This is a guest post by Pete Van Mark of Autograph Seeker’s Diary. Follow Pete’s journey as he attempts to meet players and gather as many autographs as he can.
Woody Allen once said that eighty percent of success is showing up. So what is the secret to the other twenty percent?
When it comes to getting baseball autograph signings, being in the right place at the right time, i.e. showing up, is key. But the where, when and how you ask play a significant role in being successful.
The early bird catches the worm:
Showing up to games early (close to the time when the gates open) will increase your chances of getting an autograph. Get down to the lower sections during batting practice, particularly near the dugouts. Players will often stop and sign for a few minutes while they are on break.
One time, I didn’t follow my own rules and decided not to get to the stadium early. It was the first year of the new Yankee Stadium. When I got there, I found out two hours before the game, when the gates opened, several Yankee players were in the great hall, meeting fans, signing autographs and taking pictures. Had I gotten there on time, I could have met Nick Swisher, Brett Gardiner and Francisco Cervelli at the same time. What an awesome photo that would have been. Moral: get to the park early!
During spring training, some players will get there as early as 8am before a 1pm game to work out with a specific coach. Most players and coaches will sign between workouts. Plus, you get the extra bonus of seeing both the veteran players and prospects in action! In most parks, you don’t even need a ticket to watch. Just look for the practice fields around the stadium.
Stay at a hotel close to the spring training stadium: While veteran players stay where they want, prospects are usually put up in the common hotels near the spring training facilities. Staying at the same hotel gives you the opportunity to run into the prospect throughout the course of your stay.
There is nothing worse than getting to meet your favorite player but have nothing for them to autograph or a camera. Bring what you want signed, several pens and a small digital camera. I tend to favor Rawlings balls for their portability and because they are the official MLB balls. For baseballs, always use ballpoint pens as sharpies can bleed on a baseball. For bats or photos, I use a sharpie because it stands out better.
Do something classy to stand out:
One time, I was down at spring training having breakfast at the local diner. Goose Gossage was sitting by himself, eating breakfast two booths away from me. Rather than accost him, I quietly asked my waitress to pay for his bill. Mr. Gossage came over to me to thank me, talked to me while he sat at my table for a few minutes, and signed some baseballs. It was a memorable experience that would have never happened if I went over to his table, interrupted his breakfast and asked him to sign. Show a player respect, and you increase your chances of a personal experience. Most of all don’t be THAT fan that disturbs a player’s family dinner for an autographed napkin.
Get involved with player’s charities:
Players, especially retired ones, will do charity events such as dinners and golf outings. Find the smaller, more intimate events and attend them. Players generally expect to meet and autograph for fans at events like this.
Being prepared, early and respectful are the things that, in my experience, has gotten me the furthest in meeting players. For more stories about players I’ve met, check out my blog at http://autographseekersdiary.blogspot.com/.