Another weekend in Peoria, Illinois, and another hotel blaster party. These trips are a lot of fun for me working the IHSA state basketball finals. The two weekends are also vastly different in terms of of the games, and I have fun for different reasons.
During the first weekend of small school basketball, there are often teams I am familiar with (living in rural Illinois), and it also gives me a chance to reconnect with many members of the media and coaches that I worked with during my days as a sports broadcaster in Illinois. The second weekend brings some great basketball when we get to see the top teams from the large schools. This weekend I’ll have the chance to see this year’s Mr. Basketball in the state, E.J. Liddell from Belleville West. He is headed to Ohio State.
My job is to help the TV broadcasters with running game stats. I will track various items throughout a game such as scoring runs, droughts, state records, and various other stats. One year I was tracking number of passes by a team per possession. Last week during one game I spent 15 minutes adding up the time of possession for each team. This is a view from my seat and a look at one of last week’s broadcast crews from behind the scenes.
It’s ironic that I’m in the hometown of P-Town Tom and I won’t have the chance to meet up. Typically, I’m inside Carver Arena (home of the IHSA state finals, and also Bradley University basketball) from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. By the way, there was a lot of buzz inside the arena last weekend as Bradley made their way through the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, ultimately winning it on Sunday advancing to the field of 68 next week.
P-Town Tom has an excellent blog that I usually check out on a daily basis. Tom and I actually met in person last summer and completed a trade. He gave me a box of Cubs and I offered up a few Cubs that he didn’t have along with some local Madison, Wisconsin craft beer.
I was a bit surprised when I retrieved my P.O. Box mail that one of the boxes was from Tom! I messaged him and said I’ll check out his want list and send a return package, but he said that’s not necessary. Tom must not know me well enough, because he’ll be getting a package.
My routine doesn’t change for my trips to the basketball finals. I’ll leave Madison between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., make a stop at a fast food joint along Interstate 39 somewhere in northern Illinois, and arrive at my hotel around 8:30 p.m. Inside my suitcase are a few blaster boxes to do some hotel room ripping.
This week’s product is the recently released 2019 Topps Opening Day. Can you believe this is the first time I have ever purchased a box of Opening Day? If 2019 Donruss had been on the shelf, it would have been a couple blasters of that. Target didn’t have any Donruss, but a fresh supply of Opening Day.
Another first arrived in the first box I opened. Doubles. In the same box. This has to be a rarity. There may have been multiple doubles in this box (in fact I think I did notice another Carlos Martinez), but I was so shocked I pulled two Kyle Schwarber cards in the same blaster box. How does this happen? Hey, at least it’s a Cubs duplicate.
And that Ernie Banks insert is really cool. It’s a 150 Years of Fun subset, and they are pretty cool. The second box gave me four Cubs: Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Willson Contreras, and Jon Lester.
The final box had two cards. Another Kris Bryant and another Willson Contreras.
In the last box, I pulled an autograph. An autograph!!! Out of Opening Day. Could not believe it. Colorado Rockies pitcher Kyle Freeland here. The odds in a blaster box to pull this autograph is 1:971 packs. You could say I beat the odds with my 33 packs.
There are still four unopened boxes of Cubs waiting for me at home. Three of them arrived on Wednesday, and another package showed up Thursday. I haven’t had the time to open them up, so I will have a big mailday post coming on Sunday.