On the Road Again: Panini America’s Great Spring Training Signature Tour of 2012
While young folks across the country are descending upon comparably exotic locales this week in the name of spring break, Panini America Baseball Acquisitions Manager Tone Stakes his own dream trip right now — and he’s getting paid for it.
Stakes, you see, is up to his elbows in sun, swings and signatures, tracking the best players in the game on a spring training tour of teams in the name of securing autographs for 2011 Limited Baseball.His hit list so far has included the likes of David “Big Papi” Ortiz and Logan Morrison; but since he’s only two days in, expect the hits to keep coming.
Below you’ll find Stakes’ entertaining take on his trip so far. Enjoy — and stay tuned to The Knight’s Lance for additional tales from the road.
The first day of the Great Panini America Spring Training tour is complete and we had a great start! We kicked off the day going to the sold-out Boston Red Sox/St. Louis Cardinals game at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter to watch last year’s World Champions play. Roger Dean stadium is the spring training home for both the Cardinals and Miami Marlins. After the game, the signings began!
Day 1, Signing 1
Morrison is in his third year as an outfielder for the Miami Marlins this season. He got right to signing our new Limited cards. We got to talking about one of his projects, “The Petey and Lomo Show” on SB Nation. You have to see it to fully appreciate the type of personality Logan has. Logan showed me a link to the show and I started watching these videos he created with fellow Miami Marlins teammate, Bryan Petersen. I couldn’t stop laughing as each video got funnier. As you can see, they are two ball players having a good time on their journey through the game. In one of the videos, they do a tribute to Justin Bieber. LoMo told me that he knows Bieber is a sports fan, but that he never sees Justin doing anything with baseball. This is their attempt to change that. Justin, if you’re watching, Petey and LoMo are coming for you! We felt it was only right that his special 1 of 1 inscription for 2011 Limited Baseball was “Never Say Never,” one of Bieber’s song titles.”
Day 1, Signing 2
Fulmer is a first-round pick from the 2011 draft for the New York Mets, No. 44 overall. He was very excited to see the Limited cards we created for him. He loved that we used the photo from his high school days, and he still pitches with the same focused look as shown on the card. Michael talked about how grateful he was to be playing professional baseball and playing for the Mets’ organization. Growing up, Fulmer said his favorite player to watch and learn from was Nolan Ryan. When asked if he had any tips about kids learning to play baseball, he jokingly said to watch Domingo Ayala and his “Beisbol Academy” on how to play baseball. Domingo is a comedian that creates “instructional” YouTube videos on how simple it is to become a professional baseball player. These videos are a big hit among Fulmer and his teammates, so his special 1 of 1 inscription was a tribute to Domingo’s saying “Its’ God Given”.
Day 1, Signing 3
Nimmo is also a first-round pick from the 2011 draft for the New York Mets, No. 13 overall. We met with Nimmo at his place close to the New York Mets’ spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Right from the start, you could tell Nimmo was a well-grounded player with a good head on his shoulders. He spoke with passion and confidence about playing baseball and the life lessons he has learned along the way. He credits his older brother with showing him the path to playing baseball at the next level. To show you more about his character, when some players go out and buy cars or houses with the first check they receive, Nimmo bought an iPhone (and got rid of his three-year-old old flip phone), an iPad to be able to Skype with his family back home and a new bow to use when he hunts with his buddies.
Wishing the best for each of the players in the upcoming season. Hope you enjoy the photos and the insight from one baseball fan to another. On to day two.
Day two in sunny, I mean rainy, Florida! We spent the day in Ft. Myers meeting with two Red Sox players and one Twins player. We watched the night game between the Pirates and the Red Sox at Jet Blue Park, which is modeled after Fenway Park. We were lucky enough to watch a David Ortiz home run sail within a few feet of where we were standing, straight into the Pirates’ bullpen.
Day 2, Signing 1
Meeting Ortiz at the brand new Jet Blue Park was amazing! Sitting outside behind the clubhouse, we watched the prospects go through strength and agility training drills. You really get a sense of what these ball players go through to consistently perform at a top level. Ortiz sat down and signed the new Limited cards we produced as well as the Notable Nicknames insert in Prime Cuts. He mentioned that he prefers to sign “B.P.” over “Big Papi” as it looks more like the M.D. initials after a doctor’s name and it gives the nickname a more professional look. We asked Ortiz how he got the nickname, “Big Papi.” He told us that when he first started playing professional baseball, he had a hard time remembering names so he would just call everyone “Papi,” a Dominican slang term for friend. Because he used the word so much over time in his interactions with his teammates, as well as his big stature, he eventually became known as “Big Papi.”
Day 2, Signing 2
Barnes was the 19th overall pick in the 2011 draft for the Boston Red Sox. He is one of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization. He wanted me to make sure I put two things on this post. First, that his 2012 Shelby Mustang is his baby. He had it shipped down to Florida for spring training so that he can spend time with it and enjoy it when he’s not out at the ball park. Second, that he is looking at beating his roommate, Blake Swihart (a fellow 2011 first-round draft pick at 26th overall) in Twitter followers by the end of spring training and to put his Twitter handle on our blog. So, Matt, here it is for the world to follow you @MattBarnesRHP. And just because the Panini America family likes to see a good competition, for all of you Swihart fans, here is his as well @BlakeSwihart_1. Let the competition begin! On a side note, if Matt asks you to battle on DJ Hero for XBOX 360 just say “no” because the kid can play.
Day 2, Signing 3
Michael was the 30th overall pick in the 2011 draft for the Minnesota Twins. Michael, wearing a North Carolina shirt from his alma mater for our signing, let me know that even in tight-knit families like his, the line is still drawn when it comes to Duke and North Carolina. He said his grandfather was a huge Duke fan and his father was a North Carolina fan, so he had to make a tough phone call when he told his grandfather where he was going to play college baseball. Michael gave me great insight into what a hitter looks for in selecting a bat, including balanced weight, type of wood and how often they break. Who knew that good hitters knew so much of a difference between maple and ash. I thought every player carved their own bat out of a tree like Robert Redford’s Wonderboy in the movie The Natural. Grounded in his faith, Levi’s special 1 of 1 inscription was his favorite Bible verse: Ecclesiastes 9:10.
Off to the Tampa region to sit down with more of baseball’s future and current stars!