Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ode to the Vogelmonster

Dan Vogelbach is a first baseman for the Double A Tennessee Smokies in the Southern League.  He was drafted in the second round in the 2011 June Amateur Draft out of high school by the Chicago Cubs and he immediately was touted as having one of the best "hit tools" in the Cubs' minor league system.

Vogelbach was drafted five months before Theo Epstein started preaching plate discipline.  He entered the Cubs' system with a mature approach at the plate, but from what I've read he spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons working on driving the ball to the opposite field and being more selective at the plate.  The Midwest and Florida State Leagues aren't known as hitters' leagues, but he put up some decent power numbers and about a 13% walk rate during those seasons. Pretty good for a guy

He played in the Arizona Fall League in 2014 and nearly registered an OBP of 0.400.  Yet, he doesn't get the notoriety by major Cubs' pundits for three reasons:
1. Everyone wants to talk elite talent, e.g. - Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell
2. He's a big man at 250 pounds and 6' tall and he only plays first base
3. First base at Wrigley Field is occupied by Anthony Rizzo through 2021

I don't think those factors are on Vogelbach's radar.  At least his performance at the plate doesn't show any signs of it.

This year he is mashing at a whole different level.  Vogelbach has already been awarded with "Hitter of the Week" honors by the Southern League and he has yet to cool off.  Check out these statistics through the first couple weeks of the season:

Those numbers are gaudy!

The Quad City River Bandits in 2013 posted a picture of Mike Wazokski, from Monsters Inc, on the score board when Dan Vogelmonster came to bat.  I was in attendance at the game and I have referred to Dan Vogelbach as The Vogelmonster ever since.  At the time it may have been a good-natured jab by the River Bandits at an opposing player, but I think it fits because he's a big man who can terrorize opposing pitchers.  Baseball needs more nicknames and I jumped in on the ground floor with this one.

If you're a frequent reader of my dribble, then you probably recall my affinity for The Vogelmonster.  Heck, this is my second post dedicated to Dan Vogelbach in my blog's humble history.

He may not be a former #1 draft pick and he's not going to win many foot races, but he is fun-loving ballplayer who has his head screwed on straight.  Oh . . . and yeah, he can punish a baseball.  Yep, he's my favorite player in baseball (including MLB) and I wanted to share his early success with you and honor him with my first poetry writing attempt since my high school days.

I give you...

Ode to the Vogelmonster

Vogelmonster carries a big stick
He mashes homers with merely a flick
All the pitchers cower with fear
While The Smokies’ fans loudly cheer
For favorite player he’s my pick
I've seen The Vogelmonster play in person in Peoria, Kane County, and the Quad Cities.  He was even nice enough to sign a card for me before a Cougars home game in 2013.  Now that he's back in the midwest, after a season in Daytona, I may have to make a special trip to Kodak, Tennessee.

Keep on raking, Dan!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Quick PWE from 2 by 3

A received a nice PWE from 2 by 3 Heroes recently and I thought I would show off how its contents.  Jeff's surprise PWEs always seem to fit perfectly in my collection.

For instance, everyone needs a card picturing a trout talking to a penguin.  How cool is that?

I didn't own a Billy McKinney card until now.  I'm not sure how Billy fits into the Cubs' plans, but it's nice to have so much talent down on the farm.

Speaking of talent . . .  a shiny CJ Edwards and a sparkly Junior Lake!  Junior had his window of opportunity, but unfortunately he didn't jump through it. And now he's probably trade fodder.
CJ Edwards?  I'm predicting he'll be in the bullpen in early August and CJ will find himself in some high leverage innings during September.  He has FILTHY stuff.

Lastly, two of the big dogs.  Arrieta is the de facto ace of the staff (until Lester gets his head out of his butt).
 Rizzo has taken that Kris Bryant kid under his wing.  Look at that . . . Rizzo, at 25, is becoming a young veteran leader.

Thanks for the nice surprise, Jeff.  I'm got a few things I've been saving for you and I'll drop them in the mail here before too long.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Teacher's Kick Grass

Last summer was the first in which I didn't participate in a team sport since I was five years old. Slow-pitch softball has been a big part of my summer nights for the last couple of decades.  I'm one of those weird guys who like to dive, get dirty, and run around like a madman on defense . . . but I had suffered an injury to my throwing shoulder and I was pretty upset.  I could care less about hitting so I retired my glove until I could get my shoulder fixed.

