In 1993 I started going to Florida State League games. It's considered high A or advanced A, sometimes even written as A+. To keep up with roster changes, I relied on my subscription to Baseball America. A publication which was delivered every 2-3 weeks.
I would go through the rosters days before I was planning to see teams play, either when they visited the Clearwater Phillies or Dunedin Blue Jays, and see if I had any baseball cards that matched the names. When I went through the Sarasota White Sox roster before their scheduled series in Clearwater, there were a few names that I had cards of. Glenn DiSarcina, younger brother of Gary. Kerry Valrie, who I made the mistake of calling "Keith," because that's what his baseball card said his name was. His teammates had a good laugh, though Kerry did not seem amused. A name I was very familiar with that I hoped would make the trip, and did was Mike Dunne, who was making rehab appearances for them.
One name that I recognized, but didn't seem to have a card of was Nilson Robledo. The name was familiar because I knew my brother had a card of him. I loved the look of that card.
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I remember getting to the remaining few packs, still not a Robledo card to be found. I was getting nervous. I didn't even care if I pulled that coveted Mike Schmidt autographed card, goddammit, I wanted a Nilson Robledo. I open the last pack. I can't recall who was in it, but I can tell you that Schmidt and Robledo weren't a part of it. I was so pissed. I bought a box looking for one specific single and didn't get it. The next day I went to see the Sarasota White Sox. I got a few autographs for myself and my brother got some, too, including his Nilson Robledo.
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Later in that summer of 1993, Nilson was voted a Florida State League all-star. Fleer ProCards put out a set with him in it and I bought it, but unfortunately, I never saw Nilson play again, or ever for that matter.This card has always been a source of competition between my brother and I. He bought an entire box and this card was not in it. Sadly, my brother always beats me in our little competition by reminding me that he has Derek Jeter's autograph and I don't... But I still find it funny.
Fast forward 25 years later. This past spring I was looking at the Tampa Bay Rays home schedule. I knew the National League East was scheduled to play interleague games against the American League East, so I looked to see when the Mets were coming. Alas, the Mets were the only team in the division not scheduled to visit. However, the Washington Nationals were scheduled for a quick 2-game series. I had remembered long ago that Nilson Robledo, long retired from the game, was a bullpen catcher for the Montreal Expos and moved with them to Washington. Surely, he couldn't still be with the team in his late 40's, could he? A quick Google search revealed that he still held the position. I fully intended on going to at least one of those 2 games.
I'm writing this post literally a few hours after the second game ended. I didn't go to the game fully prepared with a book full of cards. I brought 7 cards with me. Knowing I'd be focused on the bullpen area, I brought a couple coaches cards and a few position players. Sure, everyone there was hoping to get Bryce Harper to sign for them, not me, I just wanted one person.
As soon as I entered the stadium, there sitting by his lonesome in the bullpen was Nilson Robledo. I recognized him immediately. I quickly went down the steps to get as close to the bullpen as I could. There I was, all by myself calling for a bullpen catcher to sign an autograph for me. Everyone else was yards away from me hovering around the dugout. Nilson signed my card, didn't say a word to me, but smiled when I told him that I remembered seeing him play for Sarasota.
It took me 25 years, but I finally got the autograph that I always wanted. Notice I didn't get it on the same card that my brother got. Yeah, all these years later and I still don't have it. Sure, I easily could've acquired one by now, but I like the look of his FSL all-star card. Plus, it's nice to get something different from my brother. Not only is the card different, but it looks like Nilson's signature has changed drastically over the years. That's okay by me, at least I finally have it.