That's OK, ML, I've Got My George Sherrill Ball Now.
I'm sure I've mentioned it 'round here at some point, or somewhere in the blogs in general, but I don't remember where. Anyway -- to explain the headline a bit...
Now, if you don't know by now, I'm probably George Sherrill's biggest fan outside of those who are related to him. And, I'm also an avid baseball card, autograph, and other memorabilia collector. So, naturally, one would assume that I would have a nice little collection of George Sherrill autographed stuff. Actually, up until today, the only thing I owned (other than this web log, of course) was his 2004 Tacoma Rainiers card that came with the set I bought from the team store earlier this year.
Every year the Tacoma Rainiers usually have a free autographed baseball giveaway. You have to get there early, of course, and once you finally go through the line, they give you the baseballs in a little paper bag. You have absolutely no idea who you're going to get. Of course, it's relatively easy to get autographs in Tacoma anyway, so why it's such a big deal to go to autographed ball night, I'm not exactly sure. This year, thanks to my brother-in-law getting there WAAAAAY early and letting my then 3-year-old cut in line with him (rather than having to wait in the hot sun with a 3-year-old) , I got two bags (one for me and one for my kid). The first one I opened contained an autograph from Ramon Santiago. Hmm. Neat. The next one I opened had one from Damian Moss, that game's starting pitcher. Hey, that was pretty cool.
After spending a few minutes deciphering which ball my brother-in-law got, we determined it was a Jose Lopez ball. Waaaay cool! So, we went into the park to find our seats. As we were kinda hanging out at the front of the stadium, watching batting practice, I noticed a fellow P-I blogger "ML" who frequented games at Cheney. He and his mom had just sat down, and they were opening their bags. I don't remember who his mom got, but I remember very, very clearly that ML got one of George Sherrill's. Nice. ML knows how much of a George Sherrill fan I am, and he visits this site on occasion. Being the deal monger I am (having successfully traded my 1985 Topps Mark McGwire rookie for a then-"extremely-rare" 1989 Upper Deck "High Number" Jerome Walton and Gregg Olson -- a trade to this day I call my "Slocumb" deal), I quickly offered ML my Ramon Santiago ball. Naturally, being the smart guy he is, he declined. If there were some way, however, I could convince my brother-in-law to swap it for his Lopez ball, then the George ball was mine...
Obviously I got nowhere on that front. So, the three of us found our seats and, as per usual for me at Cheney, started gabbing with folks around us. One of my coworkers was a season ticket holder last year, and we sat in his general vicinity. He also knew of my general George fandom, and pointed out this gentleman that had received a George-signed ball, too. It seemed like they were popping up everywhere, except in my hands! I approached the gentleman and gabbed with him a bit, then asked if he'd like to swap the George ball for my Damian Moss ball -- emphasizing that Damian Moss was the night's starting pitcher. In spite of my best finagling, he was a Cheney regular, and was well aware of talent gap between Damian Moss and George Sherrill. In this particular section, especially, George had a bit of a following. He was one of the guys who would chant "We Want George!" when Masao Kida trotted in from the 'pen in a save situation. Any chance that swap was made? Nada.
A long story and a few months later, I have my autographed George Sherrill baseball.
As I said in the comments on my previous post (and over at Deanna's Marinerds blog), I "played hooky" from work this afternoon to go wait in line with the other M's fans as the IKEA Mariners Caravan made its stop in my home town -- Olympia. Now, before you go off on me about that whole playing hooky thing -- I'm being rather sarcastic. I formally asked my supervisor if it was OK for me to take the afternoon off (specifically telling her what for), and she granted me permission. Actually, as I'll explain later, it's a good thing I was honest and asked for permission up front, rather than for forgiveness later...
After leaving work, I got to the mall at about 1:30. I gabbed with Aaron, the Olympia team store manager, for a bit, and then grabbed some lunch. I didn't really expect to see anyone waiting in line that early, but I wanted to gauge the scene. If Felix, Richie, Adrian, Raul, Kenji, or Ichiro were scheduled to have been there, well, there would've been a line at 1:30. Heck, if Jamie would've stayed on the bus, there might've been a few people around then. Anyway, so I took my time eating, stopped at a few places around the mall, and then went back to shop at the team store. I gabbed some more with Aaron, and then picked out an gift to give to George to pass along to elsid (I'll call ya later, Sid, and 'xplain).
That killed about an hour. Finally about 3:30, a few other people started showing up. I was reading the blogs on my PDA phone, and then checked my e-mail. Once I replied to Larry Stone's e-mail asking for an e-mail address from the guys at Lookout Landing, I started gabbing with these folks. Just before 4:00, I noticed George walking in with JJ soon after. Then the rest of the folks on the caravan showed up to set up shop. I almost grabbed George as he walked down the mall, but decided not to bug him. It was totally funny how completely inconspicuous both he and JJ were. I seriously doubt if anyone other than me knew who they were. They strolled down the mall towards the food court.
