Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My First Force Attax Cards!

I'm not a big fan of buying cards on eBay, but when it comes to cards that I just won't be able to find anywhere else (at least not anywhere close to where I am) I find myself pulling the trigger on some cards.

And today we have just that. A little while back I purchased some cards on eBay, a set of cards known as Force Attax. Remember Topps Attax from the late 00's and early 10's? Well this is the Star Wars version that for some reason isn't available in America (the seller was based in the UK). As far as I can tell there are two different themes, one set is focused on the six movies and the other one is for the Star Wars The Clone Wars series (one of my favorite Star Wars related things EVER!).
Now within the Clone Wars themed Force Attax cards there have been a few different versions. Which is a natural thing since as time went on the show introduced new characters and also revamped some character designs. Most notably Ahsoka Tano's clothes and the Clone Troopers gear which started shifting from the designs you saw in Episode II and became the designs you saw in Episode III (and eventually turned into the Stormtrooper helmets seen in Episode IV).
Speaking of clone troopers, the two Force Attax cards I purchased were both clones. Why? Because the clone troopers are my favorite part of the Star Wars franchise, PERIOD. I'll explain why in another post.

Anyway one of cards I bought depicts my all-time favorite Star Wars character, Captain Rex.
Yes you read that right, Captain Rex, a clone trooper captain who didn't appear in any of the movies, is my favorite Star Wars character of all time. I'll elaborate more on why I like Rex in that other post that I'm currently working on, but long story short, he's such a cool character that I can't help but regress back into my inner 8 year old and be so blown away by his coolness that I just start jumping up and down and annoying my parents until they buy me his action figure.
Anyway, the Star Wars version of Topps Attax has two things, a Defense statistic and an Attack statistic. If the rules for the baseball version of Topps Attax is used here, then player A and B must both flip a card at the same time and if the player attacking has a higher attack statistic then the opponent's defense statistic, then he wins. But that's IF the rules are still the same.
As you can see, Rex has 68 defense and 62 attack, which is totally bogus, Rex should have 98 defense and 99 attack.

The other clone trooper I bought was Arch Trooper Fives.
Fives is/was a member of Domino Squad, a group of five clone troopers who were kind of like the clones we (the audience) grows up with. One of best things about the Star Wars The Clone Wars series is that it allows the clones to be fleshed out. We don't see them as the expendable soldiers seen in the movies, we see them as ordinary people who are no different from you or me. And with troopers like Fives, we see the evolution of how a clone cadet (and his squad) are deemed fit for battle, how the clones do when they're introduced to war for the first time, and in Fives' case, how he climbs the ranks from an ordinary clone trooper to an Arch Trooper.
Fives will also be featured in the aforementioned post I'm working on, but during Season 6 (the last season of the Clone Wars), Fives was a pivotal character as he discovered Emperor Palpatine's evil plan (Order 66).
Fives only has a 51 defense and 60 attack, which means that in a battle Captain Rex could take him down without a sweat. Although that's to be expected when somebody goes up against Rex.

I wanted to pick up some more clone troopers but my budget wasn't having it. Hopefully sometime in the future I'll be able to pick up some of the other 501st members like Echo, Kix, Tup, Jesse, Hardcase, Dogma and maybe even non-501st clones like Commander Cody.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Week-end TTM Roundup: 6/16-6/21

More weeks, more returns :).

Received On: 6/16/2014

My first return this week was from former Yankees backstop Don Slaught. And boy was this return quite something.
Don Slaught was a catcher in the big leagues who had a playing career that lasted 16 years across 7 different teams. He was originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 7th round of the 1980 MLB player draft and made his debut on July 6th, 1982. He was traded to the Rangers two years later and after that he ended up in New York and playing for the bombers. He spent two seasons in the big apple, posting a triple slash line of .266/.324/.409 in two seasons. He later spent time with the Pirates, Angels, White Sox and Padres and his career ended in 1997.

I actually didn't send Slaught either of the Score cards you see above. I actually sent him this card.

Which he sent back unsigned but also included with other cards of his that were signed. Two of them you saw above, the rest were...

Received On: 6/16/2014

Holy smokes, Don took the time to sign all of those Buccos cards and sent them to me. And I know that he didn't use a stamp or something because every signature is different.
I don't even care that he sent back the original card I sent out unsigned, these six that are signed make up for it and then some.
Talk about a (D)onslaught eh? ... -_-; Yeah I'm sorry.

