Monday, July 30, 2018

Shake Your Bote

David Bote has been working hard to make sure that he never see Des Moines, Iowa again.  The rookie infielder has been seeing regular action at the hot corner and second base since Kris Bryant has been on and off the disabled list this summer.  Just last night, Bote was instrumental on both sides of the baseball when it came to staving off a sweep at the hands of the hated Cardinals, with his hustle single kicking off their winning rally and a dazzling defensive play in the bottom of the ninth halting a Red Bird comeback.  In 23 games so far, Bote's slash line is an astounding .327/.422/.519 - not bad for a guy who had been stuck in A-ball for four years as of 2015.  In short, he's become a surprisingly key contributor to the 2018 Cubs.

This past Thursday was perhaps David's biggest day in the Big League sun.  In a tilt against the Diamondbacks, first, Bote McBoatface flashed some leather in making a diving stop at second base, with the bases loaded, to end a scoring threat early on. Then, with the Cubs down by two in the bottom of the ninth, David stepped up to the plate with a man on and launched a homerun deep into the left-centerfield bleachers to tie the ballgame.  This set the stage for Anthony Rizzo's follow up walk-off blast, causing Wrigley Field to rock harder than even at the Foo Fighters concert last night.

With those heroics fresh in my mind, how appropriate was it then that this showed up in my mailbox that very same afternoon:

With Bote's emergence on the Big League scene being so unexpected, he doesn't have a lot of cardboard to his name.  As such, I've been struggling to fill his slot in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection since his initial call-up in April.  Luckily, Jason from Hoarding Cardboard happened to have an extra 2014 Grandstand Kane County Cougars team set laying around, a set from when the team was the low A affiliate of the Chicago National League Ballclub.  It's also a set which included the breakout Cubs rookie, among other future Big Leaguers...

...including the man who started the Bote game for the Diamondbacks, Zack Godley.  That's right, the D-Backs starter got his professional start in the Cubs farm system, after being drafted in the 10th round of the 2013 draft.  After finishing up his 2014 campaign with the Cougars, Godley was shipped to Arizona in exchange for World Series hero, Miguel Montero.  I'd say that was a deal that worked out for both sides.

Also on the roster of the '14 KC club, were another pair of future Major Leaguers who did not make their ultimate ascent in Chicago.  Paul Blackburn was traded to Seattle for another key cog in the 2016 World Series run, one who continues to be an essential part of the Cubs roster - Mike Montgomery.  He would get his first call-up after another swap to Oakland.  Meanwhile, Jacob Hannemann was claimed off of waivers, also by the Mariners, in September of last year.  The outfielder was the immediate beneficiary of a September call-up to Seattle before moving on another waiver claim that off-season... back to Chicago.

Today, Hannemann remains on the roster of the Cubs' AAA affiliate and, thus, there's still a chance that his card could end up in my CATRC, rather than my "Coulda Been a Cub" binder with Godley and Blackburn.

On that note, there are still a few prospects in this set that have not gone anywhere and, like Hannemann, could still show up on Chicago's Major League roster.

Balaguert and Torrez currently reside with AA Tennessee Smokies, while Martin and Remillard are suiting up with the AAA Iowa Cubs.   All are in the upper minors and, in theory, are just a phone call away from the Major Leagues.  However, none of the four currently rank in the Cubs' top 30 prospects.

No matter their standing, Remillard is an interesting story.  The catcher was drafted way back in 2013, in the seventh round, and skipped straight up to the Cougars and Baseball America had already labelled him the Cubs' best defensive backstop prospect.  In 49 games for the Cougars, he hit .286, drove in 26, had an OBP of .372,  and was a Midwest League All-Star.  Then, the injuries started to pile up.  Eventually, he ended up requiring Tommy John surgery and it's been a long, slow journey back, not seeing any game action until late last year.  He truly is the comeback kid of 2018! 

