a picture with me.

John Cena was signing from 11 to 1, so I decided to go get my guaranteed autograph and photo op. Met this cool guy Kash from Washington,  who we later helped each other out with telling each other which superstars were where.

Cena was supposed to only sign 1 item, but he was signing whatever you put in front of him. So I decided to get my July 2013 WWE Magazine cover & the matted 8×10 picture that was included in the VIP premium price.


Even thought CM Punk is my favorite wrestler, I told Cena I respected the heck out of him for what he does for the company.

While walking to see which were the superstars that were signing, I noticed Sam Roberts, he has a show on Sirius XM and uploads great wrestling interviews on YouTube. Asked him for a picture, dude is great! What's the haps'?

One of the Divas that was signing was Rosa Mendes with Sin Cara, I've had a huge crush on Rosa since she was Primo & Epico's manager, that dance she did in her entrance was amazing!

But her line was like a 30 minute line with only 5-10 minutes before the superstar change at 1 pm, so I headed towards the place where the superstars were walking out of. Mick Foley walked by me and I snapped this pic with my iPhone.

Current IC champ Curtis Axel walked out, so I went to his line (like 45 minute line). I was kind of bummed that Paul Heyman (his 'manager') didn't sign autographs with him, because Curtis said on twitter that both of them would be there.

Line went down smooth, got Curtis Axel (Curt Henning's son) to sign a picture of him with the Vince McMahon trophy (WWE Fantasy Football League) when he won it in the 2010 season. Asked him who he drafted as QB this season, he said he went with Peyton Manning. I think that's a very solid choice.

By the way, a guy that was standing on the outside told him that he had met his dad when he was still alive to what Curtis replied with a "I'm going to be better". We shall see!

I had 2 options, get in Wade Barrett's line with around 45 minutes before AXXESS Session 1 was finished or go to eat somewhere (I didn't have breakfast before leaving home), so I went for something to eat. Pretty bummed that the ESPN Zone was closed, so I walked around and found a taco truck where I bought 3 tacos, a coke and a Gatorade for $7. Cheap and a good fix to get ready for session 2.

6 autographs from 4 superstars & 1 diva, solid result from Axxess session 1.