Received On: 6/17/2014

Next is former Yankee John Olerud.
Olerud needs no introduction. He was one of the best players in the game back in the 90's. Hitting for cycles, being selected to All-Star games, winning gold gloves, being on World Series Champion teams, the guy had a career that every minor leaguer and college/high school baseball player would kill to have. Olerud was also one of those rare players that could jump directly from college baseball to major league baseball without needing any seasoning in the minors. He was a slick defender who always wore his batting helmet even when he was fielding to prevent brain aneurysms, and given how dangerous baseballs that have just been hit off a bat are, I'm semi surprised that more players don't do the same.
Anyway I'm really glad that this return came back to me so quickly. Before I sent the request out the reported returns that popped up were originally sent like 2-3 years ago, and yet here I am receiving this in a matter of 2-3 months. No complaints though, I'm extremely happy to receive an autograph of such an iconic player. Long live Olerud.

Received On: 6/17/2014

This return had me jumping up and down out of pure joy.
Rinku Singh was one of the first two players born in India to play in Minor League Baseball, the other was Dinesh Patel. Rinku Singh is a lefty who was originally a javelin thrower before trying out for the reality TV show, Million Dollar Arm and earning a chance to come to America and win the million dollar prize. Rinku signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008 and he made his professional debut on 2009 with the GCL Pirates. In the process he became the first player from India to ever pitch for a professional baseball team/league in America. While Dinesh Patel only lasted two season over in the US, Singh has still remained here and is currently looking to bounce back in 2015 as his 2013 season was derailed by injuries and his 2014 season never started thanks to Tommy John surgery. I really hope Singh manages to make it to the majors though. I'm all for players from places not known for baseball (which is pretty much anywhere that's not America, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Japan, South Korea or the Netherlands) and we are long overdue for a player from India.

Received On: 6/21/2014

My last return this week was from former Yankee Charles Hudson.
Charles Hudson was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1981 and made his debut with the Phillies two years later. He stayed in Philly for a few seasons before being traded to the Yankees in 1987. During his two seasons in New York, Hudson was primarily a reliever (although he did start close to 40% of the games he appeared in) and had a 3.97 ERA and a 1.238 WHIP with the team. He was traded to the Tigers in 1989 and his career ended that year due to a accident he got into while driving under the influence. Allegedly he began having alcoholic tendencies when he started to struggle as a professional baseball player. I'm amazed at how so few many of these kinds of guys are around today, in the 1890's they were everywhere, what happened?

Anyway, big thanks to Mr. Slaught, Olerud, Singh and Hudson for the awesome autographs.
And as always, thanks to you (the reader) for stopping by yet again. As always, take care :).

2014 TTM Count: 112


Monday, June 16, 2014

2014 Staten Island Yankees Home Opener!

Okay so this past week was Opening Day for the Staten Island Yankees. The home opener was originally supposed to be on 6/13/2014 but due to bad weather the game was postponed and instead the home opener was held on Sunday (6/15/2014) and the postponed game was made up for with a double header. Needless to say, I was pumped. After weeks and weeks of waiting, real baseball is finally back!

Now this year the roster consisted of a few repeaters. Which was bittersweet in that I was glad to see some familiar faces, but also bummed to see that some of these guys didn't get bumped up to the next level.
Let me show you by using the custom cards I made using photographs courtesy of Staten Island Yankees reporter, Robert Pimpsner (thanks again Rob! :)). And these were also signed by the players.

First is Sam Agnew-Wieland who was the starter for Game 1 of the double header. Sam is an awesome dude, I had a few conversations with him last year and he really liked the custom cards I made for him/the team last year :).

Next is Bubba Jones, one of the nicest players you'll ever meet. After he led the team in batting average last year I assumed that he was going to get the bump to Charleston, I was unfortunately wrong.

David Palladino is a 6'9" giant who was the Opening Day starter for the SI Yanks. After throwing 6 no-hit innings last year I thought he was also going to get the bump to Charleston. Unfortunately I was wrong again.

Dillon McNamara is a fan favorite in Staten Island. Mostly because he himself is from Staten Island. Last year he was a reliever but this year he's been inserted into the rotation.

Andy Beresford was a reliable piece of the SI Yankees bullpen last year. This time I made the mistake of asking him to sign my custom with a pen instead of sharpie that I was too lazy to retrieve from my pocket.

Andury Acevedo was originally signed as an infielder by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007 but came to the New York Yankees organization as a minor league free agent. After his arrival the Yankees converted Acevedo into a pitcher (more specifically a reliever). While it did take some getting used to, Acevedo is starting to make some progress.

Daniel Lopez was signed in 2009 as a free agent and destroyed the DSL and GCL but started to falter once he came to Staten Island. This is his third season with the low-A ball affiliate, as much as I'd hate to say it, time may be running out for him.

