A little over a month ago I found out that it was possible to bring my 12-year-old son Sam to the 2015 NFL Rookie Premiere event. While it was not in the top three of sports related bucket events, the chance to have a killer few days with my son in LA while he would still appreciate being seen with me made it too good an opportunity to pass on.
Upon landing Wednesday night, Sam and I got to hang out with Mike Ant from Sports Source 2 and Rob Veres from Burbank Sports Cards. Both are among the coolest in the industry and while I cannot promise you a discount on your next order from Burbank, it is widely known that Rob has an affinity for Coors Light. Mike can be bribed with wine, but don’t bother trying to bring the cheap stuff to the table, the man knows his grapes.
Between Rob and me we own well over 40,000,000 cards. A good 3,000,000 of those would be mine. Good thing they do not serve beer in relation to inventory.
Thursday was the GTS/Panini event with an opportunity to meet the folks from both distributor and manufacturer. On top of a cool lunch spread, there was the chance to ask Panini a few questions and even cooler was a chance to pop open a box each of 2015 Panini Prizm Draft NFL. At the meeting, every guest got to open a box a few weeks before it even hit the streets. I think the product looks great and I can not wait to have it in my shop on the 10th of June (check out videos here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uw0Rov_sopw and here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYICgfLAGUY).
We then went to the next room over and had the pleasure of enjoying a Q&A session with 8 recently drafted rookies including Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon and Amari Cooper. Each store received a full set of signed photos from the eight rookies. We will be giving ours away to collectors. Please friend us on Facebook so you can see how you might snag one of these pics for yourself.
Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were not in the room, but the next 45+ minutes were filled with a mix of questions from Panini’s Tracy Hackler and then it was time for the shop owners and other guests to lay some Q’s on the assembled rookies. I am not sure if Ty Montgomery will get many ROY votes, but if there is an award for best question answering, he gets my nod.
Fortunately Sam does not mind asking hard pressing questions like his father and he came up with this gem.
In case you care to see more than just the Fruitman family highlights, the entire 48 minute session can be enjoyed here.
Then it was group shot time with all the rookies. Just before we took our photo together, I had a second to tell the Saints rookie QB Garrett Grayson who attended Colorado State University that he had cost me a load of bank since each year I bet my brother on the Colorado/CSU game. Suffice to say that he really did not feel incredibly sorry about my having to buy my brother 3 lb. lobsters at The Palm the last couple of years. He was cool enough to sign an extra autograph for my biggest Saints fan from the shop.
After meeting the rookies, we stumbled across former
Broncos and Redskins RB Clinton Portis. I knew Clinton from when he came to Nuggets games. He was an incredible signer when in attendance and quite a few times I would have to deal with the dozens of guests who would get signatures between quarters.
Friday was a down day with a trip to Santa Monica for lunch by the beach and then a visit to Mitch Guttenberg’s shop, The
Bullpen 2.0, that lasted until midnight. Yup, that is when he locked the doors. Yes, I know…I have the full disposal of a vehicle in sunny California and what do I do? I go to sports card shops instead of seeing the sights and sounds of lovely LA. Then again I’m also the same guy who during an off day working the finals in San Antonio a couple of years back went to Charlie Dipietro’s store, Sports Cards Plus instead of visiting The Alamo.
You can lean on Mitch if you are looking for not only a great selection of wax boxes, but also the latest place on earth to play MTG, Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon or any number of other games.
Fine, call me lame, but each store I go to gives me ideas on how to better run my shop as well as the chance to hang out with some of the coolest shop owners in the land.
In the Studio City area and looking for a great shop? Check out Mike Ant’s shop, it is worth the trip.
The next morning was the actual photo shoot at the Coliseum. Sam and I were guests of Topps and they did it up. We joined about another 20 guests of Topps in the end zone. Even better than the spread was how Topps brought out The Rip Master, Alan Narz.
I had the pleasure of meeting Alan back in the 90s when he and Veres visited Colorado with Topps to get us cowpokes up to speed on how to really run a card shop. As many of you know, Alan has run case breaks for Topps for many years and in between player visits, he was running trivia and pack wars for those assembled. Fortunately I do ok with sports card trivia and Sam lucked out with some prizes.
Every 15 or so minutes another rookie was brought over and we all had a chance of getting autographs and photos with them (technically a few more ran by since we were close to the portable potty). All the parents were cool enough to stay out of the way so that the kids could get hooked up and as you will see, this time we lucked out with a Mariota sighting.
BTW, if any of you are looking for the signed 2014 Bowman Chrome 1/1 Superfractor of Terrance West, my son is open to offers.
Of course there was much more, like the sugar packet fight between my son and Greg Lambert from California Card Shark, standing in the footprints of Christopher Walken in front of Grauman’s Theatre, babysitting Scotty Schwart’s (Flick from A Christmas Story) 8 oz Chiwawa puppy, getting in a healthy amount of quotes from Rocky 3 when we noticed actor Dolph Lundgren seated near us at the host hotel bar and suffice to say the food options in CA are worthy of another trip. Hey, perhaps next year I will be back with another piece about the 2016 rookie premiere event only as a veteran, not as a rookie…
Mike Fruitman owns Mike’s Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, CO. Normally, his column focuses on what products are selling best in hobby shops. He’s got thousands of cards for sale on COMC.com under the ID cardmn5150. Enjoy new arrivals and big hits from Mike’s on Twitter. Mike’s is always looking for more friends on Facebook and you can email him at [email protected]