Wednesday, February 8, 2012

South Alabama's First Pitch Banquet - Mobile, Alabama

Posted by William Lee Coleman III | Wednesday, February 8, 2012 | Category: , , , , , , |

This event now replaces the annual University of South Alabama Jaguars baseball alumni game. The event was held at the USS Alabama Battleship pavilion in Mobile, Alabama. With it being the first year of the banquet, I did not know what to expect. I signed up early for this event once it was announced that David Freese would be attending. I ordered a World Series baseball six weeks ago to the day.

Event Rating: 4  (Could have been much worse)

Overallthe three hour event was well organized and the dinner was not bland, which I've come to expect  with catered events like this. Upon entering the banquet area we were informed by a huge sign stating that Mr. Freese would only be signing the photo the college was providing. 

After reading the sign, I welcomed the challenge and decided that I would have to think outside the box if I wanted Mr.Freese to sign my baseballs. While exploring the exhibits inside the pavilion, I had a discussion with a USA worker about the event and learned that one player was limited by his memorabilia contract and another one flat out declined attending because he did not feel comfortable signing autographs. I told him they should have announced the autograph policy weeks in advance and then the sign wouldn't have been necessary, or at the very least not been a surprise. I know the school was trying to accommodate the players' wishes but the way they went about it should have been handled differently.

David Freese: 3-3

Before tonight, I had never asked David for an autograph even though I had seen him on several other baseball occasions.  He looked like he wanted to sign my World Series baseball and 2009 Topps card at the beginning of the event, but handlers were enforcing the "no outside items" policy at the tables. I had to settle for the photo that was already signed. I eventually got David one on one after a TV interview and although he hesitated to sign, he signed my World Series baseball. As the event continued, I noticed the handlers were not addressing staff members, the current baseball team players, and former alumni players about getting David on outside items while he was preparing to be introduced. My second item would come later after a former player was getting outside items signed and I just placed my ball in David's hand. David had to address the issue of not signing outside items multiple times and he did very politely. With the way Mr.Freese handled himself tonight, I am thinking about starting a player collection of him.

Jon Lieber: 3-3

I've seen him plenty times at the alumni games and pitching clinics around the Mobile area. I am pretty sure I now have all his base cards signed. I had to remove a sharpie mark on one of the cards due to Lieber dropping the pen while signing. I didn't have time to ask him if he still had his monster truck that I saw him in down in Clearwater three years ago. 

Pj Walters:  I just had him sign the 2009 Topps cards. Mr.Walters wasn't that talkative and did not look comfortable at all.

Allen Battle: 1-1

 I had Allen sign the free photo and told him I couldn't find any cards of him in time for the event even though he has a ton of base issue cards. Allen shared an interesting story about his first HR ball. He said Mark McGwire retrieved the ball, on his behalf, from a fan.

Marlon Anderson: 4-4

For some reason, I have always have a hard time getting Mr.Anderson to stay in one place in the past. At the alumni games, he would sign a card and then dart off. He couldn't get away tonight.

Lance Johnson: 4-4

He informed me that he normally doesn't sign the 1988 Donruss card and that he only signs it at card shows in St. Louis. I said " That is okay." and he then stated " I will however sign it for you tonight". One of the more interesting players during the question and answer session.

No shows:  Luis Gonzalez, Dave Stapleton, Steve Sparks, Juan Pierre, and Adam Lind. 

 My whole reason for attending the event was to get Mr.Freese on a World Series baseball and anything else was a bonus. Was it wrong of me to ignore the autograph policy?  Perhaps I would have followed the policy had the organizers provided the information- perhaps not.  Your comments are welcome.

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