Saturday, July 23, 2016

Roadtrip to NC

Zippy Zappy Pack Wars were put front and center as I put the blog on autopilot for about ten days. During that time my wife and I added over 2,300 miles and two tires to her car. Somewhere in the middle of Kentucky one of her tires became "out of round" and it felt like we were in the middle of an unbalanced spin cycle on the washing machine. We stopped in Asheville, North Carolina and a Hyundai dealership took real good care of us. Honestly, that was the worst thing during our trip, which really wasn't that bad at all.

There were tons of positives, but I'll keep it to three groupings: activities, food, and baseball cards. If you have the time let me give you a pictorial summary of our trip!

Top Three Activities
 #1: Hiking the Cedar Point Trail
 This trail was easily the best manicured, most interesting, and least buggiest of all the trails we sought out. It's located right along the inter-coastal waterway in North Carolina. We did a couple parts of the trail twice and easily put in three or four miles. It was fun to explore and watch the fiddler crabs.

The picture on the left shows the waterways when the tide was out.
 The one on the right shows an example of a similar waterway once the tide came back in. Such a vast difference.

#2: Attending the Tennessee Smokies Game
Laura, my beautiful wife, loves to make me happy. Check out the view from out hotel room:
Yep, I was able to watch the AA affiliate of the Cubs take batting practice from the comfort of our air conditioned hotel room.  How sweet is that?  The Smokies lost the game 5 to 3, denying the Rally Llama and all of his good mojo.

#3: The Escape Room
While in Charlotte our friends, Mike and Rhonda, took us to an Escape Room. This was completely new to us, but it seems to be a big thing on the east coast in the major cities.
I'm the guy in the back row on the far left.
 In short, you're locked in a room for one hour and must find clues and solve puzzles to unlock a multitude of locks. Once we unlocked the first door there was a second room with more riddles. It was fun, a little stressful, but definitely exciting! If you live near a big city you might be able to try one. Just google "escape room" and see what pops up.

Top Three Foods
#1: Fried Bologna Grilled Cheese with all the vegetables
Holy cow!  What a great tasting sandwich!  This was what I decided on for dinner at the Smokies game and it was so good I may try to re-create it in my own kitchen!

#2: Kunafa at Olea Mediterranean Kitchen
Up until this point, the only Greek dessert I've tried is baklava. And really, who needs anything else? It is soooo good. But, my wife ordered something different and I'm so glad she did. It was a little challenging to eat with a fork, but so very tasty!

#3:  Mellow Mushroom
Picture stolen from the interwebs

I love me some pizza and for a second time Laura and I were not disappointed at the Mellow Mushroom. This eclectically decorated restaurant offers plenty to look at while you wait for your order of deliciousness to be baked and delivered. We would go back . . . again . . . and again . . .

Top Three Baseball Card Purchases
#1:Lew's Rod & Reel
I found this card shop on-line before we started our trip. It's located deep in the heart of the Croatan National Forrest and it easily had the most diverse offerings I've ever seen for a card shop... um, I mean, fishing depot . . . no, no, no... sushi restaurant.
 Crazy, right?
 The shop was nothing like I had seen before. The first half of the store was all fishing equipment, but turn the corner and there were some metal shelves with monster boxes on them and glass cases with cards. In the far back portion of the store there were tables and chairs for the restaurant. 
 I don't fish, and I stopped in after lunchtime serving hours, but I did walk out with thirty singles for my 1997 Metal Universe set build. The owner, Lewis, was going to give them to me for free, because I guess he doesn't run into many set builders and he just wanted to help me out. I refused and gave him all the paper money in my wallet (four bucks) and he gave me half of it back. Cool. Two dollars? Sold!

#2 AAA Collectibles
As odd as an experience Lew's was, AAA Collectibles was everything I picture in a LCS. Glass cases of high-end cards, a bin of discounted autos and relics, a nice selection of packs to purchase, well organized, and a very knowledgeable husband and wife tandem ownership. The wife was upstairs sorting cards and the husband chatted up the customers.

The length of one entire wall, up to about three feet high, was covered in 800-count boxes with labels on them. Some had singles, dating back to the 1950's and others had a simple letter of the alphabet on them. I asked for the S boxes, but only had time to sift threw three of the seven. I pulled a dozen or Ryne Sandberg cards, and I feared the worst when a couple of selections had prices of $9 and $3 on the sleeves. The owner assured me that wouldn't be the price any longer... Each of the Sandberg cards cost me about a quarter on average. Score!

#3: Tennessee Smokies Team Sets
Discounted team sets of baby Cubs?  Sign me up!  My favorite was finding a 2 for $1 special on the concourse during the game which netted me a pair of 2009 team sets.
One for my Sandberg collection and one to keep in the wrapper!

It was really nice to get away. Summer baseball just ended and the fall softball season I coach starts in two days. Squeezing in a vacation between coaching duties was just what was needed. I was able to enjoy the outdoors, even though I wasn't on the baseball or softball fields, as we rented stand up paddleboards and kayaks in Swansboro, NC.  While in Charlotte we squeezed in a round of disc golf, and Mike's seven year old son tossed one in from about sixty-five feet. Pretty amazing.

