I was sort of scheming around on Labor Day, thinking all the gates at Angel Stadium might open at the same time for a 6:05 p.m. Angel game - if I can go in through the back, I could probably beat the rush for the autographs wristbands passed out for Darin Erstad, who was throwing out the first pitch.
A couple of buddies were already in line at the Home Plate Gate, so I decided to walk to the back and explore - I saw Ichiro dropped off down the tunnel where visitors go through and I think I got a faint wave from the bottom as I called out to him.
I didn't see any security or anyone by the gate at the back of the stadium - as I was standing around, I actually saw Erstad carrying his son as he walked to the Angels' offices.
I'm flipping through my autograph book, digging out my Erstad cards [I figure he'd do two and even if he did more, I'd get the ones that were my priorities at this point] - I approach him to ask him to sign and he put his boy down and nods towards me.
Erstad signed a 2005 Topps Turkey Red and a 1997 Upper Deck Rock Solid Foundation insert - signed; the Upper Deck insert maybe worth a dime today but it is my favorite Erstad card because it is shiny and I probably pulled it when Erstad was still considered a rising star.
I go back to buddies to see what is up and head to the back a second time - I'm still trying to use some chicanery here and there was just a group of about four or five people waiting at the back of the stadium.
It looks like they had stuff to get signed for Erstad too, but they found out the gates in the back were opening at 4:30 p.m. - Home Plate gate was the only one opening at 4 p.m., so it was off to the front, again.
After heading into the line where my buddies were, it was off to the races once the gates opened - I don't know what compelled me to nearly kill myself trying to get a wristband for another Erstad autograph.
I crumpled my ticket as I straggled towards the line just because I was going to collapse - I'D GOTTEN ERSTAD TWICE ALREADY, DID I REALLY HAVE TO DO WHAT I DID, JUST TO END UP WITH A THIRD ONE?
I got my wristband, but ended up stumbling around to sit in a couple of places out in the right field concourse to try and chill out - this was all unbelievable, if only because I got caught up in the rush and was paying for it.
For about 40 minutes during the early part of batting practice, I threw up a little and struggled to regain my composure - I was gassed and didn't feel any better until towards the start of the game.
During the game, I made my way to the line for Erstad - the card I was going to get signed was a 1995 Signature Rookies B-1 Bomber card; it pictures Erstad in his Nebraska uniform and I think it is a cool card, even though it was probably another way for an unknown trading card company to cash in on 1995's No. 1 overall pick.
As intense as Erstad was as a baseball player, he seems to give off an even-keeled vibe - I would think with his reputation, he'd sort of have more of a gruff personality.
I asked Erstad to use my Sharpie when I approached him and the Angels handler [for the first pitch signers] mumbled, "now he is going to want you put his number..."
What a good idea, so that is exactly what I had him do- he did it without a problem and I was fortunate to end up with three Erstads in one day.