Saturday morning I had to get up early to get to my favorite place... work. Not really for work, though. Orioles Spring Training tickets went on sale at 10:00, and I had to be at Jillians for the "New Stars for Young Stars" Jimmy Fund benefit signing by 11:30, so the only way to do it was to be at work to get the tix online. Fortunately all the pieces fell together. Got to the office in plenty of time, had my ticket orders complete by 10:04. This gave me time to track down a new silver Sharpie at the bookstore and pick up a couple of books for my niece's son (books on trucks shaped like trucks, with wheels and everything!). Headed over to Jillians for another stroke of good fortune: I had a Gold Ticket entitling me to every player's signature, but I wanted a second one, and when I got to the ticket table, the staff proclaimed that there was only one Gold Ticket remaining.
I wasn't sure how the event would run--I pictured a collectibles-show type setup, with long lines heading to a banquet table. But Jillian's had a great strategy--everyone went to the second floor (the billiards and pool area) to check in, and then people were allowed up to the third floor (bowling!) by ticket type and number, preventing an all-out stampede. The players sat at half-circle booths, two to a booth, with their guests on the inside--this allowed for very easy picture-taking, as the players simply scooted over to make room for attendees to sit/lean next to them. I believe two guests were permitted for each ticket-holder, making it easier for families to attend together. (Only one autograph per player on a ticket, but all could eat, drink and take pictures!) Staff were well organized and helpful. And every one of the young players was friendly and accommodating.
I'd had a tough time of late with the team having lost so many of the guys I really enjoyed taking photos of. I kept looking at my web site, thinking... No Billy. No Kevin. No JD. No John Olerud, Mike Myers... and of course everyone who knows me knows how I feel about no Bellhorn. :( And I just can't get worked up about the new guys until I see them play in Sox uniforms. But this event was a heck of a reminder that there's a lot more in store!
I did get a little preview--from the back of the first line I glanced to see where each player was, and Sargent College fitness evaluation be damned, I started having heart palpitations when I saw Hansen. ;) No hat, of course. Black collared shirt open at the neck. Beautifully ornate silver cross pendant. All I could think was, you know, my "type" really hasn't changed since high school... ^_^
Charlie Zisk (knuckleball pitcher) was a sweetheart.
I gave Manny Delcarmen a print of this photo to sign, and he held it up to Zisk and said, "See? That's the hair." To me: "I'm trying to grow it back!" Me: "Well, we were crushed when you cut it! Don't do that again!" :lol
Next table: Lenny and Bronson. Deep breath. I put down this photo in front of Lenny. He paused. "Can I get a copy of this?" I was floored. Admittedly I think it's a great picture, but I was thrilled that he thought so too! Initially he thought it was from Spring Training; Bronson glanced at it and said, "No, that's Fenway." It was funny to realize that I have probably been to more games at Fenway than Lenny has...!
Bronson obligingly signed the same photo and this one, too (I bought two tickets just for that reason!).
Brandon Moss (outfielder) and Jed Lowrie (second base/shortstop), at the next table, were both unassuming and adorable. I had brought pictures of Moss that I got from an online buddy (thanks, Dave!), but none of us could figure out where they were taken. One photo shows Moss tossing a ball in the air and watching it, and he laughed: "I'm always doing that!"
And last but by no means least, I approached the last table, a little weak in the knees, clutching a 14x20" print of this. I unfurl the photo. "I've seen this one before...!" Oops--sittingstill is busted. (I had brought a 5x7" print of it to the last game of the season, and I suspect he may have remembered it since it did stand out a little; he didn't say a word, but I was imagining the thought bubble as he signed autographs for people: "Ticket, baseball, ticket, hat, baseball, ticket, sexy picture of me, tic--hey...") But he did sign the giant print, and seemed appropriately amused when I said "And I did bring one of you actually pitching, too!" Everyone else signed with blue Sharpies... Hansen opted for black. I tried not to swoon, really I did. Jonathan Papelbon was strikingly handsome, and his wife, by his side, seemed very sweet.
I didn't take too many, but here's a couple of pictures...
Jed Lowrie (just adorable)
Blurry photo of Hansen but you can kind of see the pendant
I gave up on the candid attempts here and basically knelt in front of him. "Craig!" He smiled, and I'm sure he will call security immediately the next time he sees me.
After all that, I still had more to do on Saturday: my far-flung nieces had come to Manchester for a post-holiday visit, and so we had the last event of Christmas 2005. It was a lot of fun, but I think I had moved out of loud-Christmas-party-mode and so it was a bit of a shock to the system. The car ride home was delightfully quiet. ;) And then there was Pats-Jaguars.
Maybe I should do a separate entry for Sunday! ^_^