In the meantime I've signed a not so lucrative free agent deal to play kickball with my co-workers. Meet the team, Teacher's Kick Grass:
For the record:
1) I'm the one with the little guy on is shoulders
2) Those aren't gang signs my teammates are flashing... they're A-pluses!

We played Strong Ballers in the rain this evening and defeated them 12 to 0 in seven innings. I got an inning in the outfield, one at first, and I pitched four shutout innings.  At the plate I reached all three times and scored a pair of runs.  More importantly, it was fun.  I needed that.

I may try convincing my athletic director to let us borrow the inflatable eagle the high school football team runs though for our next game.   Yeah, it's a fun group!

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Shot of Andrenaline

I have tomorrow's date circled on my calendar for a couple of months now.  It'll be my first Cubs game of the year!

Even though my boys in blue are playing well right now I'm still taking abuse from the Cardinal fans at work:

"Oh, you're going to the Cubs game tomorrow?  Make sure you use the restroom before you walk into Wrigley!"

Yeah, yeah. The Cubs had to bring in port-a-potties to help ease the long lines a the rest rooms during this time of construction.  Funny. 

But guess what?  I don't care.  And here's reason number one:
That's right.  And I will be there in person freezing my tail off. 

Life. Is. Good.   #GoCubsGo

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

2015 Panini Stars & Stripes

I've had my eye on this set for awhile. I didn't jump on board with the 2013 version of Stars and Stripes, because I didn't know it was out there.  I consider myself a little bit of a prospector and like the idea that Panini doesn't have to work around the absence of MLB logos.

Let's break open a pack and see what it's all about.

The first card is a guy I don't know, but I'm okay with that.  Austin Bergner is a junior in high school and won't be eligible to be drafted until the summer of 2016.
 The backs of the cards have a simple write up about the player's history as member of the USA National Team(s) and a few stats.  I wish they didn't use the same photo as the front, but I have to figure there probably aren't too many pictures floating around of these guys. How neat would it have been if the player was featured in their USA uniform on the front and then their high school or college uniform on the back?  I could dig that.

Alejandro Toral was born in 1999.  Let's not talk about him.  He's just going to make me feel old.
A.J. Minter is a junior pitcher at Texas A&M and started off the season strong, but he had Tommy John surgery last month.  Good luck with your rehab, A.J.

 Justin Garza is a junior pitcher at Cal St. Fullerton.  He's healthy and will be draft eligible this summer.
Matt Chapman, and third baseman, was drafted by the Athletics in the first round of the 2014 amateur draft.  He go his feet wet in the Midwest League last summer and struggled a bit. He has yet to play in 2015.

L.T. Tolbert captured the MVP award from the Under Armour game at Wrigley Field last August.  He's a senior in high school and has a commitment to play for the Gamecocks next spring.

On to the inserts!

The Crusade inserts are shiny and thick.  Maybe it's my Swedish bloodlines, but I really like the yellow and blue background.  And like most card collectors, I'm a sucker for shiny!
Austin Meadows was drafted seven slots after Kris Bryant in the 2013 draft. He's off to a hot start in the Florida State League and owns a lifetime 0.320 minor league average.  From everything I've read it sounds like the Pirates have a pretty nice prospect on their hands, but the Bucs' outfield right now is stacked: Polanco, Marte, and some guy named McCutchen.

Daz Cameron, the son of Mike Cameron, is high school outfielder in Georgia who graduates his May.  He is being touted by many of the draft pundits as a first round talent.  
The Fireworks insert is not particularly shiny, but it is well done. There are other insert sets in Stars & Stripes including Champions, Statistical Standouts and Diamond Kings. I'm pretty stoked about the Diamond Kings.

It'll be fun to follow some of these guys as they make the jump to professional baseball.  And who knows, maybe there are some future Cubs in the mix.  Theo likes to draft guys who have already gone through Tommy John surgery . . . yep, I'm looking at you A.J. Minter.

I didn't build a set from any of the 2014 products, but I think I'm going to splurge on a box or two of Panini's Stars & Stripes.   Perhaps I'll even hit a Kris Bryant auto?  Yeah, I know... I won't hold my breath.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Making Saw Dust

Spring break came and went for this math teacher in a hurry.  Most of it is my own fault because I spent way too many hours in the workshop creating saw dust from 1" by 16" boards.