I'd put my money on Remillard as the most likely of the group to make it to the show and become the next Major Leaguer to rise out of the 2014 Grandstand KC Cougars team set.  We've covered those that have debuted for other franchises; so, now, let's examine those who were so fortunate as to make their Big League debut in Cubbie Blue:

So far, there have only been three men from this set to rise all the way up the Cubs chain and none of the trio has fully established themselves at the MLB level.  To be fair, both Underwood and Tseng have a chance to earn a spot in the Cubs' starting rotation - the latter of which was named the team's minor league pitcher of the year in 2017.  Also, both have made spot starts during the 2018 campaign and are likely to get another chance once the rosters expand in September.  However, the same cannot be said for the third member of the trio.

Gerardo Concepcion was considered one of the big prizes in the 2012 international draft class.  The Cuban hurler had starred in the island league and the Cubs inked him to a five-year, six million dollar deal that spring.  Unfortunately, he could never fully harness his stuff in America, with a career 5.46 ERA and 5.0 BB9 in the minor leagues.  Nevertheless, he was able to keep it together to earn a brief cuppacoffee with the big club in 2016, making three lackluster appearances. By the middle of last season, he'd been cut loose and doesn't appear to have latched on anywhere else since.  Of course, he did get himself a World Series ring, so he has that going for him!

All three of these cards will be entered into my "Nothing Major" collection, a binder filled with minor league cards of future Major League Cubs.  This is one of my favorite side projects to my CATRC, so they were exceptionally welcome sights.

Also a welcome sight was the awesome uniform being sported by Tyler Skulina.  I have no idea what the Cougars were promoting with these skeleton jerseys, but they are absolutely awesome - no bones about it!

The rest of the set reads as a list of ghosts of prospects past; but, in all honesty, the fact that Bote was included in this cello pack was what really made the rip worth it.  Like I said, I'd been chasing a card of the Cubs wunderkind since he debuted back in the early days of the 2018 season, without any sort of luck.  Now, after many fruitless Ebay searches and striking out at the Smokies souvenir shop, I can finally add his name to my CATRC binder.  Plus, an assortment of additions to my "Coulda Been a Cub" and "Nothing Major" collections were extra special bonuses.  Speaking of bonuses...

Jason made sure to toss a few bonuses of his own into the bubble mailer which delivered my team set - an awesome throwback "Salute" insert, which highlights the Negro League throwbacks (and Rizz's choking up, two-strike approach) the team donned last season, and an "all smiles" team card which showcases the pearly whites of Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.  I'll tell you what - these guys weren't the only ones beaming after I was done flipping through Jason's generous stack of cardboard!

Thank you, Jason, both for the excellent cards and for thinking of me in the first place when you came across them.  I'll be sure to find some nifty Reds and prowl my trade stacks for some Matt Mantei's to send your way and return the favor!

To close out this post, I can't think of a better way than to embed a clip of KC & the Sunshine Band playing their hit single, "Shake Your Booty."  After all, this post was heavy on the "KC" Cougars content and Bote - with a name the sound awfully similar to the shaking posterior - being the ultimate highlight of the post.  Maybe it's a bit too on the nose, but after flipping through these cards, I sure felt like dancing.

Shake your Bote, everyone!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Deep Dishing On Cole Hamels

Very nearly three years ago today, I was sitting inside of a Giordano's pizzeria in the south suburbs, with my eyes glued to an HD television screen that was perched just over the shoulder of a friend.  The friend was visiting from North Carolina, was only going to be in town for a few days, and wanted to make sure he got himself a slice or two of authentic, Chicago-style deep dish pizza.  After all, that delicacy is rather difficult to come by down south.  However, despite our time-sensitive mission, my mind and attention were elsewhere as he, my wife, and I were walking up to the restaurant.

At that very moment, something rather odd was occurring on the mound at Wrigley Field.  You might remember that, for several decades, the Chicago Cubs had a streak - the team had not been victims of a no-hitter since being perfect-oed by the immortal Sandy Koufax in 1965.  Though a bit ironic for a historically hapless team, known as the "lovable losers," this was a longtime feather in the cap for the club... that is, until that evening at Giordano's.

