My weekend outing to do the York Revolution is going to be rained out pending Hurricane Irene. Fortunately, I can rely on Dion Soskin to help me out.

Emailed Big 12 and Atlantic Sun teams about fan packs.
Last spring was the first time I ever emailed NCAA teams about "fan packs." I surprised by the stuff I received, and the responses that I got. However, I was slightly disappointed in some of the big schools that didn't send anything or even respond back.

This fall I'm emailing again for more fan packs...

The first conferences to get emailed were the ACC, and Atlantic 10.
Today was a pretty decent day. I went into Albany and visited a card shop there. The owner had set a side some minor league cards for me to pick through and wouldn't you know it I found current Duck Matt Padgett's Utica Blue Sox card.

I got about 19 other cards of former Atlantic Leaguers and as I was talking to the owner I noticed a stack of UD Piece of History cards. I wasn't sure who was in the set but I started going through them and found a current Duck Heath Phillips!

Even though Heath isn't on the active roster he's usually with them. The owner of the card shop threw in the card for free!

When I got home I had my second fan pack from the Florida Marlins in over a month. It pretty much contained the same stuff as the previous.

I also found out CVS is having 10 cents for 4 x 6 print this upcoming week which will allow me to print off some customs for my outing next weekend.
Former Catamount and NHLer, Graham Mink took some time to answer a few questions about collecting.

Q. Do you remember the first autograph you ever signed? If so, where and when was it?
A. The first autograph I ever signed was after a hockey game my freshman year at UVM. It was pretty akward as I was not expecting it and I got a little embarassed.

Q. Do you collect anything? Or have autographs? What's your favorite piece of sports memorabilia?
A. I used to collect baseball cards and I have a whole bunch of them stashed at my Dad's house. Mark McGwire was my favorite player growing up and I have pretty much everyone of his cards.

Q. If fan walks up to you and has 20 cards for you to autograph do you sign them all or do you hesitate and ask "why so many?"
A. I have no problem signing 20 different cards, but 20 of the same would be a little extreme. I don't care if people sell them to make money, not like they are going to get rich off me anyway! I just dont want to spend 15 minutes signing the same card over and over, especially if other people are waiting and I need to get to the rink to get ready for the game!

Q.Have you ever had a fan be to aggressive in trying to obtain your autograph?

A. I have never had any issues with anyone that has asked for my autograph.

Q. Your Favorite hockey card you've been pictured on?

A. I like the Clader Cup Championship cards for obvious reasons! Hopefully they will produce another one next year!
I grew up in Northern Vermont where baseball was an after though to hockey. My father had moved to Vermont with my grandparents in the early 1970's from Long Island, NY and previously Brooklyn, NY.

Whenever I'd go to my grandparents house I'd hear amazing stories from my Grandfather about the great Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and New York Yankees. He told me about sneaking into games and about how when they couldn't sneak in they find money to get in to watch the greats play.

These stories became like fairy tales to me because it was something I knew I'd never see, especially growing up in northern Vermont. We were about two hours from Montreal, and at the time the Expos were still putting a decent product on the field, so every year we'd make the trip north.

What most Vermonters settled for was minor league baseball. Vermont had the Vermont Reds and then the Vermont Mariners both teams relocated out of Vermont. In the mid 1990's the Jamestown Jammers were relocated to Vermont and became the Vermont Expos.

The Vermont Expos had and still have a huge local following. After the Expos moved south to Washington they became the Vermont Lake Monsters (a fan vote name), and eventually lost their affiliation with Washington which was picked up by Oakland this past season. Oakland...3,044 miles away.

Recently, Major League Baseball has sighted major issues with Vermont's ballpark, Centennial Field. Upgrades were made to the park but it still isn't where it needs to be. Prior to the renovations there was a threat Vermont would lose their team. The field is owned by the University of Vermont who dropped their baseball program a few years ago.

During my high school years I was more concerned with picking girls and playing sports then attending games, but as I got older I realized how much I enjoyed watching minor league baseball. It was affordable, fun and their was a sense of family between the fans and the players.

After I graduated from the University of Vermont I moved to Long Island, NY. Long Island is the home of one of the most successful minor league organizations the Long Island Ducks. Every year the Ducks outsell their seating capacity of 100% (Once the game sells out they sell standing room tickets). They provide a fun family environment with great baseball. They have a huge fan base and much of the revenue generated is from the local community.

Every time I go to game their I'm reminded why I love baseball.

The Ducks are a member of the Atlantic League the most successful independent league in baseball. Many former major leaguers have graced Atlantic League fields including Hall of famer Rickey Henderson, Carl Everett, Edgardo Alfonso, and former Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa to name a few.

Leagues like the New York-Penn League where Vermont currently plays is that it is one of the lowest forms of minor league baseball less than 10% of players in the NY-Penn League will make it to the majors, while most Atlantic League rosters are filled with former MLBers. Currently the Ducks have 13 former Major Leaguers on their 25 fan roster. They also have four former major league players as their coaches.

