Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Another View From The NFL Rookie Premiere

Over the last few days I have had the pleasure of working with Mike and Mitch of Extra Innings Sports Cards for coverage of the NFL Rookie Premiere. Mike was nice enough to sit down with me for a few minutes on Sunday and discuss the goings on from the weekend, and just like with my impressions after talking to Gregg Kohn, it seems like the weekend was a huge success.

I am going to focus on a few things, mainly the players’ interaction with the people there, as well as some neat tidbits from Mike. Before I move on, I want to talk about how great Mike and Mitch are, and give them another plug for their shop. Upon reading SCU for the first time, Mike emailed me and wanted to see if I wanted to attend his shop's event and possibly win a spot at the Premiere yesterday. He wasnt sure if he could get me in any other way, but thought he would try. Both Mike and Mitch were sympathetic to SCU's situation, and were out to help. I honestly couldnt believe they wanted to help, but thats the kind of guys they are. Eventually they just tried to get me on their team's list, but were told I was not allowed on the Premises. So, despite their best intentions, I couldnt be there, so they did the next best thing. Mike offered to take some stuff to the event on my behalf, and I came back with autos from the three guys I am targeting from this class (pics are included in the post). Ill say right now, these two gentlemen have made my year so far, its nice to see there are people out there who actually care.

Moving on to the event, Mike said he couldnt have had a better time. He and his shop's employees were there as part of the Panini team, and had on field access to the players there. The first words out of his mouth when asked about the players there, were "for 22 year old millionaires, they were some of the nicest guys there." He talked about how much fun the players were having this year, especially with the different articles they had to make “used.” If you asked them to run a few steps, they ran a route, if you asked them to wear in a jersey they went and tackled a friend across the field. “It was a very positive atmosphere, and you could feel it,” he said.

Most of us who have a negative view of this event probably think that the jerseys are slipped on and off, and most of the time that is true. This year, for people like Mark Sanchez and others, a few second werent enough to designate something as used by the players. Mike specifically recalled Sanchez’s objection to calling something ‘event used’ unless it was dirtied some how. He would drag cleats across the grass, spike footballs and really get the props broken in. I was glad to hear that, and so was Mike to see it first hand.

Mike also specifically remembered guys like Jason Smith and Tyson Jackson, saying that they were some of the best players to be around at the event, cracking jokes and talking shit. At one point, Smith actually went at it with Tyson Jackson of the Chiefs at mid field as a "preview of 2009." Nice.

The event was done in shifts, where four or five rookies came to the station at a time, and went through the requests of the company. For Panini, most of the players had ten or so jerseys to put on, seven footballs to play with and 3 pairs of cleats. For the top guys there, it was 10 home and 10 away jerseys, plus having to sign all the on card offerings like the NT Pen Pals set, and the manupatches. I am glad to hear that Panini is focusing a lot on hard signed products just like Upper Deck. They also signed nameplates and helmets according to the Panini schedule I obtained from Jeff (not associated with EI Sports Cards), another person who was there, as well as many other personal autos for the workers at the tent. Per the schedule, each player wore around 30-50 articles of clothing, and signed about 600-650 cards and stickers. Mike made it a point to say that even the last group, who had been there all day in the heat, signed beautifully without objection.

Mike also talked about Matt Stafford, as Mitch had mentioned how out of place he seemed at all the events of the weekend, including the pre-party at the hotel, and the nights at the bars. Per the people around him at the event, he was just too nice a guy, a southern gent, even when asked about a Georgia Tech loss during the last season and last game of his college career.

So, all politics aside, I am beyond happy with Mike's report. I will put that much more of a stake into this year knowing that the players actually question why their shoes are being cut up instead of given to needy families, knowing that they want to make sure that the stuff is "used," and knowing that even at the end of the day, they still wanted to be there for the fans.

One thing stuck out to me, as Mike talked about a special guest of the shop. He was a younger kid, and was a child of a person they knew. He was a huge SC fan, and was unfortunately stuck in the stands for most of the day due to security. Luckily for him, Mark Sanchez and Patrick Turner didn’t hesitate to go sit and talk to him and make him feel important for a full half hour. Kudos to them on that.

With that, ill end it there. However, if you are anywhere close to LA and looking for a shop, PLEASE go check out Extra Innings Sports Cards on Washington Blvd in Culver City. It is worth any trip you make, as Mike could be the nicest shop owner I have ever meant. After hearing some stories, Mitch is cut from the same cloth, even driving product out to customers who cant or wont make the drive. Tell them you read about their store here, so at least I know that I can somehow pay them back for the amazing opportunities this past weekend.

1 comment:

  1. i think its amazing that these guys are so nice to there fans. Im a 12 year old kid who lives in New York, so I cant wait to see Sanchez play (too bad it will only be on TV). It's nice to know that Sanchez is a really awesome of off the feild 2. I wish my dad had money to buy tickets or get me to a game. Your blog is the closest to sanchez as i will get. :(

    so thank you for all these wonderfull stories.