On July 24th, 2015, as I sat, mouth agape, in a South Side pizza joint, that lengthy streak came to an abrupt end.  Even a pie fresh out of the oven couldn't quell my disappointment as I watched the Phillies' ace - Cole Hamels - make each and every Cubs hitter look foolish.  Surprisingly in the thick of a tightly-contested pennant race that summer, I'm sure I'm not the only Cubs fan who thought this marked the beginning of the end for the club - the proverbial other shoe had dropped.  Plus, both my out of town friend and my wife were both annoyed with me paying more attention to the television than the conversation - it was a bad moment, all around.

Of course, feelings of doom and gloom aside, shortly thereafter, the Cubs rocketed into a second half surge that didn't let up until the NL Championship Series, kicking off the golden era of North Side baseball.  Three years later, the Cubs have a World Series crown, three-straight NLCS appearances, and - as of last night - Cole Hamels.

With that historic no-hitter being his last appearance in a Phillie uniform, Cole was swapped to the Rangers in a blockbuster deal just six days later.  Now, in 2018, another trade deadline transaction brings him to the club that he thoroughly embarrassed on the day that my unassuming friend was just trying to get a pizza.

Although his no-hitter days appear to be behind the former ace; since his trade to Texas, Cole has been in a steady decline since entering his mid-30's.  This year, the hurler has had the worst season of his Major League career, posting a 4.72 ERA in 20 starts and already giving up an eye-popping 23 homers.  Simply put, Cole is not exactly the top of the rotation presence that he once was for nearly a decade in the City of Brotherly Love.  However, the Cubs do not need him to be either - he only needs to be better than Tyler Chatwood.

Honestly, this trade has been a long time coming.  There have been connections between Hamels and the Cubs for years now.  It was rumored that the Cubs were in the hunt for his services back in '15 before the Rangers swooped in and, just one year earlier, Theo and crew actually claimed the lefty off of waivers.  Obviously, a deal was never worked out; but, clearly the Cubs' front office has an affinity for the starter.

Hamels is finally being brought to the Second City to essentially serve as the team's fifth starter; with the aforementioned Chatwood battling with walks and the rotation as a whole struggling to go past five innings, Cole represents a veteran who can take the ball every fifth day and a durable reinforcement for a beleaguered pitching staff in the midst of another playoff race.  Of course, I should also mention that his home/road splits also offer some hope that leaving the homer haven that is Arlington could inspire a resurgence.  That said, Wrigley Field isn't exactly a pitcher's paradise either.

All things considered, though Cole's track record has been shaky as of late, the price was absolutely right for this deal.  The Cubs will reportedly take on $5MM of the $13.86MM still owed to Hamels, rather than give up blue chip prospects (of which they have few to offer) or key Major League talent.  That being said, they will have to part with swingman Eddie Butler and 2017 11th-round draft selection, Rollie Lacy, in addition to the dinero.

Of course, Butler was out of options and a bit of a unnecessary luxury with the newly-acquired Jesse Chavez around.  Also, Lacy is nothing more than an A-level lottery ticket - he could develop into a Major Leaguer at some point, but he's too far away to truly project.  That's not exactly a steep price for a guy with Hamels' track record.

In case you couldn't already tell, I am definitely in favor of this trade. The former superstar will help stabilize a rotation that desperately needs stabilization, cost very little, and - hey, who knows - maybe playing for a contender again will rejuvenate him and we'll see some vintage Hamels on the mound at Wrigley.  Only this time, he won't be twirling a no-hitter against the home team while I try to force a smile and pretend to listen to small talk at a Giordano's.  It could happen.

As far as cardboard implications go, luckily for me, it was not difficult to track down a card to represent that Cubs' newest pitcher in my Cubs All-Time Collection binder.  Being a star player in the mid-to-late 2000's means that my tradebox is littered with Hamels singles, as you can tell from this post.  It was a tough choice with such a variety of options; but, in the end, I decided to go with the 2009 SP Authentic card from Upper Deck that you see above.  In this case, it was all about the awesome throwback uniform being sported by the subject and the World Series patch on the sleeve.  Here's hoping that Cole will being wearing a similar patch, but with Cubs colors, this October!

