Sunday, May 29, 2016

Prospect Pickups: James Kaprielian

Hey everyone, Drew back here! I hope you all are enjoying a nice, relaxing Memorial Day Weekend with your loved ones. But, if you have a few minutes to scour the blogosphere, allow me to show off a lot of James Kaprielian cards I purchased off of eBay while I was studying abroad!

Kaprielian is the Yankees current top pitching prospect by a considerable margin now that Luis Severino has graduated to big league status (for now). The former UCLA standout was drafted as the 16th overall pick in the 2015 Draft, and is estimated to make his debut in the big leagues in 2017. He's only started three games in 2016, and is currently on the disabled list with elbow inflammation. Luckily, it doesn't appear to be anything more than that.

This lot included 8 copies of his 2015 Bowman rookie card and 5 of his "Draft/Dividends" inserts, which shows how much your draft stock can improve by going to college. Kaprielian was drafted in 2012 in the 40th round by the Mariners, but his decision to go to UCLA helped him grow into a first round talent.

2015 Bowman DPP Refractor Autograph
The centerpiece of the lot was this gorgeous Bowman rookie refractor autograph! In my honest opinion, there is no better card to own of a player than one of these. Bowman offers several rarer color parallels, but the basic refractors are often relatively affordable while also being aesthetically pleasing.

Over the summer, I'm going to be looking to add Bowman refractor autographs of several of the other Yankees top prospects. The major targets will be Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, and Gary Sanchez. Unfortunately, this mini project will probably have to wait a little while because I'm a little short on money at the moment.

Which product do you think offers the best, most memorable autographed cards?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Spring 2016 TTM Mailbag

Hey everyone, Drew back here! While I was away, I used this site as a platform for blog posts required for a Multimedia course I took. I don't know how many of you chose to read those, but I hope you enjoyed seeing some different material than usual.

After a few months away from our blogging community, I think it's about time I catch you all up on my collection. Now that I'm back in the states, I plan to reignite my interest in the hobby, while working with the smallest budget I've ever had. I did arrive home to six TTM successes, which happened to be six more than I initially expected to find.

Josh Hamilton: 1/1 (c/o Texas Rangers)

Every year, the Josh Hamilton story grows increasingly distant from my memory. I've always been a huge fan of his, but it's felt like forever since he was a productive baseball player. Hamilton received his second left knee operation last offseason that initially slated him to return about midway through the 2016 season. However, there was still meniscus and cartilage damage remaining that will now be operated on; thus concluding his 2016 campaign before he even took the field once. He's now 35, and while he may plan on returning next season he may not draw interest from any clubs. It's safe to say his days as an MVP and Home Run Derby champion have come to a close.

Hamilton has been one of the most consistent TTM signers in today's game over the past few years. He usually will sign during the winter and return all of his fanmail from the prior season, and it appears as though he's done it again. My glossy 8x10 copy of his Sports Illustrated cover came out awesome. Maybe next year I'll finally get him on a ball.

My Dad was able to open my TTM's for me while I was gone and send me pictures of the successes; which certainly helped me feel close to home. On the same day, I received the following two autographs from some of the game's better young prospects.

Brandon Nimmo: 1/1 (c/o Binghamton Mets)

Nimmo was the Mets 1st round draft selection in 2011, and currently ranks as their 4th overall prospect according to He profiles as a well rounded player that particularly exceeds at hitting for contact, and currently plays for their Triple-A affiliate Las Vegas 51s. In 40 games this season, he's batted an even .300 with a home run, 20 RBI, and 22 runs scored. It shouldn't be much longer before he gets an opportunity to shine in blue and orange.

He personalized my 2014 Bowman card and signed it cleanly in blue sharpie.

Robert Stephenson: 1/1 (c/o Pensacola Blue Wahoos)

The Cincinnati Reds are the National League's second worst team in 2016; only better than the historically bad Atlanta Braves. Over the past year, they've lost Aroldis Chapman, Johnny Cueto, and Todd Frazier while attempting a rebuild phase. This 6'2 hurler appears to be at the forefront of this movement, and has the potential to one day be the ace of the staff. Stephenson was also a 1st round pick in 2011, but has developed relatively slowly ever since. He made his MLB debut early this season and made two quality starts for the Reds before they sent him down to work on his ability to throw strikes and account for service time. We should see more of him on a big league mound later on this year.

Stephenson also signed a 2014 Bowman for my collection nicely in blue sharpie.

