Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Last weekend I attended PiratesFest for the first time since 2010.  I normally can't attend because I work in retail and trying to get time off a few days before Christmas on a weekend, well....for those of you that work retail you know what that is like.  Fortunately for me, my store had inventory last week and I had to change my normal days off around and just happened to get Saturday and Sunday off.  It worked out great because me and the lil lady went to Pittsburgh and had an absolute blast.

We got into Pittsburgh around 7am Saturday morning and went to the hotel for early checkin.  The hotel thankfully graciously handed us two keys and we passed out around 7:15.  The doors for Saturday opened at noon, but fans could get in line before that and a select few autograph sessions previously sold out online would be available at 11am before the doors opened.  I got to the ticket booth right at 11 and grabbed a session with Starling Marte, Al Oliver, and Jack Wilson.

Before the signing began, I went to the photo opp booth to get my picture taken with a familiar face to the Pirates organization, AJ Burnett.

AJ is one of my favorite personalities in the Pirates clubhouse in recent years.  Since the lady friend is a Phillies fan she was excited to meet AJ also (even though he didn't have a great season with them last year).

I've gotten so many things signed by Starling signed in the past that I really just wanted an autographed card with him and to have my picture taken with him.

Mission accomplished.

Next up was getting an autographed ball (and postcard) signed by a man that could be in the conversation for the Hall of Fame, Mr. Al Oliver.  Al was very friendly to the fans all weekend long including signing his book in the Majestic store.  I tried to get my picture taken with him in the photoline, but it didn't come out very well.

This man needs no introduction if you followed the Pirates during their terrible stretch in the early 2000s.  Seeing Jack Wilson on ESPN webgems was a nightly occurence as he chased down and dove for any ball in the infield before he ultimately got traded to Seattle in 2009.

I was able to get 3 cards signed by the former shortstop.

I also purchased an autograph session with Gregory Polanco, John Smiley, and Jeff Locke.  Funny story about Jeff was that I got to ride in the eleveator with him for 22 floors before the FanFest started and he was incredibly nice and friendly to me making small chat about the weather, who I was excited to see, the Pirates postseason goals for 2014, and finally wishing me a safe trip back to New Jersey.  With a former All-Star (Jeff Locke) and a super talented 5 tool prospect (Gregory Polanco) at the autograph session, it was actually John Smiley who I was most excited to meet.  Like Marte, I've met Polanco and Locke a handful of times when they were playing minor league ball.  However, I never had the chance to meet John Smiley and since I'm trying to complete the 1991 Fleer team set autographs I felt that this would be one of my best chances.

I got a ball signed by Polanco,

2 cards signed by Locke and the 1991 Fleer and 1989 Upper Deck signed by Smiley.

Oh and I took a selfie with Polanco.

THIS TALL MAMMOTH SIZED GENT WAS THE MAIN REASON I WANTED TO GO TO PIRATESFEST.  It's hard to imagine a guy who's 6 foot 7 being an underdog in anything, but John's path to the big leagues is riddled with obstacles and had a happy ending when he caught on with the Pirates last season.  I got a ball signed from a game that he pitched in at Philly.

He signed it on the sweet spot and it is most certainly sweet looking!!!

Also in that bunch were Alumni members from the early 90s Buccos.  Doug Drabek and Mike Lavalliere.  I already had autographed baseballs from both and have numerous cards of Drabek signed.

To keep it simple I got a 1991 Fleer signed by Lavalliere and a 1992 Triple Play signed by Drabek.

In between some sessions I ran into Kent Tekulve and John Wehner who both signed for me as well.
I think I've talked about it in the past but when I was much much younger I used to emulate Teke's unique submarine pitching style.

Sidearm Stryker and Teke united at long last.

Teke signed a ball and Wehner signed a 1991 Fleer for me while also posing for pictures.

The final autograph session for day 1 for me was Dave Parker, Bill Virdon, and Fransisco Cervelli.  This session didn't excite me too much but for $20 charity to the Wounded Warriors project, I felt that I needed to attend.  I didn't get Cervelli to sign anything but a postcard he had at the table.  He also posed for a picture which was really nice of him.

One thing I noticed about Cervelli was that he kept playing with his phone between fans approaching him.  I hope he isn't as distracted on the diamond this year.

Bill Virdon signed an OMLB on the sweet spot for me

Dave Parker signed my 1978 Scorecard I bought at the fest for $5 along with a post card.

Day 1 was a complete success in terms of graphing and meeting the players.

Before everything closed up for the day I had been in discussions with one of the vendors who was selling a Willie Stargell autographed baseball for $80.  I went back and forth on it before I realized that the ball was a Bartlett Giamatti official baseball which made me splurge on the Hall of Famer's signature.

Being on a Giamatti ball made all the difference in the world to me between spending $80 or not dropping the money.

Day 2 started out really good too, but due to time restraints we knew that we weren't going to spend a lot of time at the fest because of our nearly 7 hour drive back home.

It started out with getting our pictures taken with Charlie Morton and Starling Marte.  In case you're wondering, the #37 jersey you see me in my pictures is a game used Charlie Morton jersey from his 2010 season.  I wore it both days at PiratesFest.

Then we went to the AJ Burnett, Dick Groat, Omar Moreno line.  I didn't have anymore OMLB to get autographed so I bought a pair of Chevy HomeRun balls for $5 that have the Chevy logo on the SweetSpot.

I got Groat and Moreno to sign the side of each of the balls and arguably my favorite thing of the whole PiratesFest was getting a chance to

throw up some metal with AJ

and have him personalize my photo from the day before.  The lady friend didn't like her smile in the photo she wanted to be cropped out of it before we got AJ to sign it.  Girls can be so self conscious sometimes.  LOL

After the autograph signing we headed home, but not before we stopped in Primanti Brothers and saw the Steelers beat the Falcons.  It was a great day for me.

For my girlfriend who's an Eagles fan, not so much.  LOL!

Smiley, Cervelli, Marte
Here's a recap of the free postcards signed by some of the players who were gracious enough to slip one as you walked by them.

Parker, Moreno, Oliver, Groat
The scan cut off the players names, but I wasn't about ready to rescan it because I am lazy today...

I also bought an 8x10 signed by Francisco Liriano for $25 also.


  1. I'm jealous. Seemed like you did very well. Looks like you have a lot of framing to do.

  2. Great haul of stuff man, you met an awesome mix of past and present stars!

  3. Looks like you had a blast! Congrats dude!