Did I pick the right card though?  For instance, I thought long and hard about using an unlicensed Panini Donruss single to represent Mr. Hamels.  After all, if you cross your eyes and squint, you could almost convince yourself that it's a Cubs card, what with the lack of logos and prevalence of blue in the photograph:

In order to properly convey these opinions, I've set up a poll at the bottom of this post which includes all of the Cole Hamels cards seen in this post as options.  Which one would you haven chosen if you were in my shoes?  Feel free to tell me that I got this decision wrong or that I lack taste!  That being said, this is only a temporary measure - it's a virtual guarantee that Cole will show up in Cubbie Blue when Update hits the shelves this fall and that card will immediately take precedence.

Welcome to Chicago, Cole, and to my my CATRC binder!  You may have ruined my appetite all those years ago; however, now, you've whetted my taste for another World Series Championship!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Warming Up the Stove

Now that the much anticipated Manny Machado trade has finally been completed (never a sure thing when the Orioles are involved, after all), the constipated July trade market looks to be open for business.  After all, the very next day, the Padres gave up their Hand in order to acquire Francisco Mejia from the Indians.  Now, contending teams are lining up at the doors, trying to get their hands on a Brian Dozier, Chris Archer, or an ace from the imploding New York Mets.  Even the Orioles aren't done selling yet- word dropped that Baltimore’s “barreling ahead” with it's Zach Britton trade talks, per Jerry Crasnick of  Lord knows that any team with postseason prospects could always use a little extra reinforcement in their bullpen.

The Cubs are known to be major players in that auction, especially with their closer, Brandon Morrow, recently hitting the DL for the second time in 2018.  With that in mind, last night, Theo and Jed went out and got themselves a reliever to help shoulder the post-All Star Break load.  However, Britton remains an Oriole (for now); this particular trade, is only warming up the hot stove:

Jesse Chavez has carved out a nice career as a swingman for the Pirates, Braves, Royals, A's, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Angels and Rangers over the last eleven years.  Seeing as the Cubs rotation has been in flux for most of the 2018 campaign (thanks to the Darvish injury and Chatwood walk problem), having someone who can step in and take an emergency start or two isn't a bad idea.  Plus, with the bullpen being slightly overworked (courtesy of the starters not going deep into games) before the Morrow injury, having another relief option must be a welcome sight for Joe Maddon.

The well-traveled journeyman had been manning the mound for Texas this year, posting a 3.51 ERA and 8.0 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 30 appearances (exclusively in relief) for the Rangers.  As a groundball specialist, with Javy Baez and Addison Russell playing behind him, that ERA is bound to decrease.  

One more fun fact about Chavez - this isn't his first association with the Chicago National League Ballclub.  Although he played his first professional ball in the Texas chain starting in 2002, Jesse was actually drafted by the Cubbies the year prior, in the 39th round, back when Andy MacPhail was still the Northside GM.  The high school graduate neglected to sign though, choosing instead to attend community college and re-enter the draft the following summer.  

So, it took 17 years and several front office shake-ups, but the Cubs finally got their man!

In order to secure Jesse's services, the Cubs were forced to part with last year's seventh-round draft selection, Ricky Tyler Thomas. During his first full year in the Cubs system, the pitcher has turned in impressive results, twirling 75 innings of 2.88 ERA ball for the South Bend Cubs.  However, being that those numbers came in low-A ball, Thomas represents nothing more than a lottery ticket for the Rangers.

While that lottery ticket could be scratched and find Thomas sitting comfortably the middle of the Texas rotation in a few years, this is the kind of depth deal that contenders make.  In short, it's well-worth the risk to shore up a World Series contender's pen.

Luckily for me, I just so happened to have this 2013 Topps Update single sitting in my trade stacks.  Now, it will shift from that dusty box to my marquee Cubs All-Time Roster Collection.  Seeing as Chavez is signed to only a one-year contract, it seems unlikely the his stay in the Windy City will last long enough to earn a true, blue Cubs card (unless he does something Now worthy), this particular pasteboard could serve as his CATRC representation for a long time.

Anyway, here's hoping that Chavez can sop up some quality innings this summer and fall, be it from the bullpen or the starting rotation.  The Cubs are roaring out of the All-Star Break with a key five-game series with the Cardinals, that includes a double-header - the pitching staff is going to be tested right away.

