Attending the East Coast National

Does the end justify the means?

That’s a big question that most (if not all) of us face in this hobby. Should I shell out hundreds of dollars for a 5 second photo op with an A-lister? Should I spend my entire day and night in airports or hotel lobbies to score that big photo op or autograph I need on my piece? Do I travel across the state to attend that big time convention?

Do I dare purchase photo ops from B.G. Entertainment at these sports shows?

That’s the question I’ve come to ask myself every single time a New York Yankee is booked for MAB’s Pinstripe Parade or JP Sports & Rock Solid Promotions. We’ve all heard horror stories – or perhaps actually experienced those horror stories. But I have to be honest here: I’ve never had a poor experience with B.G. Entertainment. Are their photo ops perfect? No. Do I particularly care if they’re perfect? I honestly don’t. My personal criteria for a good photo op: no blurriness, no heads digitally cutoff, and (hopefully) I look presentable. That’s it.

So by that criteria that I’ve set for myself, B.G. Entertainment hasn’t really let me down; in fact, the Sopranos group shot I took earlier this year is among my favorite photo ops ever. They came through.

And if we’re talking strictly about the outcome of the photo ops…they came through again, in my eyes. The Sabathia shot is one of my favorites. But the entire process? That’s a whole other story this time around. There was one point in the evening where I sat down and asked myself, “Does the end justify the means?” Let’s see what my answer was…

I wasn’t sure if I could even attend this event as Jenna and I moved into our first apartment together on Friday and were waiting for a piece of furniture to delivered Saturday morning. Thankfully, everything fell into place and I was able to attend.

Jenna dropped me off at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY, just after 5:00 PM. I had pre-ordered two photo ops for two current New York Yankees: one for C.C. Sabathia and the other for Gio Urshella. I debated splurging for the pricey Edwin Encarnacion photo op and ultimately decided to pull the trigger.

The setup of the venue is pretty convenient. The main lobby featured two ticket windows (admission was $10 and included a free autograph from a specific guest each day) and a large row of tables that displayed blown-up player cards that featured relevant info like the time the athletes would be signing and their various prices. They also noted who cancelled. Beyond the lobby is a large vendor room that even featured a stage, a Nathan’s, and even a little bar!

I purchased my admission ticket and was told to follow the signs for will call, which was in a different part of the building from when I last attended a show there. I ended up in a large room – more or less the size of the Big Event vendor room – that was filled with empty tables. The only one still at his table was Mercury Morris, who was having a fun conversation with a small group of fans. An employee informed us that the Yankees would be signing on the stage while photo ops would be happening right down the hall. I decided to camp out in the photo op room.

One of the staff announced that the Yankees had not arrived yet and it was up to them if they wanted to do photos or autographs first, which made me extremely queasy as I really didn’t want to wait long. Little did I know that it ultimately wouldn’t matter.

Soon thereafter, a small commotion was made. A B.G. staff announced that Carlos Beltran would be doing photo ops and asked for Beltran op holders to lineup against the wall. Beltran was scheduled to appear from 5:00 PM-6:30 PM but didn’t show up until ~5:45 PM; surprisingly, however, not one person in the room lined up to score their photo op. Beltran and his small entourage walked in and Beltran was directed to the black curtain…but still no takers. One of the staffers left the photo op room and tried to shout out in the vendor room, “BELTRAN PHOTO OPS NOW! BELTRAN PHOTO OPS NOW!” He came back in and said with a chuckle, “Who needs a PA system?”

Beltran awkwardly stood in front of the curtain with a perplexed look on his face. Beltran’s manager/handler was talking with the photographer for a few minutes before they bolted for the stage. As Beltran was leaving, he left with a perplexed smile on his face, looked at us, and said in Spanish, “I don’t know either!” The photographer went behind the curtain, returned, and told his crew that Beltran had 9 pre-orders. His staff was a little stunned at the number as a couple of them kept saying, “Beltran always does more at these shows.” The photographer said those 9 people needed to get Beltran after he was finished signing.

A number of people were now idling in the photo op room and, a few minutes past 6:00 PM, they asked for everyone with C.C. Sabathia photo op tickets to lineup against the wall. One obvious observance: it doesn’t appear like they were sticking to the 25 limit that was originally advertised. Sabathia arrived soon thereafter and received a very loving reception by the fans. Sabathia, who was ejected from the game earlier in the day despite not even being on the active roster that that time, was in a pleasant mood. I did witness one encounter where a mother asked Sabathia if he would hold their baby during the op. Sabathia reluctantly agreed but the baby had other ideas as he cried the second he was put in Sabathia’s arms. Anyways, Sabathia was very nice and I got to thank him for all that he’s done for the Yankees, which he seemed to genuinely appreciate it. I’m unbelievably grateful for the opportunity to meet him and I love how the photo turned out.