Recently, the Atlantic League decided to expand to south placing teams in Sugarland, TX, and Loudoun, VA. They are also trying to get a team in Nassau County on Long Island, NY (recently the vote to build a new arena and ballpark with public funds was voted down).

In past years the Atlantic League has help provide public and private funding to build new start of the art ballparks for their teams.

With all the problems going on in Vermont with their ballpark, team wouldn't you think an Atlantic League team would be a good fit?

Before I get ahead of myself their are rules and guidelines that are followed between Major League Baseball and Independent League teams. Certain territories are off limits because of agreements with Major League Baseball (Let's forget about that for a second).

I personally think that putting an Atlantic League team in Vermont would be a great idea. Here's a team that would be self sufficient, and would have the support of the league to help them get a new ballpark which would help the Burlington area; giving it a major venue for concerts and events.

Not only that the level of baseball would increase and would go from having low level minor leaguers to former MLBers.

I'd like to hear peoples thoughts on this.

Today I received my 50/50 trade from Dion Soskin in the mail...Thanks Dion.

Also, I received ONE pocket schedule from the San Fransisco 49ers.

Though it wasn't a great mail was the first mail I've received for the collection in a week or so.
The Loudoun Hounds will be following the Sugar Land Skeeters into the Atlantic League next season.

Official Website

Check out their wiki page
This is great for the Atlantic League and it means another team, more former major leaguers.

Shane Youman had his contract purchased by a team in Tiawan

Disappointing to see Shane go...he was a great guy. The other night he offered to sign a bunch of cards for me but he looked tired and told him I'd get him later which now won't happen.

Who is going to be the newest Duck?
Super Collector Paul Buxton sent me back my 2004 Ducks set I had traded to him. Great success! Paul also included 25 pocket schedules of teams in the Pacific Northwest. Awesome trade!
Today was team set giveaway so I had prepared my board for the set with 3 cards of the players I still have cards for and many empty spaces for the set cards. My game plan going in was not to go after the coaches (they will be there all year long and I'll get them at the end of the year).

I left for the stadium about an hour and half before the game and ran to Target and printed off my the custom Lancaster cards I had photographed the night before and designed that morning. I didn't have time to cut the cards and just left them on the 4x6 template.

I got the park about 30 minutes before the game was probably 20th in line. I saw a collector I met the night before and we were talking for awhile. Finally, the gate opened and walked down to behind the plate and waited to go on the field for the autograph session.

Dauner Sanchez, and Mike Parisi were in the set but were no longer with the team. I put those along with the coach card in my bag. (I accidentally put in Jaime Quinn who is the bullpen catcher and he was on the signing line and i missed him).

Finally they let us on the field and I was able to get most of the team. I handed each player a couple customs for their collections. Heath Phillips wasn't on the field signing. I didn't accidently skipped Erick Monzon who I need for my 2010 team set. I was able to get Mike Loree on my retro custom set also.

Overall, I got the following on my 2011 Ducks team set:
Bubbie Buzachero
Tom Pennino
Freddie Thon
Matt Padgett
Jason Monti
Kennard Jones
Dan Lyons
Chris McCoy
Bob Zimmerman
Ehren Wasserman
Dave Williams
Ray Navarrete
Kraig Binnick
Mike Loree (2 customs also)
Joselo Diaz (3/3 also)
Jeremy Hill (6/6 also)
Lew Ford (4/4 also)
Javier Colina (3/3 also)
Shane Youman (5/5 also)
John Rodriguez (3/3 also)
Ruddy Lugo (3/3 also)

All the players were thankful for their cards. Ruddy Lugo was poking fun at my because John Rodriguez was bragging about his cards and Lugo was wondering where his were.

50 Total Duck Autographs

Also, Matt Esquivel, Tom Pennino, and Matt Padgett were joking around with me as they signed the cards. All great guys.

After the autograph session was over I walked over to the Barnstormers side to get my customs signed. A few players like Matt Tupman had already walked out to the bullpen so I missed out on them.

The first one I saw was newly acquired 3rd basemen Travis Metcalf. He came over and signed 6/6 customs, and I told him to keep 2 but he told me to keep them.

Then Gilberto Mejia came over and signed them 4/4 and took the 2 I offered. Iggy Saurez did the same (as he was signing for me someone handed him a Wayne Lydon card to sign, and was like "That's not me! and someone in the stands yelled "I would have signed it anyways!"

Matt Watson came out but told me he had to stretch. While he was stretching Ross Peeples walked over and signed 4/4 and took 2. He asked me how I made the customs and I told him "with photoshop," and he asked where he could go to a "photoshop" (pretty funny).

Matt Watson then came back over and signed 4/4 and took 2, and so did Adam Calderone.