Welcome to Chicago and to my CATRC binder, Jesse Chavez!  Now that the hot stove is pre-heating, maybe somebody will soon be joining you.  Zach Britton?  Dylan Bundy?  Jacob deGrom?!  We shall soon see.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Posting About Post

Throughout the last month or so, football has been the center of the sporting world's attention.  Of course I'm not talking about the gridiron, I'm speaking to the sport that we Americans have branded soccer for some reason.  While, for many years,  the narrative has been that Americans don't give a damn about soccer/football/futbol, the tide seems to be turning somewhat.  Despite not having a dog in the fight this time around, my timeline was filled with people discussing the international game, bemoaning flopping, and parsing the action in this morning's early morning final match.

Concurrently, interest in our country's domestic soccer league also appears to be on the rise.  Major League Soccer has added five new clubs to their roster since 2015, with three more expansion teams on their way.  That being said, the average broadcast of an MLS game only brings in about 30,000, a modest total when it comes to pro sports.  Thus, the organization still has some work to do when it comes to promoting their rapidly expanding league.

On that note, while walking through the aisles of my local CVS yesterday evening, I noticed MLS's latest initiative to further their brand:

Post Cereal is apparently the official breakfast cereal of Major League Soccer.  As an devoted lover of all things breakfast cereal, I'm actually kind of surprised that I didn't already know this when I came across this box of Honey Bunches of Oats.  This brand just so happens to be one of my favorite brands of the breakfast staple.  

I went into that corner drug store in need of twenty dollars in cash to blow at a poker game; but, with no Chase Bank ATM nearby, I opted to just buy myself a small treat and get cash back on the transaction.  When I saw the back of this cereal box, I instantaneously knew what my evening snack was going to be.  Yea, I munch on dry cereal as a snack - I wasn't kidding around when I said that I love breakfast cereal.

Now, to be honest, I'm not much of a soccer fan.  I've attended one Chicago Fire game in my life and I ended up leaving before it ended in a 0-0 tie, which just seems wrong to me.  However, I am a fan of the concept of oddball trading cards on the back of cereal boxes!  Considering the situation at hand, this was a no-brainer purchase, in my eyes.

Seeing as Post is the official cereal of MLS, the two entities partnered with Topps to offer up panels of trading cards on the backs on certain cereals.  The four cards you get vary on the kind of cereal you purchase - for example, Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds will always net you the four players that you see above, while HBoO w/ Banana Bunches will feature an entirely different panel.  Other brands that are participating in the promotion include Fruity & Cocoa Pebbles, Oreo O's, and Honeycombs.  I was hoping to find a box with a Chicago Fire player included; but, sadly, CVS didn't carry any of those other kinds.

After scarfing down a bunch of bunches and losing all of my poker money (rather quickly), I made sure to "ask a grown up to help me cut the cards out of the box," as instructed by the box.  But, since my wife could only roll her eyes at me, I had to do it myself.  Don't worry though, all of my fingers are still attached.

Like I said, I'm not much of a soccer fan; thus, I don't know much about the players depicted on these oddballs.  Although, the name Jozy Altidore does ring a bell.  As it turns out, that makes sense, as the Toronto FC forward in one of the more accomplished players in North American soccer history.  The New Jersey-born player has been on the professional scene since 2006, playing in the MLS, as well as across the globe (including the Premier League), and representing the United States in many international tournaments.  

I guess I have subconsciously absorbed some soccer awareness at some point.

The cards themselves feature a sleek, angular design that keeps everything nice and simple.  It's not bad, though I would prefer that the blue triangle which contains the player name, number, position and team be a tad small, as it ends up blocking out nearly a third of the photograph.  Additionally, there is an abnormally large "Topps" logo in the upper left corner - there will not be any questions as to who was behind the creation of this set!