Domingo German followed Sabathia (though I met him last year for a mere $20). I believe Edwin Encarnacion followed. Encarnacion, who is currently on the IL, was pleasant but quiet. A couple of kids brought a stuff parrot for their photo ops, which I thought was fantastic. I thought about doing the parrot pose but decided it against. Just felt silly, especially when he wasn’t going to do it lol.

Gio Urshella followed and he, too, was nice. Urshella was known as a glove-first player, a brilliant defender, but horrible with the bat. That’s changed big time in 2019 as he’s become a very unlikely major contributor to the Yankees.

I was done with photo ops but still needed them to be printed out. I decided to take a lap around the vendor room for a little bit but was a little stunned when I returned and noticed that they still hadn’t printed out. That’s when one of the staffers announced, “It’s going to take 30 to 45 minutes for these photos to print out. There’s over 200 photos to process, so please feel free to enjoy the rest of the show and come back later.” It was now 7:30 and that’s when I realized they were only utilizing one printer. It looked like there was a second printer but it was not in use for whatever reason.

The Yankees wrapped up signing and were brought back to the photo op room for anyone who missed them. There was one awkward incident where the photographer ran out of space on his camera and couldn’t find his new card. Encarnacion and a fan stood awkwardly next to each other and Encarnacion was clearly not happy.

The players then departed after everyone in the room was taken care of. Soon thereafter, a small group of people entered the photo op room and asked when the Yankees would be doing photos. They were informed that photo ops had already happened and the players had left. One father and his teen daughter had waited the entire time on the autograph line. One guy wanted to get his photo op signed but it still hadn’t printed out. He had nothing else for the player to sign, so he was offered a refund (as were many other people).

It was now stretching into 8:00 PM and tensions were running high as the majority of photos had still not printed. I started to get reallynervous when I overheard a staffer say, “All the Sabathia ones are blurry?” Fuck, that can’t be good. I felt really bad for the staffer attempting to print these photos out. He was doing the best that he could but people were getting angry with him, as if he decided to delay everyone and not print their photos out of spite. I get being frustrated but it’s not his fault. Come on.

There was a confrontation between another staffer and a man. They got into each other’s face and the man apparently didn’t appreciate the way he was being “yelled at” by the staffer. The staffer wasn’t yelling at him, he was just instructing people on where they should be. Some man (who appeared to revel in the idea of being in charge of something) broke it up. I honestly thought it was close to them coming to blows.

Anyways, the Sabathia and Urshella photos printed and mine came out fine. I still needed Encarnacion, though, and decided to wait a little longer. That’s when I heard overhead some obscenities and disbelief. The staffer who took the photo ops suddenly became furious and stormed out the room in a big huff. I’m still not quite sure what happened but it sounded like certain photos – mainly with Urshella and Voit – did not come out well.

It looked and sounded like the staff was desperately trying to get into contact with the players and get them back to the show; alas, that didn’t happen. Eventually, one man in a suit came into the room and said he personally spoke with Didi Gregorius’ agent and tried to get him to come back but Didi had fulfilled his paid obligation and wouldn’t be returning. He personally apologized to everyone on behalf of JP Sports and gave them instructions on how to get refunds.

It was now 8:30 and I absolutely had to leave. Jenna was done running some errands and I was beat after moving the previous day. I went up to the staffer behind the printer and he told me that he saw my Encarnacion picture was in the queue and was incredibly sorry that it was taking this long. We shook hands and I told him I’d see him at the Pinstripe Parade in January. Again, I felt horrible for him because he very much wanted this nightmare to end but it just wouldn’t.


So that was that.

I’m not sure why only one printer was being utilized. I thought I saw a 2nd one but perhaps it was broken. Either way, there’s gotta be a better system than using just 1 printer to print out hundreds of photos. I get that machinery breaks down but that’s why you have backups on hand. It legitimately took 2+ hours to get photo ops (and I left without one of them!) and that just can’t happen. I don’t fault the staffer who was trying to get them printed out, I fault whomever runs B.G. for not being prepared.

They also need to better communicate to people in the large vendor space when photo ops are happening. Shouting and having a weak PA system are useless. There has to be a better system here or else they’ll have to issue a lot of refunds.

So after all of that: do I feel the ends justified the means? At the end of the day, I got what I wanted but the process was beyond ridiculous. I understand that shit happens but my patience for this type of stuff – not just with this con but with all of them – is running low.

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