After destroyed the GCL in 2010, Isaias Tejeda is now entering his fourth season with the SI Yankees. He was the starting catcher in Game 1 of the double header.

Cale Coshow was the starter for Game 2 of the double header. While Coshow did walk a few guys his command was pretty good. He's a big guy who (I'm hoping) will at least make it to Tampa.

And here is Radley Haddad. Haddad was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Yankees last year and spent 5 games with the team before being sent down to the GCL where he spent the rest of the season. This year he was in Tampa for a little while before being assigned to Staten Island again. Haddad was the bullpen catcher in Game 1 and the starting catcher in Game 2 of the double header.

Alright, now that we're done with the repeaters, lets look at some of the newer faces in town.

First up is Thairo Estrada. Out of all of the guys on the current SI Yankees roster, Estrada might have the highest ceiling. He's a very solid shortstop with good bat and good defense. In Game 1 Estrada walked and stole second, which would be important as he later came home on a sacrifice fly courtesy of...

Chris Breen was drafted by the Yankees back in 2012 and has slowly (but steadily) climbed the ladder up. Although he was drafted as a catcher, the Yankees appear to be trying to move Breen to other positions. In Game 1 he was the DH while in Game 2 he was the first baseman.

Here is Renzo Martini. An infielder with some power, Martini was signed as a free agent in 2010 and spent the last few seasons in the DSL and GCL. He put up pretty decent stats (take that for whatever it's worth) and has finally made it to a minor league affiliate that's open to the public.

Next up is a couple of Bo Thompsons.
Bo was drafted just this year in the 13 round of the draft and he is a pretty big human being. And naturally he also posses a lot of home run power, the kind you expect your first baseman to have. Prior to the draft Bo went to The Citadel and played baseball during his college years at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park, aka the home of the Charleston Riverdogs. If Bo flashes the power potential the Yankees drafted him for he may find himself back at "The Joe" very soon.
Now you may have noticed that I made two different cards for Bo. A normal SI Yankee version and a college baseball version. That's primarily because I thought I'd try making college baseball cards of the recent draftees. And Bo's not alone.

Although he's not on the Staten Island Yankees roster (yet), Sean Carley was present during the double header. And man oh man, this guy is one of the coolest dudes you will ever meet. Before the games he interacted with a lot of fans (he did that even after both games ended), signed autographs and looked like he was really having the time of his life.
I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't really recognize Carley at first because he had shaved his Kenny Powers-esque beard off, but Carley understood and we both had a laugh. I've gotta say though, I kind of want to make an exception for the Yankees' No Beard Rule just for Carley. I mean look at this beard.

Matt Wotherspoon was drafted by the Yankees in the 34th round a week or so ago and he has already found himself in the Staten Island Yankees bullpen. He was pretty curious about my homemade cards.

Collin Slaybaugh was drafted by the Yankees in the 26th round of this year's draft. The catcher/outfielder appears to still be a catcher/outfielder. Which is to say that every roster sheet I see (all from official sources) either lists Slaybaugh as a catcher or an outfielder. I would say that the team/world needs to make up it's mind, but I guess it just goes to show how versatile Slaybaugh is. BTW, Slaybaugh scored the winning run in Game 1 which was courtesy of this next guy.

Ty McFarland was drafted by the Yankees in the 10th round of the draft this year and he was the hero in Game 1. The game was already in extended innings, the ninth inning to be exact (note, in the NYPL double headers are usually 7 innings long), McFarland came up to the plate with the bases loaded and walked, resulting in a literal walk-off.

Now that ends the IP autographs I got on my custom cards. Now I'll share with you the autographs I managed to get on real cards made by companies.

One of the names that I was really excited to see on this year's roster was Austin Aune. Aune was drafted in the 2nd round back in the 2012 MLB draft and despite being a pretty talented quarterback, he chose to go with baseball when the Yankees picked him. He spent 2012 and 2013 in the GCL but he's finally here folks. The Aune train is finally here. BTW, Aune's name is pronounced "oh-nee."

I also had Austin sign this really cool card from 2012 Elite Extra Edition that featured him, Peter O'Brien (the home run masher whose currently in Trenton) and another new SI Yankee, Nathan Mikolas.
Mikolas was drafted in the third round of the 2012 MLB player draft. While his career as a professional baseball player has not gone as smoothly as he would've liked, there is still plenty of time for Mikolas to break out and turn into the high batting average hitter that scouts said he could be.
Now if only I could get Peter's signature...

Ethan Carnes was also present this year. Currently he's a reliever and he is a really nice guy. He interacted with a lot of the fans and even asked some people what their names were. He also noticed how one of the cards I had was a chrome card. I wanted to ask him what else he knew about baseball cards but the game was about to start so I decided against it and just thanked him for signing my cards.

