Thursday, July 7, 2011
Waiting For Todd
We waited for you, bro...what's up?!?
A few weeks ago, my friend Jimmy (who sits near us in 211 at Louisville Slugger Field) asked me if I’d ever waited outside the ballpark after the game to meet players and get stuff signed. Funny thing is, after years of stalking tour busses and milling about meet n greet circles after rock concerts and live shows, this thought had never occurred to me. Ever.
I thought it might be worth a shot someday, but my youngest daughter Chihiro heard this and prioritized this possibility. And once her older sister Kei caught wind of this possibility, let’s just say this activity was not only re-prioritized, but has now ended up as a race between my two daughters for the acclaim of being the first to snag an autographed Todd Frazier baseball and a photo or two.
Consider this real-time post a pre-addendum to a couple of pending posts for recent Louisville Bats games, particularly the first and third games of the Bats’ homestand against the visiting Columbus Clippers 7/4-7/6.
Following last night’s 3-2 Bats victory over the Clippers to sweep the series, Kei and I headed down to the East Gate entrance and joined a small crowd of about 30 others brandishing baseball card binders, batting helmets, lineup cards, broken bats, and baseballs.
Fearing the possibility of Kei getting lost in the crowd when Todd emerged, I wisely schooled her in the process of placing yourself in the best possible position to engage a ‘celebrity’ in these situations…
1. Make eye contact
2. Speak the name of the ‘celebrity’ clearly
3. Treat them with respect
4. Don’t forget they are humans
5. Regardless of their attitude, assume that they are absolutely thrilled to meet you
6. Compliment them profusely, yet politely, on their craft
7. Do your business quickly and efficiently
8. Be considerate of others, even if they act like total jerks
9. Most important of all, shake their hand FIRMLY, no exceptions
This was not our first experience meeting a baseball player…almost two years ago to the day, my whole family shared a portion of our day with Ryan Theriot in a much more controlled environment. This would no doubt be a lot different, and perhaps a lot more familiar to me.
In many ways, this experience was just like my experiences of stalking the tour bus from many years past, only in this environment the fans are much more dorkier (myself included) and the stars are MUCH TALLER.
If you’ve ever met a professional musician and are at or about 6 feet in height, you will know exactly what I mean by MUCH TALLER.
I had an unused non-regulation baseball for Kei to get signed, but was only prepared with my scoresheets from the 7/4 extra-innings game and last night’s game for autographs. Todd won both games, the former with a Fielder’s Choice walk-off (RARE) and last night with a SAC Fly RBI walk-off.
For the record, I’m not that much of an autograph geek, but in the past I have never turned down an opportunity to get something scrawled on…especially when I have my scoresheets handy.
It seemed to be only about 15-20 minutes until, one-by-one, players started to file out. I will spare the details of every player that emerged and only share the most pertinent encounters of the evening.
The first player to emerge was Clippers RHP Joe Martinez. This was a profound moment for me, as Joe was the unfortunate recipient of a Mike Cameron line drive to the head in a memorable contest between the Giants and the Brewers in 2009. This was one of the most shocking injuries I’ve seen, as Joe crumpled bluntly to the mound and Cameron was definitively spooked by the incident. I introduced myself and told him I was glad he was well and still working. Joe thanked me and blew off the event politely, but I’m sure I speak for many of us…something like that may make one never want to see a baseball again. Joe didn’t pitch last night, but did pitch well on Monday night…however, out of respect, I didn’t ask him to sign my scoresheet from that game as he earned the loss for the Clippers in extra innings. No Todd yet.
I tweeted with glee when Jason Kipnis was in the lineup (he was not on Monday). I started admiring Kipnis last year, a great player and owner of the Best Batting Stance in Baseball, hands down. As a few Bats were filing out (no Todd yet), I heard an autograph seeker whisper “Kipnis” and I sulked over, introducing myself (“Hey, I follow you on Twitter!”) and professing my admiration for his stance and his work so far. Jason gladly signed last night’s scoresheet, on the side with the Clippers’ lineup. Still no Todd.
This is Mike Costanzo, who was just called up from AA Carolina to join the Bats’ roster for the first time this season. Mike was a 2nd round draft pick by the Phillies in 2005, and has worked in the Phillies and Orioles organizations until playing 16 games for the Independent League Camden Riversharks in 2010, and in the same year signing with the Reds organization. Mike played in 6 games at Louisville last year and compiled a .274/.360/.481 in AA Carolina before the recent callup. Mike was 1-for-3 with two strikeouts, and the victim of an outrageous ball-called-strike that many of the others around us shared his grief in revisiting. Mike signed my scoresheet on the boxes next to his name in the lineup. No sign of Todd yet.
You already know how much I like Scott Carroll this year…he didn’t pitch during the series, but I went out of my way to shake his hand and commend him on his work so far, for which he was genuinely appreciative. I will definitely try to get a ball signed by him as soon as I can! Of course, that’s Scott on the right. No sign of Todd.
No sooner had Scott departed than David Johnson emerged, he pitched 3 perfect innings in extra-innings relief during Monday’s game (the first of which he pitched effectively where 4th of July fireworks were exploding all around him) to earn the W for the Bats. David was very tall, very genuine and was elated to sign my scoresheet from that game, right next to his line on the second page. Still waiting for Todd.
The seekers began to disperse as the players thinned out. Most let us know that Todd was “very cool” and would be happy to sign stuff and talk with us. The clock read 10:51 as the Clippers’ bus departed and the last of the fans to leave shouted to us “Todd still hasn’t come out yet, he’s cool!” We waited patiently as Smoky Garret (Bats hitting coach) emerged at ten after 11. Todd? Not yet.
At 11:30, Kei decided to give up our vigil for the night. We have a game coming up on 7/23 and in an admirably positive tone she gave me the sign that we should disperse for now, but will be back to try again (and ultimately, get a signed ball before her sister has a chance to).
Having waited so long, it was hard not to look back to the doors from time to time as if to catch a glimpse of Todd eventually emerging. Even as our distance from the ballpark became greater, I considered the kind of luck I was born with and knew in my heart that Todd would enter the players’ lot only a few moments after we had left. In fact, several blocks away and much too far to make it back, I could have sworn I did see a man with a towel over his shoulder and a small bag walking up to an SUV in the far corner of the lot.
Kei squinted in that direction, shook her head gently, put her hand on my arm and said with her million-dollar smile “Dad, that’s probably not him. I’m sure of it.”
I love that kid to death, I really do.
Todd, we will be seeing you on the 23rd.
UPDATE (January 30, 2012): We were there on the 23rd, but Todd wasn't...he had been called up to Cincinnati by then. We would have to wait just over 6 months to close the loop.
Kei, Chihiro and I went to the Reds Caravan yesterday (1/29/12) and finally, our quest for Todd is now complete. The girls both got autographed Todd Frazier baseballs, a very nice photo of the three of them together, and I was also fortunate enough to get the 7/4/11 scoresheet signed as well as the ball I had intended to mail to Dirk Hayhurst.See the updated 7/4/11 post for the signed scoresheet.