It took about 10 minutes or so for them to set everything up, and I noticed people from what I suspected was the local media starting to interview people. This guy with a $2000 Nikon digital SLR that I totally coveted was gabbing with the people who arrived early enough to be first in line. In spite of their generous recognition that I was ahead of 'em in line, I let them in, and let the line build up a bit before I got in. I wanted to be conspicuous, I suppose, and knowing that I wanted to chat with George a few, I didn't want to hold up the line too much.
About 5 minutes later, the Moose showed up. Of course, when HE (or she, not sure which) showed up, the crowd went nuts. I'm quite certain I was the only one who picked up on the fact that George Sherrill and JJ Putz were able to walk inconspicuously through the crowd at the mall (aside from my near doing-so) completely without interruption . Contrast that with the Moose's arrival, and it wasn't even close. Heck, JJ and George probably could've been in half uniform, and they still wouldn't've been noticed (though they likely would've caused a little more of a stir were they in full uniform).
A few minutes later, a gentleman came up to me and said "You're a Mariner's fan, right?" Being the generally friendly guy I am, I continued the conversation. After his second question, he introduced himself as Gail Wood, a reporter for The Olympian. I'm probably grasping at straws here, but in putting two and two together, I think he probably got a bit of a scoop from Aaron. I'd talked with Aaron quite a bit about my general fandom of George, and how I've become friends with his brother. I suspect he pointed Gail in my general direction to get a bit of the sub-story here.
Anyway, Gail and I gabbed for a bit (I'm sure using 'gab' quite often aren't I -- I should grab my thesaurus.com), as he jotted down notes using my pen (his brand new one didn't seem to want to spit out ink). He'd mentioned that he was supposed to meet with George and JJ earlier, and didn't get a chance to. After spotting George down the mall a bit (with a fresh cup of Starbucks in hand), I pointed Gail in his general direction. He thanked me and rushed off to meet with George. It's a good thing I'd asked for permission to leave work early -- I divulged the "secret" of being a state worker to Gail, which will probably be mentioned as part of the story in the Olympian tomorrow. Of course, state workers have leave just like normal folks -- and I legitimately used mine, so those of you who complain about state workers (and that being an oxymoron) being lazy, tough. This isn't one of those times.
To make a really, really long story short, the line started moving, and I got to approach George. The lady in front of me was kinda confused about the procedures, and held me up a bit, as I passed my baseball for George to sign. They were smart in getting a head start in signing all the mini-posters ahead of time. They'd only have to pause a moment for guys like me who had baseballs, bats, hats, shirts, and what-have-yous. But, of course, the line would have to pause a bit while I introduced myself to George. Gail had stopped me in line, and assured me that George knew of me, so I introduced myself as "Probably the biggest George Sherrill fan outside of those who are related to you" (paraphrasing a bit). We got to gab for a minute as I handed him the present with instructions to pass along to Sid. Yes, Deanna, he knew of this blog, though I don't think he's been here yet. He's got the address now, so we'll see if some comments start appearing from "GS52" or some other blogger name. Unfortunately, though, he had to take a rain check on my offer for dinner or coffee.
By 5:15 the line was pretty much gone. A few stragglers came by for autographs, and one in particular I'm indebted to -- a) for not running of with my digital camera and b) for snapping this picture of me and George. Heh. It's actually a decent picture of me, and (Deanna) a great picture of George. I'm not displaying it automatically on the page, though, so it's your choice if you want to see what I look like. I doubt I'm going to make the list of "Cutest M's Bloggers" anytime soon, though, were someone to take that task upon themselves. All that really matters to me is that my wife, who's known me since Jr. High, thinks I'm cute. At least she used to...
I will, however, post a few pictures that turned out. I didn't take a ton, and the one with JJ Putz in it didn't turn out. Oh, yeah. Speaking of Putz -- I did talk to him, too. I told him not to give up any more of George's runs -- it was clear I was ribbing him, but he still didn't pay much attention to me, even when I told him to kick ass this season. Anyway, on to those pictures:
Well, I finally have my George Sherrill Autographed Baseball. I'm looking forward to see what actually ends up in the Olympian tomorrow about me and my experience.
Edit: 1/12 -- The article in the Olympian is up this morning -- yep, I'm in there. Photo Gallery, I'm sure, will come soon. So far, no pictures of me yet --I kept ducking out of the pictures people were taking of the Moose :-)