And finally, I got Jake Anderson's autograph.
Taylor "Jake" Anderson was drafted by the Yankees in 2010 and spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons in the GCL (with a short stint in Tampa). Although he's listed as an outfielder on the card, the Yankees appear to be trying Anderson out in the infield as he's listed as a second baseman on the SI Yankees website. He's yet to make his SIY debut so I'm not sure if he's going to really man the infield though.

Alright, Zippy Zappy used the word finally. That means that this post is over right? WRONG! I got a few more signatures.

Because the season hasn't even been going on for a week I didn't have photographs for a pretty significant chunk of the roster. So for the players that I didn't get to make cards of, I asked them to sign a ball I brought with me. Unfortunately getting a lot of the pitchers were hard and I ended up with only four signatures on the ball, but four is still A LOT better than none so I'm not complaining.

The four guys are (from top to bottom):
*Chad Taylor
*Tim Giel
*Elvin Perez
*Brady Steiger

Hopefully I can make custom cards for the other guys on the roster soon (if/when I do I'll go into detail about them).

Now we've reached the last two autograph related things I want to show off share with you guys. In their home opener the Staten Island Yankees were facing their arch rival, the Brooklyn Cyclones (the short season affiliate of the New York Mets). This rivalry has been described as the biggest/best in minor league baseball and has been dubbed as "The Battle Of The Boroughs." And naturally I had a few Mets cards I had signed in person too.

One is Casey Meisner.
Meisner was drafted by the Mets in the third round of the 2013 MLB player draft. Meisner projects to be a solid starting pitcher. With a low 90's fastball, decent change-up and pretty good curveball, Meisner has a pretty high ceiling.

Now here is the other Cyclones IP auto I managed to get, Gaither Bumgardner.
Gaither was drafted by the Mets in the 23rd round of the 2013 MLB player draft. Based on the reports I've read (and to be honest there aren't that many) it looks like Bumgardner might end up as reliever if he makes it to the majors.

Okay, this post has gone on for far too long so I'll just wrap this up by noting what else I needed to say about the Staten Island Yankees 2014 home opener.

*The SI Yankees and BRK Cyclones split the double header. The Yankees took game 1 (2-1) and the Cyclones took game 2 (2-3).

*The SI Yankees were attempting to try and break the record for largest gathering of people with fake mustaches. A noble effort but they really messed up when they decided to count everybody during Game 2 of the doubleheader. Why does that constitute as them messing up? Because after Game 1 ended almost everybody who came to the stadium (which wasn't a whole lot to begin with) practically left. By the time the team started giving out mustaches and counting them the only people left in the place were the players, employees, and just barely 100 fans. And no the team didn't break the record.

*The SI Yankees were doing a special promotion and giving out scarves to the first few hundred fans who came to the game. I think this was only supposed to be given out to fathers (since it was fathers day) but since the people giving them out just handed one to me I took it. I haven't taken mine out of the plastic yet but it will serve me well once the cold harsh winter comes and takes away our baseball season.

Anyway, the 2014 Staten Island Yankees season is finally here :)!
Here's to hopefully doing better than how the team did last year (last place finish in the division).

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

2014 IP Auto Count: 77 (I've reached my goal :)!)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Week-end TTM Roundup 6/9-6/14

Happy Fathers day everybody. I didn't get a ton of returns back this week, but I got some nice one regardless :).

Received On: 6/9/2014

What better way to start off this week than with a return from a top prospect that I initially deemed a long shot, JULIO URIAS!
Julio Urias was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012, apparently just 5 days after he had turned 16. In 2013 he was already up in low-A ball and struck out 67 strikeouts in 54 innings. He was under a pretty strict pitch count in 2013 but as time goes on he team should start stretching out his innings pitched. At age 17 he's already become one of the top 100 prospects in all of baseball (#51 on Baseball America's Top 100 list). Right now it looks like the Dodgers are in no rush to speed up his development and plan on taking it nice and easy with his growth. After all, by the time Urias is finally ready most of the starters in the Dodgers rotation will be long gone.

Received On: 6/9/2014

My last return was from non other than, Ty Hensley!
Ty Hensley was drafted in the first round of the 2012 MLB Player Draft (30th overall). The righty's arsenal features a mid-90's fastball, mid-70's curveball and low-80's change up. In 2013 Hensley had to undergo hip surgery due to femoroacetabular impingement but he still has the potential to be a front-of-the rotation starter in the big leagues (after all, it wasn't a major arm surgery).

So those were my returns. Thanks again to Urias and Hensley for the sweet ink.
And thank you (the reader) for stopping by and as always, take care :).