26 Barnstormers Autographs

The ones that weren't signed I'm going to send to Dion Soskin to get signed since they are one of his home teams. Overall it was great day and I left right after as I had to get back to Albany.

76 Total Autographs
Last night I got a preview of the Ducks card set from Tom Pennino, and today they released a picture of it. I have to say it's the ugliest set I've ever seen. It looks like they are trying to copy the 1987 Topps set (as I did) but did a bad job doing it. Also, it looks like they are using a different company this year.

Take a look for yourself...
Tonight was another awesome outing at Bethpage Ballpark even with the rain.

I planned on only doing the Barnstormers tonight but since my order from sportlots wasn't delivered I didn't have many cards for them to sign.

As I was walking in the ballpark I saw someone on the field running, but didn't pay attention to who. As I stood on the third base line the guy came back through the stands...I was Marty Janzen, and he signed 5/5 for me.

Usually catchers are the first one out so it was no surprise to me when Matt Tupman came out and signed 4/4 for me. A really nice guy.

Then Tommy Everidge came over and signed all 8/8 for me. However, he wanted one of the customs but he didn't have a spot to put it so I just kept it (I gave it to him after the game).

By the this point many of the players started to come on to the field and the dogout. Aaron Herr came over and signed 7/7 and took one of the customs for himself. He stayed around for a little but and signed for some little kids.

Then I called over Cesear Carillo, who signed 4/4 for me, he was great but seemed a little annoyed he had to walk over.

Brandon Jones came over and didn't sign because he need to warm up...he however did come over later and signed 2/2.

Iggy Saurez came right over and signed 2/2.

T.J. Beam was in the dugout and I asked him to come over and he signed 4/4 and was cool about it.

Ross Peeples walked by me and I had to yell to him once I noticed it was him. He told me he would come back after he went put something in the bullpen, and he did. He signed 2/2 and commented about the 2 different 2002 topps cards I had (one was a gold and was a base).

Then I saw J.D. Durbin signing for a bunch of people and I called him over. He's a really nice guy and fan friendly. He commented "you made me walk all the way over here...don't worry I'm an easy signer" and he proceeded to sign 6/6. I was talking to him and he told me where a few of the other guys I needed to get were.

As the game was getting ready to start Jonah Bayliss was walking to the bullpen and I asked him to sign but he said no because he had to get to the bullpen.

After the game was over I was informed that Fernando Seguignol's father had died and he wasn't with the team.

As I waited I found out that John Halama lives in Brooklyn and drives to the game. He walked around the collectors and I said "John, can I get an autograph please?" and he said "Hurry up, I want to get outta here, which one do you want signed" (so he signed one of my customs). Only 1/10. I was little disappointed.

Butch Hobson signed a OALB for me, and a card. He was quiet but a nice guy.

Evan Englebrook came out and signed 4/4 for me and told me that he grew 5 inches in high school and was a swimmer (he's 6'8").

Also, Jonah Bayliss came back and signed 3/3 for me and apologized for not signing earlier.

After I got the Barnstormers I ran over to get the Ducks, and I made some copies of their customs for them. I handed out a bunch to the players and some asked if I wanted to sign but I wasn't very organized since I thought I was only going to get Lancaster.

Tom Pennino was talking to me and showed me their set cards for tomorrow which are ugly. Then he walked me to the players parking lot and I gave Matt Esquivel his customs and finally met Jason Monti who signed all 19 cards for me. While I was waiting I had Matt Esquivel sign his custom York set cards.

As the rest of the players came out I gave them theirs. Matt Padgett came out and signed 3 custom York cards for me and thanked me for the cards and offered to trade me tomorrow for his team "issued" cards.

I heard Mike Loree was still in the locker room so I waited around a little bit for him, but only Ray Navarrete came out and told me they were going to be a lot longer so I have Ray his cards and left.

Still overall a great outing. I'm going to tally up the totals tonight. Also, took some great pictures for my customs sets.
Even though Matt Padgett and Matt Esquivel no longer play for York, I thought it would be cool to make some customs. Card Photos taken by Paul Hadsall.

Today I received my second fan pack from the San Diego Chargers today. I must be on a mailing list for the chargers! Still a great success!

Check out my Fan pack successes to see what I got!
Dion Soskin of Dion's IP Auto Only was able to get me some great autographs I needed for my Duck sets including a customs of Bridger Hunt and Jose Herrera. He told me that Hunt thought the customs were a "new set" card.
He was also able to get Hunt on a 2010 Ducks team set card, and Matt DeSalvo on a card for Drew Pelto (who designs my custom sets). Dion is going to attempt to get Brian Barton tonight.

In return Dion got Dave Williams, Ehren Wasserman, Mike Parisi, and Ruddy Lugo from me.

Great trade and success from Dion who is an avid collector of in person autographs including Atlantic League teams (specifically York and Lancaster), and the Baltimore Ravens.
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