Shane Greene: 1/1 (c/o Detroit Tigers)

It's been an inconsistent journey for Shane Greene since he was sent to Detroit in the three team deal that landed New York their current shortstop, Didi Gregorius. Greene broke out with the Yankees in 2014, recording a 5-4 record and a 3.78 ERA in 78.2 IP. He started off strong last season with the Tigers before he struggled immensely and found himself in Triple-A. At the end of the season, he was falsely diagnosed with an aneurysm in his throwing hand but then also underwent shoulder surgery. He's currently rehabbing and working his way back up to the Tigers 25 man roster. Needless to say, I would do that trade again every time if I could.

Mark Wahlberg: 1/3 (c/o Leverage Management)

Marky Mark. Yeah, that's the one. I also forgot I sent this out, and I wish I had some way of knowing when I initially sent the request. Wahlberg has rebounded well from his mediocre rap career with "The Funky Bunch"; starring in several blockbuster films such as "Boogie Nights", "The Departed", "Ted", and one of my all time favorite movies: "The Fighter". I believe I included a 4x6 glossy shot similar to this "Other Guys" photo of the boxing classic (and "Ted" now that I think of it), but I'm not 100% sure. "The Other Guys" remains as one of my favorite Will Ferrell comedies, despite having seen it more than my fair share of times. 

Wahlberg signed this photo nicely in black sharpie. It would be cool if I could add Will Ferrell on it eventually, but I won't be upset if I don't.

Clayton Kershaw: 1/1 (c/o Los Angeles Dodgers)

We wrap my comeback post up with a success from Sandy Koufax Clayton Kershaw! Just when you thought Jake Arrieta and several of baseball's rising stars would begin to compete for the "Best Pitcher in Baseball" moniker, this guy started doing things even he hasn't yet done. This month, he's thrown 3 complete game shutouts (no typo), bringing his current line to 7-1 with a 1.95 ERA and 95 strikeouts. I've seen Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Greg Maddux pitch before, but since they weren't in their prime at that point of their careers I can definitely say that Kershaw is the best I've ever seen.

Kershaw, like Hamilton; is a top notch TTM signer. He signs usually every February if you send to the Dodgers stadium address. I would take advantage of this opportunity while you can, because at this rate we won't be able to afford his John Hancock for much longer. He also included a note about "Kershaw's Challenge", his organization that encourages people to use their faith to make a difference in the world. There isn't a single bad thing I can say about this guy; he's as classy as they come.

I hope you all enjoyed my return to form, and I would please like to encourage you all to spread the word about this site. I don't know if everyone has caught on to my new stomping grounds here at "The Hot Corner", but now that I'll be getting back to posting regular content I would like for those of you in the community to at least have the opportunity to read my material.

Thank you so much to every one of you for helping make this site possible. Ciao!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Final Day in Firenze!

“Life moves pretty fast sometimes. 
If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, 
you may miss it.” - Ferris Bueller

About this time a year ago, one of my closest friends and I decided to apply for our school’s study abroad program in Florence, Italy. To this day, I still don’t know what spurred this decision outside of pure curiosity.

After approximately four months living out a fairytale and seeing the world, I’m coming home. It’s as bittersweet a feeling as they come, and at the moment I’m sitting in the beautiful Boboli Gardens trying to come up with a way to sum this all up best.

For the first half of this trip, I documented every relevant occurrence in my journal. The schoolwork picked up tremendously towards the latter half of the semester, and I didn’t have time to carve my memories into stone, but needless to say this was the greatest experience of my life. And it could not have come at a better time.

Before I left home, I hit a breaking point. I felt like I was growing up faster and faster every day. I developed unhealthy habits, and my life fell into routine: Drive to school, go to class, eat, go to work, eat, rinse, Netflix, sleep, repeat. For someone who has dressed up as Peter Pan not once, but twice for Halloween, this was nowhere near the lifestyle I wanted to have. I didn’t know what I wanted, and my Bachelor’s degree was around the corner; approaching closer at every turn.

So I went abroad… and to be honest, I didn’t really put too much thought into it. I didn’t know what to expect, what to bring, and more importantly how it would affect me. I just did it. 

I sit here today having visited ten different countries; nine more than I had before February. I sledded down the Alps in Switzerland, let my feet dangle at the edge of the Cliffs of Moher, and oversaw Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower. I drank a stein in the same tent Oktoberfest is annually held, went inside the Roman Colosseum, and took a picture with the Mona Lisa. As my friends can attest to; I’ve almost become numb to seeing incredible mountain ranges, gorgeous churches, and breathtaking cityscapes. But above all of these wonderful privileges, I got to live in Firenze.