2014 TTM Count: 110

*Baseball America Issue Number 1410
*The Lost Collector: Q&A with Marci Hensley, mother of Yankees 2012 first rounder Ty Hensley

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sega Card Gen: "Rare" Foil Cards

So as we've established, Sega Card Gen is a pretty unique set that's not quite like anything else Topps has ever put out. That said however, Sega Card Gen does have some elements that your typical modern day Topps set has. Variations and redemptions.
The latter will be a topic for another day but I would like to talk about the former today, more specifically the foil cards in Sega Card Gen.

Now "variations" might not be the right word to call these cards as the foil cards are so different from the normal base cards that they might as well be classified as separate entities. Plus prior to 2011 these cards weren't even foil cards. So I'm going to call them what the Japanese call them, "rare(s)." (Note, in Japan people refer to base cards as "commons" and notable cards as "rares")

Base (left), Rare Foil (right)

These rares are just a 60-card subset in Sega Card Gen.
In order to have a rare card, the player on it must have 7 or 8 stars. Meaning that the subset is limited to only the elite and top players currently in the game. Although there are unique exceptions (we'll get to those later).
If the few photos of Sega Card Gen cards during it's planning stage that have managed to leak online are any indication, these rare cards were going to be a part of the game from the very get go. After all, you can't have a set of gaming cards needed to play an arcade game without power ups.

As mentioned before, these rare cards are pretty different from the normal base cards. Here's why.

On the left we have a normal base card of Hanley Ramirez from 2013 Sega Card Gen. On the right we have a rare foil card of Hanley Ramirez from 2013 Sega Card Gen.
Notice how the pictures are different. One's an awesome dugout shot (seriously, that photo is amazing) and the other is HanRam fielding with a big ass Sega Card Gen logo (that's hard to see in person unless you're in the right light) plopped right behind him. The designs are a bit different too. On the base card the player name, position and team name are written on the bottom and "SEGA CARD-GEN 2013" is written on the top. On the rare foil card the player name, position and team name are written on the top and "SEGA CARD-GEN 2013" is written on the bottom.
Now let's look at the backs.

On the left we have a normal base card of Hanley Ramirez from 2013 Sega Card Gen. On the right we have a rare foil card of Hanley Ramirez from 2013 Sega Card Gen.
For the most part they look pretty similar but the two cards have two different bios written on them. The base card on the left talks about how HanRam is a 5-tool player and how he got traded to the Dodgers in mid-2012. The rare foil card on the right talks about how HanRam is one of the biggest names in the MLB and how he racked up 92 RBIs, how fast he is and complements his defense.
You'll also notice that the rare foil card is better than the normal base card by one point (78 vs 77). That's because the foil cards adds one point to one of the five categories. In this case HanRam has level 17 speed instead of level 16 speed.
Oh and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how the card number on the base card is J13-265/390 while the card number on the rare card is R38/60.

And this is how it is with every rare foil card.
Other than that, these rare cards also give you a small advantage in the arcade game. Sega has yet to issue an official explanation about what these rare cards actually do in the game but anybody whose played the game with some rares will tell you that they work a lot better than the normal base cards. Most notably how the players are much more likelier to get a hit or get more strikeouts (especially when you're not operating them).

Earlier I mentioned that there were some players who had foil cards under unique circumstances. We'll let's look at some of them.

These particular rare cards are special limited edition cards given out to people who win Sega Card Gen tournaments. Yes, you read that correctly, there are Sega Card Gen tournaments. People (usually like 16 people) come into an arcade where the tournament is being hosted, compete with a few other people and the grand prize winner gets one of the special rare foil cards seen above. There are runner up prizes for the other participants too but I'll get to those another day.
These special rare foil cards are all Japanese players (which makes sense since the game is being played in Japan by mostly Japanese gamers).

Unfortunately I never got to pick up any of these because the price tags were ridiculously high (one retailer was selling a Dice-K rare foil prize for $200). But luckily saved images from Yahoo Auction! will save us.

This is a Big Hirok rare foil card prize from 2012. And every time I look at it I break out into a rash and feel sad and empty that I didn't get to get one for myself.
Anyway, you can see that there's a small trophy printed on the front.

The back is quite extravagant. Look at the big ass "Congratulations!" on it.
Ugh, I should've picked this card up! GAH!

Alright, I'm going to end this post before I need anti-depressants. I'll close out this post by showing how the rare cards have evolved since 2009.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care :).






Some of these images were courtesy of Mint. Japan's second biggest second hand market for Sega Card Gen cards. Others were courtesy of the official Sega Card Gen website.