I received an uber-generous amount of greenbacks from my parents during the holiday season (read: last December), and they were earmarked for a new flat screen television for my man room.

The old set up.
Watching modern day programming and DVDs, which are set up for a rectangular ratio, on an almost square tube-style television was making me cantankerous. Yet, I promised myself I wouldn't purchase the new flat screen until I built a TV stand for it.

Fast forward nearly four months . . . 

Fire up the power tools!  The pile of boards above would slowly take shape in something even my cat, Gus, would like to hangout on.  Lots of saw dust for sure!

 The TV stand I crafted wound up being about six feet long by sixteen inches deep.  It's mostly pine with a couple of aspen boards, and after I added one coat of stain it looks pretty sharp.
The bottom row fits my player collection binders.  The blue one on the left houses all my cards of Kosuke Fukudome, Brooks Kieschnick, and Kerry Wood.  The one on the bottom right contains over seven hundred different Ryne Sandberg cards.  The help balance all of the Cubs-goodness the three monster boxes contain all of my non-Cub singles.  Above the monster boxes are of my baseball books.  There's a stack of about six in there somewhere which I have not read . . . yet.  All in due time!

On each end I was able to take my skill saw and carve out a track for four separate sheets of plexiglass.  They slide in and out pretty easily, and now my bobbleheads won't need a good dusting so frequently. 

 I have another thirty or so bobbleheads resting on shelves elsewhere in the room.  The guys on the left are some randomness I've picked up through friends and minor league ballparks.  The ones on the right either came from the Single-A ballpark in P-town or up the road in Rockford.

The top of the TV stand is my favorite.  The piece of glass I had cut is the most expensive piece of the stand itself, but it was totally worth it.  I needed something to protect my Cubs!

There's 112 cards in all, with 112 different sets being represented.

Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, and George Bell can each be found twice, but only because of their 1991 Upper Deck card in which it pictured all three MVPs on one card.  Otherwise there is only one card of each player.

The big names are all there: Banks, Williams, Jenkins, Santo, Grace and Maddux.
Of course I had to include my prospects: Bryant, Baez, Russell, Schwarber, Edwards, Almora and the Vogelmonster.
Other favorites made the cut as well: Nomar, Reed Johnson, Dick Tidrow and his mustache, and Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams.

It took a little time to select and arrange the cards, but I couldn't be happier with how it turned out.

Now I can watch my Cubs, in my man room, on a nice new TV supported by something I constructed myself.  Give me a mini frig to store some adult beverages and it'll be my own little slice of heaven!

Thanks for the cash Mom & Dad!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Two in a Row from Houston

Yesterday I showed off a package from Julie, who is a misplaced Tiger fan currently living in Houston.  Today it's my pleasure to reveal the contents of PWE from Houston, from an actual Astros fan.
Bru, what are you up?

Man, I know I've made a name for myself with the blue tape pilgrimage that I have set out on, but . . . words escape me.

Well, at the bare minimum it looks as though I will be rewarded for unwrapping this overly taped PWE with 1992 Donruss card and a card of Starlin Castro.  Let's start unwrapping!

 Above we have a chef and a recording artist throwing out the first pitch; below is a left fielder singing the National Anthem.  It's a crazy world we live in.
 More 2015 Topps!  Nice.  And two of them will help build up my meager Arismendy Alcantara collection.
 I wish Panini would put out Triple Play again.  I'm still working on that blasted 2012 master set, but it's fun and it's cheap. 
Look, kids!  It's Shawon Dunston flying though the air with the greatest of ease!
 Annnnnnnd here's our 1992 Donruss card.  Straight to the Cubs binders!  Yes, I have mini player collection of Doug Dascenzo.  Admit it, everyone has a player collection of their favorite team's Doug Dascenzo.  Right?
 Annnnnnnnd... there's the Starlin Castro that I could make out through the YELLOW tape.  Nice.
 Remember folks, if you have Cubs prospects just laying around I'm your guy!
 Lastly, a couple more Starlin Castro cards to round out the PWE.
Thanks for thinking of me Bru!  My man room is in a little bit of an upheaval after The Leprechaun, but I know there's a Folynickswicz auto somewhere with your name on it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What's Easier Than Packing for a Move?

