I'm Going (to the) National...
Yes, earlier this year, mere days after plowing through my old cards for the first time in decades, my wife announced she had purchased me an early birthday present. (My birthday is in a couple of weeks.)
The gift, of course, was a VIP pass to the National just down the road from our Chicagoland home. We had been in the city or just outside for 14 years, so it would be a matter of taking a few days off work, getting up for a leisurely breakfast and heading on over for the day.
But since then our house finally sold and we made our long planned move to be near family in Indiana - some four hours away from Chicago - so plans have changed somewhat. But I'm still going - and expect to only miss Sunday. I'm looking forward to it.
I couldn't be more excited for some quality "me" time. Frankly, I cannot recall the last time I've had a few days like this, to myself, to get away and just do something I love. It's been many, many years. OK, I just remembered - it was '01 when I went down to the Keys after a very bad relationship ended.
Sure, I go away two or three times a year for conferences - but there I have to moderate panel discussions and sometimes deliver actual speeches. I don't consider that quality "me" time as I'm a bundle of nerves. Public speaking, suffice to say, is my worst nightmare. I'm an awkward mess in front of large groups of people, frankly.
You see, I'm a bit of a nerd. I know, you can relate.
So, if you're attending the National and you see a goofy early 40-something guy roaming around in cargo shorts and probably a t-shirt, stop me and say hi. After a few hours of that, just maybe you'll get lucky and pick the right guy.
Or, perhaps a better plan, send me an e-mail ahead of time (email@example.com) or comment here and maybe we really can at least exchange "hellos" or take a load off and share a coke. (Not the same coke, that would be awkward.)
Meanwhile, if any of you have tips about how I should plan for this thing, let me know. Should I have a sturdy bag on hand for my purchases? Are there sweet hidden deals from the card companies that are fairly easily redeemed? (I'm assuming I just need to do a lot of booth visitation.) Should I bring cards with me - not to the site but available - for possible trading? Can you get in and out of the show all day to get to and from your car? (That's probably a ridiculous question.) Should I bring cards of players who are part of the VIP experience just in case I can finagle an added signature?
(Along those lines, and not necessarily for this show but for the future, what are the best pens for signing cards? I've always been told a black sharpie for baseballs, but what about cards?)
Back to the National, I'd love to hear any key pieces of prep advice anyone might suggest?
As for autographs, I guess I'll get a few freebies with the VIP deal, but I've elected not to get any of the featured signers. I love autographs but I have an issue paying for them, even if they're Hall of Famers and even if they're my favorite players of all time. Yes, Johnny Bench and Al Kaline and on and on and several members of my beloved Steelers. Most of my favorites are signing on Sunday, the one day I know I won't be there - so that made it somewhat easier to avoid them.
I'll surely be spending enough on cards. But for some reason I can't justify dropping $80 to $120 for one great autograph.
Finally, I've officially changed my blog name to reflect the state where I was raised and where I now - after 20 years - live again. Perhaps less memorable, yes, but "Potch" will continue to be featured in some way. Now I only have to decide if I should change my URL and redirect everyone accordingly. Hmmm?