We ate out a bunch, but we only ate at one national chain the entire trip. I tried lots of new food, and probably should have made the food listing at least five deep as it was difficult leaving off the milkshake from Cookout and the surf and turf burger from the Swansboro Food and Beverage Company. That's right, shrimp and jalapeno cream cheese on a burger. Mmmmm...

When we returned home I found one of our neighbors mowed our yard AND get this... our cats actually seemed interested in us being home. That never happens.

That should just about do it as far as wrapping up our trip goes. Now I have some unwrapping to do, in the form of five trade packages. Stay tuned, my loyal readers, because I have plenty of baseball card blogging material sitting on my desk!  Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 22, 2016

ZZ Pack Wars vs. Stadium Club, Rd. #5

A big thank you to Zippy Zappy for providing the fuel for the latest edition of Pack Wars, which have helped me fill a week's worth of pre-scheduled blogging while I've been on hiatus. As it stands right now, the ZZ repacks have come away with four wins the last four days and have outscored 1991 & 2016 Stadium Club by a total of 24 to 12.
The only question remains is, "How bad is Stadium Club going to lose this round?"

Match-up #1:
Mark Zagunis has given up the catcher's gear. But, he has become a solid hitting outfield prospect at AAA. I don't know much about Kevin Pillar, but he seems really excited to see the ZZ repack get on the board first.

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 1
SC Pack = 0

Match-up #2:
Carson Sands is one of my favorites, but I'm afraid I will break the internet if I don't go with Bartolo here. Stadium Club gets a point out of fear.

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 1
SC Pack = 1

Match-up #3:
BOOM!  Schwarber! Rick Porcello graces the cardboard with another poor cropping job by Topps. You can almost see the entire left foot . . . almost.

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 2
SC Pack = 1

Match-up #4:
Oooooh!  It's a gold parallel of a bearded Matt Kemp running the bases on Tatooine!  But, we also have another Kyuji Fujikawa card from Japan!  It even has the price tag still on it. Points for authenticity!
If you zoom in you might take notice of the refractor like properties of the card. So cool!  Thanks, Zippy Zappy!

I didn't think a gold parallel could lose, but it just went down hard.
Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 3
SC Pack = 1

Match-up #5:
Stadium Club comes rushing back with the Big Hurt next to his own statue at U.S. Cellular Field. Yeah, I like the Big Hurt! Besides, I have more than a couple of copies of Vance Law shopping for baseballs. (Notice the grocery cart in the card?) Point to Stadium Club.

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 3
SC Pack = 2

Match-up #6:
I said I like Carson Sands, but that's a posed picture at spring training.
Holy smokes that's an awesome Mookie Betts card!

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 3
SC Pack = 3

Folks, we have a time ball game!

Match-up #7:
Albert Almora, Jr. has been the goods. Again, I don't like the cropping of the Stadium Club card.  Although, I do like the jersey Greinke is sporting. Some of the seven or eight jerseys they wear are little weird though.

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 4
SC Pack = 3

Match-up #8:
A Chrome Carson Sands versus Jacob DeGrom.
I like DeGrom, but I don't like the Mets. DeGrom's stuff is filthy, but I wish he would get a haircut. This card is cropped decently . . . and wait . . . who's that in the background?
That's my guy, Brandon Hyde! Hyde is the first base coach for the Cubs. I'm also the first base coach for my high school team, which prompted me to buy this game used jersey for $25 at the Cubs Convention.
It fits me perfectly and I've worn it out a couple of times already. Yes, I'm a closet Brandon Hyde fan. This is my first Brandon Hyde card!  Woot!

This point, the last of the last round, goes to Stadium Club.

FINAL Score:
ZZ Pack = 4
SC Pack = 4

Well, it took probably the best set of the year to accomplish this feat, but the Zippy Zappy repack has been tied! The key to the tie was obviously Carson Sands lack of dominance in the clutch. He unfortunately went 0 for 3 in this last round, but he lost to Bartolo, a great shot of Mookie Betts, and a surprise cameo by Brandon Hyde. Don't hang your head, Carson!

I hope everyone has enjoyed this round of Pack Wars. The Zippy Zappy repacks went 4-0-1 against 1991 and 2016 Stadium club in the 5 rounds, which will bring Zippy Zappy's record to a triumphant 14-0-2. Still undefeated overall!

I'd like to thank Zippy Zappy again for supplying a great batch of Cubs cards in the repacks.  Also, thank you for reading!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

ZZ Pack Wars vs. Stadium Club, Rd. #4

Through the first three battles Zippy Zappy's repacks have doubled up Stadium Club by the count of 18 to 9. We'll see nothing but 2016 Stadium Club from here on out though! Is there enough time for Topps to turn the score around?


Match-up #1:
Julio Teheran is one of more talked about pitchers as we near the trading deadline. Ray Burris has some killer sideburns AND has not been subjected to over-cropping. Where's the ball, Julio? Zippy Zappy takes the first point!

