Monday, February 8, 2016

First Time Collecting Soccer Autographs

Today was the day that I decided to try a new experience. After a weekend of having my mailbox stuffed with arriving soccer cards, I decided to take some of those cards to the Tampa Bay Rowdies pre-season workout this morning.

I got to Al Lang Stadium around 8:15 this morning. As I was walking toward the stadium, I noticed several people that looked like players, walking from the parking lot and into the stadium. I couldn't believe how easy this was going to be. The players park in the same lot as everyone else. I hung out for a few minutes, hoping I'd at least recognize someone. An SUV then pulls in and I instantly recognized Freddy Adu behind the wheel. As Freddy is coming toward me, I approached him for an autograph. He said he was going to be late, and then asked what I wanted signed. I held out my card and pen and he said, "oh, just this. Okay." I guess he thought I was going to spring several items on him.
Unfortunately, my first soccer autograph did not live up to my expectations. I didn't prep the card, and it shows. It also got smeared upon him handing it back to me. Oh well, I'm still very happy that I was able to get it.
Freddy wasn't lying about being late as he seemed to be the last one to show up. I decided to walk around the outside of the stadium to see if I could see any players on the field. None were to be found, but I knew that the team has also been working out at the nearby college recreation field.

After getting lost by walking about 4 blocks the wrong way, I backtracked and was able to find the field.

I was very happy to see that it appeared to be the entire squad working out. I soon started recognizing every player that I had a card of.

I hung out at the entrance of this field, which was on the opposite side of where I took the above picture.
As the morning workout was winding down, the coaches and staff were cleaning up and loading the van with their equipment.
Stuart Campbell, the head coach of the Rowdies, told me that when the players were finished, they'd come back to my area to change their shoes, but then they'd exit the field back on the other know, right by where I took that picture. I had failed to notice that there was a gate on that side. He told me that I was welcome to go on the field to get the autographs that I needed. I declined, and headed back to where I was. As I'm getting ready to sit on a bench, I noticed a Barnes & Noble store across the street with outdoor tables and chairs. I crossed the street, propped my book on a table and pulled out each card so that I would have them ready.
Photo courtesy of Google Maps
I was at the table directly in front of the park bench. A portion of the practice field can be seen to the right of the image.
Instead of being bussed between the stadium and the recreation field, the players all walk the short distance.
Photo courtesy of Google Maps
Sitting at the table was a great decision. It gave the players a solid surface to sign on.
I ended up getting all of the cards signed that I brought with me.
The first player to approach the table was Michael Nanchoff. He was walking with Freddy Adu. I wondered if I had waited, if Adu's signature would have turned out better if he had signed it on a table.
Anyway, Michael was showing his card to fellow teammates, commenting on how old the card was. As he was signing it, he was struggling to remember what number he wore when he was with the Vancouver Whitecaps. It then came to him and he added it to his signature.
Tom Heinemann was next. He looked kind of shocked when I called for him. He was just signed by the Rowdies less than a month ago, so it was probably weird for him to be recognized.
Several players were all walking together toward me, and 3 that I needed were all bunched together. I called for the closest one to me, Kalif Alhassan. He stops to sign, notices the 2 unsigned cards (Danny Mwanga and Matt Pickens) and says to the guys to stop and sign for me.

It was a very successful day for me. The players were all extremely friendly.
I'm not ready to give up on baseball autographs, but it was so refreshing getting autographs in a relaxed atmosphere.
Fun day, with hopefully more ahead. The plan is to go see the Philadelphia Union practice tomorrow in Clearwater.
Any more soccer talk and I may have to change the name of this blog to Keys to the Goalie's Box.

1 comment:

  1. Nice signatures, and it's great that you had such a positive experience! It's one thing for the players to be accommodating, but it's another for them to call over other players to sign cards.

    I won't speak for everybody else, but I enjoy the soccer cards and signatures even though Freddy Adu is the only one I've heard of before.


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