Firenze is pretty dirty, smelly, and gross sometimes; I'll be honest . But wouldn’t you be too if you were over  a thousand years old? It’s crazy to think that a vast majority of the buildings I’ve walked past every day are considerably older than our entire country. Il Duomo is still my favorite building I’ve seen on this trip, and I don’t think it’s even a close competition. It towers over every other building with strength and robust, and its red color represents the heart of this city. I didn’t get to see everything I would’ve liked to see here, but I saw enough to not have any major regrets. Oh, and the food, you may ask? It lived up to the hype, and then some.

I put myself out there and met a lot of really good people. The Lorenzo ‘de Medici Institute had its obvious flaws, but its ability to unite people from all over the globe throughout this journey was impressive. I probably won’t see many of them ever again, but I enjoyed the time we shared. 

The most I’ve gained from this trip (outside of weight, here’s your fair warning) has been knowledge. I’ve learned way more here than I’ve ever learned in school, and I’m not talking about in my classes. My memory may defeat me when trying to recollect bits and pieces from all of the museums and historical sites I’ve visited, but I can proudly say I know much more about the world than I did before this trek overseas. It is the best history book you can find, after all.

I’ve learned a lot about myself, too. I miss my friends and family dearly, so obviously this sort of thing won’t happen too frequently in the future unless they’re by my side. However, I've become more independent than ever, which I didn’t know was possible until I started to take advantage of this opportunity on my own. There is nothing more thrilling than taking the road less traveled and discovering what lies within your trail. Unless, of course, it takes you into the attic of a strange Buddhist man in Pisa (it's not what you think); which is a story for another day.

It takes a lot of persistence and patience to immerse yourself in an unknown culture. At first, I believed I could fit in and become "one of them", but considering how much I struggled with my Elementary Italian course I soon realized this was impossible. I'm in a better position now than I was those first few days, but still a tourist when all is said and done.

Before I wrap this up, here are a few travel tips I've pieced together while in Europe:

1. ALWAYS pack your passport before anything else.
2. You do not wash your hands in a bidet.
3. Avoid all you can eat (and drink) buffets if you lack self-control.
4. Don't plan too many trips in advance until you know what to expect with classes
5. Take a cooking class. Seriously, they're awesome, and I'm no chef.
6. Don't expect high quality restaurant recommendations from trip companies
7. When you know you're not capable of doing something, don't sign up!
8. When an Irish man asks you if "you know", you better start to do a jig.
9. If you're sitting around in your apartment all day and it isn't for homework related reasons, you're wasting your time.
10. Expect to come home broke and fat.

Traveling isn't for everyone, but it is something that everyone should at least try to do when they have the chance. I've been told so many times by family members and what not that they wished they could've gone abroad when they were younger. I was fortunate enough to do this because of my incredible family, who I can't thank enough for allowing me such a life-changing opportunity. The world is so much more than a little town in upstate New York to me now, and I'm so blessed to be able to say that.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Ciao Firenze! Until we meet again.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A New Chapter for Fiorentina Baseball

Baseball may be "America's Pastime", but its origin may have even come before the United States declared their Independence from Great Britain. In fact, some even say that American baseball has just been an advancement of several European games deriving from as early as the 18th century. While football is clearly the dominant sport of Europe today, baseball does still play a role throughout.

Unbeknownst to many, in 1948 the Italian Baseball League (IBL) was formed. The league consists of teams throughout "the boot" and bases its headquarters in Rome. Some Italian towns place higher importance on the game than others; particularly nearby the nation's capital in Nettuno and in the northern Emilia Romagna region (specifically in Bologna).

Nettuno and Bologna dominated the IBL in its early goings until playoffs were introduced in 1986. Both teams have remained successful since the switch, but the addition of playoffs have allowed for others to share the spotlight.

One of Italy's up and coming teams is SSD Fiorentina, whom I have had the pleasure of learning about through relief pitcher and outfielder Daniele Sassoli.

Daniele Sassoli is used to having his
father Federico on his side
Sassoli, 22, started playing for the Fiorentina organization when he was 10 years old. His father, Federico Sassoli; has helped coach each of Daniele's teams, including this year's team. Federico played for Fiorentina when they last won the pennant, and stopped following baseball until Daniele began playing as a child. Their current head coach, Marco Duimovich; was on track to become one of Florence's all time great players growing up, but shoulder and ankle injuries halted his path. His involvement in baseball has given him a unique mentality that he hopes to pass on to his players.

Fiorentina is currently set in the IBL's Serie B, which makes it part of the highest minor league level. As with many other European sport structures, teams can rise and fall from level to level based on performance, which takes away the safety net that major American sport leagues have for its weaker teams. However, they are quickly becoming of the best teams in their region thanks in part to the contributions and sacrifices made by former Team President Pier Paolo Vita. Unfortunately, Vita died from a sudden heart attack while on a skiing trip with his family on March 9th. He was 65 years old.