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 1
SC Pack = 0

Match-up #2:
'88 Donruss Luis Quinones? Look, I love me some Cubs cards, but Quinones is player I never knew and it's '88 Donruss. Phil Niekro is in the Hall of Fame. This one is pretty cut and dry.

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 1
SC Pack = 1

Match-up #3:
I think Micah Gibbs, a 3rd round pick of the Cubs in 2010, is now out of baseball. That's a gold parallel of Dustin Pedroia, which I'm sure will make some Red Sox fan happy. Right?

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 1
SC Pack = 2

For your information, this is Stadium Club's first lead in this set of Pack Wars. To this day, Zippy Zappy's repacks are UNDEFEATED in fourteen rounds. This is getting very interesting!

Match-up #4:
 
That's a pretty sweet photo of the defensively gifted Kevin Kiermaier. But, it's going up against another new addition to my Fujukawa player collection.  Plus it's a multi-exposure card!

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 2
SC Pack = 2 

And we're all tied up!

Match-up #5:
I think Rusney Castillo is fading into obscurity, but I believe Kyuji Fujikawa is still pitching in Japan. More multi-exposure!

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 3
SC Pack = 2

That was the last card in the hobby pack of Stadium Club, but I have a retail hanger ready to go!

Match-up #6:
The Khris Davis card is very Studio-esque and kind of bland. This Fujikawa card completes the trifecta and must be rewarded with a point!

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 4
SC Pack = 2

Here's all three of the Kyuji Fujikawa cards all lined up!  How cool is that?
Here's the three I bought through an Ebay lot when Fujikawa first signed with the Cubs.
These cards are so cool. I wonder if Topps will ever try anything like this?

Match-up #7: 
Schwarber!  BOOM!  And, it's one I needed! Tom Murphy...  yeah... whatever.

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 5
SC Pack = 2

Match-up #8:
A Dwight Smith card from the The Rookies box set versus Chicken Man. That's a sweet Wade Boggs, plus I'm fairly certain the Smith is a dupe. Point to SC.

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 5
SC Pack = 3

Match-up #9:
I do not like Brandon Crawford. He is very talented and has been very successful with the Giants, but something about him just rubs me the wrong way.
Pete La Cock? What. A. Name. Point to the ZZ repack!

FINAL Score:
ZZ Pack = 6
SC Pack = 3

I think the photography of the 2016 Stadium is better than the 1991 version, but Zippy Zappy has prepared these repacks quite well. Right when SC took a lead the ZZ repack offered up the three multi-exposure Fujikawa cards to rally. I didn't see that coming.

The last battle is tomorrow.  Be sure to stop by!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

ZZ Pack Wars vs. Stadium Club, Rd. #3

After a pair of victories in the first two rounds the Zippy Zappy repacks have a very comfortable 12-6 lead over Topps' Stadium Club. But the 1991 pack, which we started in Round #2, is going to run out of cards soon and the 2016 version will be called on in relief. That might make things a little closer!
Battle #3 starts NOW!

Match-up #1:
Wow, Stadium Club has been unloading the Rangers on me in these two packs . . . Julio Franco, Ruben Sierra and now Juan Gonzalez. But did you see Randy Hundley's sweet sideburns? Sideburns rule!

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 1
SC Pack = 0

Match-up #2:
Commander Cody and Eddie Whitson. Commander Cody is always ready, but I can't necessarily say the same for Eddie there wearing his jacket. Zippy Zappy takes a 2-0 lead!

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 2
SC Pack = 0

Match-up #3:
Whitey Lockman and four coaches versus Randall K. Myers, one of the founding fathers of the Nasty Boys. I'll take the Nasty Boy for the win!

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 2
SC Pack = 1

Match-up #4:
Greg Harris is in awe of Jake Arrieta's 2015 season. I am, too.

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 3
SC Pack = 1

Match-up #5:
A Kyuji Fujikawa card from Japan!  Nice!
A Cardinal? Seriously?
Does the decision get any easier? I don't think so.

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 4
SC Pack = 1

Match-up #6:
Kent Hrbek has his own restaurant in the Minnesota's Target Field. That's pretty cool. Hrbek is also one of the more beloved Twins of all time. But, I am not a Twins fan.  Plus, that's only my second "Power Players" parallel from 2014 and it fits a PC to boot. Nice!

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 5
SC Pack = 1

That was end of the 1991 Stadium Club packs. It's time for reinforcements!

Match-up #7:

Steve Stone's first card as a Cub!
What the heck is David Peralta doing? Is he preparing himself to be doused in Gatorade or something?
Stoney gets the point here, because I'm too confused by Peralta's card.

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 6
SC Pack = 1

Match-up #8:
Awesome card of the great Willie Mays.

Updated Score:
ZZ Pack = 6
SC Pack = 2

Match-up #9:
How many times can recall seeing a card which captures it raining? That's pretty cool.


FINAL Score:
ZZ Pack = 6
SC Pack = 3

Stadium Club takes another loss, but the 2016 brand has a record of 2 wins and 1 loss. That should make it interesting for Round #4!
Thanks again for reading.  I hope you're enjoying Pack Wars!