Shipping all your Cubs cards to me!
 I think this is just what Julie, from A Cracked Bat, did in this case.   She has become a very reliable trade partner over the last few months and she mentioned recently that she had some 2015 Heritage and a few other cards to send my way.  So, I started setting aside some Tigers for her and then  . . . BAM . . . a flat-rate USPS box landed on my door step.

I'm guessing it's easier to clean the unwanted cardboard out of a collection than to try to find room to pack it all?  Hey, I'm okay with that!
  Oh, French baseball cards with randomly inserted Blue Jays!
The Sammy Sosa and Derrick May cards are a little sample of the 1994 O-Pee-Chee cards that you will surely see in a Pack War.  Thanks for the extra blogging material, Julie!

 Woo-Hoo!  Some more 2015 Topps.  I'm doing pretty good for not buying one pack of the stuff.
 Legendary Cubs Billy Williams and Ferguson Jenkins.  These Hall of Famers are always welcome in my Cubs binders.
 A couple of serial numbered cards.  The D-Lee is #221/1350 and the Jae Kuk Ryu is #98/99.
 The Ryu card above is pretty shiny, and everyone likes shiny.  Here's more!
 The mid-aughts are highly represented there with A-Ram, D-Lee, and Big Z.  Poor Mendy, he seems a little out of place.

The Soriano die-cut is not out of place... Sori has had many different die cuts in the last decade, but that Rick Wilkins from the early 90s is almost before its time.
 Odd ball baseball cards!  I have both of these sets, but I can't get enough of those randomly produced boxed sets.
 I'm not sure where Julie found all of these, but it appears I have makings of near team sets.

 Oh, and did you notice the Kerry Wood card in the last picture?  Well, pair it with the credit card-esque card below and I have two new additions to my Wood player collection.  Score!
 I've never seen these 2002 Donruss Studio cards before.  Instead of the standard sixteen digits on the front it has Kerry's win total, stikeouts, and ERA. 
Stats on the front and facsimile signature on the back.  It's nice to mix it up every now and again.

Another one for the Ryno player collection!  This Ryne Sandberg card is from the 2012 Panini Cooperstown set.  I think every player collection needs a nice card like this one.

 Here's some more Panini...  Mr Cub makes an appearance as usual, but he's joined by Billy Herman, Joe Tinker, and Phil Cavarretta.  It's nice to see some of the other bigger names get some love.

 Wow, we're pretty far into the post and I'm just now getting to the Heritage cards that initially started this trade.
 Hey, it's my boy Kyle Hendricks!  He has two Topps cards in Cubs uniforms and they are both from Heritage sets.  Weird.
 I know I'm in the minority on this one, but that Donruss design is starting to grow on me.  As is that Kris Bryant fellow.  Theo is my main man crush, but Bryant is quickly turning into a close second.
 Ugh.  Todd Hundley was never in my good favor.  I called him "Mr. Cranky Pants" during his short stay with the Cubs, because he always seemed to scowling.

 What did Todd Wellemeyer do to deserve being a Diamond King?
 So much bright Red!  Quick, I need some muted vintage colors to look at!

 Ahh, that's better.  Fergie looks so young on the left.

Speaking of looking young . . .
 Some prospects from the 2014 Bowman Draft and Prospects set.  I love me some Cubs prospects . . .

 I also love adding cards to my Rizzo collection, especially X-fractors!

No, Albert, I haven't forgotten about you.  Many others have lost you in the shuffle behind Baez, Alcantara, Soler, Russell, and Bryant, but I think you are poised for a big year for the Tennessee Smokies with Kyle Schwarber in 2015.
 Ahhhh... prospects of years past.  Beautiful cards of a couple of kids who never really maximized their potential on the diamond.
 Stickers!  Thanks, Julie!  I like to make the first page of each of my Cubs binders a page full of logo stickers, and these will certainly help.

I thought this last card would be a fitting end to such a great trade package.
It's Aramis goin' deep!  Yep, Julie certainly hit a home run with all of the Cubs goodness she sent my way.

Good luck with the move to Michigan, Julie. I'll be sure to send you a house warming present consisting of rectangular pieces of cardboard toward the latter part of May!