Pier Paolo Vita, 1950-2016
Vita, nicknamed "Cesare"; took over as President in 1993; just twelve years after the club was initially founded. It was first treated as a side project to his more successful gym business across the renowned Renaissance city. He had a passion for the game though, and would often funnel his own money into the team to help provide for uniforms, equipment, and transportation. Most players in Italy have to pay to play to cover for these expenses, but once "Cesare" took over Fiorentina became one of the few exceptions.

Over the past decade, he was beginning to lose interest in the club. His son no longer played for the team, and quite frankly they hadn't been very successful despite his influence. But leading up to his untimely death, he was rejuvenated and could be found in the crowd for every game once again. He was a "man of heart," according to Sassoli. He paid to have the team gym renovated and also built a bar next door to Cerreti Baseball Stadium, their home field. The team may have lost its heart and soul with Vita's passing, but his parting gifts have set them up to potentially become the best they've ever been.

Going into the 2016 season, Vita's former business partner Antonio Gallo will be filling the void. It is undetermined whether he will invest the time, money, and effort that his predecessor did with helping the team. He is not as infatuated with baseball as "Cesare" was, so the players are anxious to see what will happen to the team in the future. One fact is known: in order to continue his legacy, everyone will need to work harder. The bar has not profited well thus far due to its obscure location and poor organization. Several of the players were hired by Vita to work at the bar if they were struggling to find work elsewhere and needed the money to support themselves.

Sassoli was eager to begin the new season despite of the sad news. This will more than likely be his last season playing for Fiorentina, as he is prepared to move to London to begin working as a software engineer this summer. He, as well as the rest of the team; plays because he is passionate about the game and has fun with his teammates. "We play to prove something to ourselves," he explained. "If we win, we might get a pat on the back if we're lucky. Nobody really knows about baseball in Italy."

"We play to prove something to ourselves. 
Nobody really knows about baseball in Italy."
- Daniele Sassoli

With a roster composed primarily of young adults, education and work happen to come before winning or losing games in most cases. They aren't paid to play, so the only punishment players receive is from their teammates for letting them down at a time of need.

So far, Fiorentina has been the team to beat in Serie B. They have won all six of their games to open the season against Cali Roma XIII, the Lancers Baseball Club (based outside of Florence), and Nettuno. Pitcher Alessio Sinforici has only allowed one run in total between three starts, striking out 23 in the process. In addition, pitcher Mauro Salciccia has given them three quality starts. Their offense has provided at least 6 runs in each of the games, proving that all of their offseason workouts and training has paid off. They will try to continue their winning streak on Saturday, May 7th in a doubleheader against Livorno.

Their roster is constructed of mostly young adults in their late teens and early 20's, but the range even extends to two players that are over 40 who still choose to suit up in Fiorentina red. They are still integral to the team's success because they are able to "give something to the younger players on the team"; according to Sassoli. 

If they can continue their early season dominance, they will reach the playoffs for the first time in several years. In order to make the postseason, a team needs to finish in first place in their respective region. They have finished in second for a few years in a row now, but Sassoli is confident that they can win the region and advance into the playoffs this year. And if this is the case, he will make sure he can be there.

"Of course I'll be there. Even if I leave for London before the playoffs start, I will fly back home to help my teammates. That's what Fiorentina baseball is all about."

For more information about SSD Fiorentina baseball, click here to visit their team website.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Scooby Makes a Splash

Being chosen in the NFL Draft has to be one of the best possible feelings an athlete could possibly experience. Some players choose to take a humble, gracious approach in reaction to the news. Others take no issue in expressing themselves. The latest example of the ladder reaction stemmed from the 250th overall pick in this past week's NFL Draft, Cleveland's Scooby Wright III.

Phillip Anthony Wright III, otherwise known as Scooby; was so thrilled when the Browns chose him with their final pick of the draft that he could be seen jumping into his pool! The clip featured from ESPN NFL's draft coverage was posted on their official Vine account and currently has almost 1.5 million loops. 

The final few rounds of the NFL Draft is typically only worth viewing for hardcore football fans and for the players and teams involved. Usually there isn't much suspense or intrigue throughout this portion of the event, which made Scooby's celebration particularly amusing. The Vine went viral because not only was the act hilarious and heartwarming, but it also allowed us to think of how we would react if we walked in an athlete's shoes on Draft Day. Also, the timing of the Vine post coincided with the conclusion of the draft; making it relevant and easy to come across when perusing various multimedia coverage.

The rookie linebacker also took to Twitter, proclaiming that his new team will not be disappointed with the late round pick:

If Wright displays the amount of entertainment value on the field as he does off the field, he could be a lot of fun to watch for years to come.