As for the backs, well they're blank - so, I won't be getting any stats or biographical information to educate myself on the players or the game.  I suppose that's a necessity of the manufacturing process; I can't  imagine it would be easy to print on the outside AND the inside of the cereal box.
All in all, the cards are decent and the concept is pretty nifty.  Of course, this is not Post's first venture into the world of trading cards... far from it.  In the early 1960's, the cereal company cemented their place in hobby lore by using the back panels of their cereal boxes to print up baseball and football cards that sports-loving children had their parents pulling out their hair over trying to find the right boxes.  You'll see these much-ballyhooed cards appear on the blogosphere from time to time and I even have a few myself:

Then, the breakfast giants revisited this concept in the early 90's, including cello-wrapped cards inserted into the boxes throughout the first half of the decade.  In fact, it was through one of these promotions that I acquired my very first baseball card, a 1994 Post Mark Whitten card that I still have kicking around somewhere today.   Unfortunately, I cannot find it at the moment, otherwise I would include a photo of it in this post.  Please settle for Mark Grace and Ryne Sandberg from the 1991 & 1992 editions, respectively:

Anyway, it's nice to see that Post is getting back into the trading card game.  While soccer cards are nice and all, I can think of a certain other sport that is having some difficulties when it comes to marketing their game to children.  What better way is there to reignite interest in baseball among the youth of America than through the backs of the cereal boxes? After all, think of how many kids down a bowl of cereal every morning before school.

C'mon Post, make it happen!  Now that Topps seems to warm to the idea and they have reaffirmed their exclusive MLB license, this seems like a perfect promotion to me.  Hopefully these soccer cards move some units, then the old bubblegum company might actually be interested in expanding the promotion.

Do you think it would work?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

When a Card Show Isn't Really a Card Show

What's better than going to a card show?  How about a a pair of ballgames combined with a baseball card show?  Does that move the needle for you?

I don't know about you, but when I saw that one of the local ballparks was hosting a card show on the concourse during one of their traditional Sunday doubleheaders, I nearly leapt out of my chair and immediately circled that date on my calendar with thick, red ink.  Okay, more like proverbial red ink; after all, it is the 21st century and I made this notation through the calendar application on my smart phone, which is not Sharpie compatible.  Anyway...

When I saw this listing on the Beckett Show Calendar, my heart started pulsating with excitement.  After all, any excuse to go to the ballpark is a good excuse, especially one that revolves around my favorite hobby.  Plus, I used to work just down the street from this particular stadium and never got around to attending a game there, although I apparently did claim a pocket schedule back in 2015.  Hence, this was the perfect excuse to kill two birds with one stone - it almost seemed too good to be true... and you know what they say about THAT.

The warning signs were there - there was no advertising for the show through the park's social media channels, it did not appear on their official calendar, and the information on Beckett was vague.  Nevertheless, I chose to plow through these signs in a blissful ignorance, laser-focused on making the half an hour drive to attend a perfect pairing of my two favorite things to do on a sunny, Sunday afternoon.

Of course, I mean attending baseball games and browsing through... a comic book show?

Or perhaps this Simpsons-themed meme is more appropriate:

Out of the 10 or so booths that were set up throughout the concrete walkways of Standard Diamonds Park, all of them mostly focused on comic books, with a few also dealing in similarly themed toys and memorabilia.  Two - just two - had any trading cards and those were nothing of substance or significance.  Needless to say, my bliss was immediately shattered and I felt immensely let down.  I listlessly wandered about, asking myself, how could a show at a ballpark have barely anything to do with America's pastime?  The irony!

As I mentioned earlier, I saw the warning signs and I chose not to open up my eyes.  I should have listened to Ace of Base on the drive over.

Even though this "card" show turned out to be quite the pumpkin, all was not lost.  I mean, worst case scenario, I still got to watch some live baseball and that's not a bad silver lining!

Standard Diamonds Park at Oil City Stadium is a little, neighborhood ballpark in Whiting, IN.  It's beautiful, red brick facade and placement in a charming downtown setting (immediately next to an old railroad siding) evoke memories of baseball's past and make for a wonderful place to take in a game or two.  The venue plays host to the Whiting HS Oilers and the nearby Calumet College of St. Joseph Crimson Wave ballclubs, as well as a Midwest Collegiate League franchise in the Northwest Indiana Oilmen.  It was this latter team who would be starring in that Sunday doubleheader.

Thus, after coming to terms with the card show mishap, I made my way to the grandstand, found myself some real estate on the third base side, near home plate, and plopped down for an afternoon of entertainment.  What better way could there be to distract me from my disappointment?

Just beyond the outfield fence, you can see the place where I used to work and the namesake for the Oilmen - the local BP plant.  For a few years, I worked as an environmental contractor at the facility and often, maybe while perilously perched on one of those tall towers, found myself wishing I was at the ballpark across the way instead.  Well, it took me until two and a half years after I switched employers, but I finally made it!  Better late than never, right?

For as displeasing as the card... err... comic book show was, the show on the field was just as entertaining.  In game one, both the Oilmen and the visiting Joliet Generals took a dueling no-hitter into the late innings.  The home team eventually won by a score of 5-3, with the game ending on a slick defensive play that would have otherwise resulted in the tying run being scored.  As for the second game... as enthralled as I was, the heat was starting to get to me due to temps in the mid-90's and there not being a sliver of shade in the stadium.

Nevertheless, I was sufficiently entertained by the first tilt; so, at least I got some value out of my Sunday afternoon trip.

Oh and even though there wasn't really any cardboard to be had, I did end up with a nifty souvenir anyway.  I scooped the above foul ball out of the grass just outside of left field and near the lot where my car was parked.  That made for a pretty damn cool way to end a day at the old ballpark - it looks great nestled on my dresser next to my Frontier League and Carolina League balls.

But wait - that's not where this story ends.  Just so you know, this is where I'm going to get extremely braggy about my better half.

During the breaks in action on the field, I spent some time texting with my wife, who opted to use her Sunday for "me time" instead of baking in the sun.  Of course, I let her know all about how I had the rug pulled out from underneath me and the card show turned out to be an unfortunate misnomer.   This wonderful woman shared my dismay and immediately took it upon herself to do what she could to make up for my flustering.  Later that evening, when I arrived back at our apartment, I found my beautiful wife with this in her hands:

"I know this set has been out for a while and you probably have everything you need from it, but I just wanted to do what I could to make up for the show."

At the moment, my smile could not have fit on a highway billboard.  There are billions of "fish in the sea" and I somehow was lucky enough to find this perfect person.  I honestly could not have cared less about what was in the pack - it could have somehow been filled with nothing but 1991 Fleer, for all I cared.  The only thing that mattered to me was how she cared enough about me to go out of her way and try to make me happy.  Look, I could go on and on, but I write a blog about baseball cards, not Hallmark cards. 

With that in mind, I guess that's enough of the lovey-dovey stuff... you probably just want to see the contents of the pack anyway.  First, the inserts:

As you can see, this pack came from Target, as the Cody Bellinger insert set is only available at the red bullseye.

Next, the Cubs contingent:

One that got away in the form of Christian Villanueva.  I'm glad to see that he's thriving in San Diego - he's always had the potential, but was never going to get past Kris Bryant.

Moving on, here's some base:

Nothing too notable here.  Although, admittedly, one of these could very well be a photo variation or short print or what have you... I didn't dot my i's or cross my t's here.

And finally, we'll conclude with the horizontal heroes portion of my surprise pack of 2018 Topps Series Two:

I'm usually not one for horizontal cards as they upset my sense of cardboard OCD; however, I must admit, these are some eye-catching images.

So, as you can see, the cards themselves weren't too notable.  However, that's not what's important here, as this pack was all about the gesture.  This show of affection from my caring wife completed the transformation of the day - while it started out as lackluster, it ended up becoming absolutely wonderful in the end.  Although the card show was a comic show in disguise, I got to see an exciting ballgame in a ballpark that I had long been meaning to check out, I made off with a foul ball, and - most importantly - my awesome wife surprised me with a pack of baseball cards to try and cheer me up.  Add all of that together and you end up with one happy Burbs.

Although, I do have to ask myself, has anyone else ever been duped in the manner that I was on that Sunday afternoon?  Did you ever go into a venue expecting a card show and end up walking into something else entirely?  Please feel free to talk about the experience in the comment section below.

Meanwhile, in the future, I'll be sure to pay attention to those previously ignored warning signs.  I simply can't afford to let my wife buy a pack of baseball cards every time I do something dimwitted - we'd go bankrupt!