Collecting autographs live comes down to the two P’s: Preparation and Politeness. In the end, whatever gets the job done is good. However, my take on the whole situation is that these folks take time out of their schedule for you so you don’t want to waste their time and you don’t want to be a jerk and make them not want to do it anymore. Even the nice guys like Mike Trout can get frustrated, and if you are an adult not only should you know better, but you don’t want to ruin it for the kids.
Live Autographs: Always Be Prepared
This is the most important place to start and it happens even before you head to the game or the event. The stress and noise of the crowds can impact you while trying to get an autograph. On top of that, you’re not going to have a lot of room to work with. Being prepared is going to be vital to making it all work. There’s several things you need to prepare for:
- Know the Park: Do your research beforehand as much as possible. Try to find out where other people suggest the best place is to wait for someone to sign. Sometimes that isn’t inside the park. There are times when you can catch the players coming and going from the game if you are willing to be there and are willing to wait.
- Know the Players: While you might think this is obvious because they have jerseys with their names and numbers on the back… not so fast. During BP a lot of guys will where a warmup shirt or jacket instead of their jersey. That makes it a lot harder especially when they have a hat on and the shadow doesn’t help you see their face. Know their faces and how they walk around. If you go to enough games you can learn their routines and where they like to be. All this is probably most important if you are working on a visiting team. But it’s even more important at an event. Players will look a lot different in street clothes (think about seeing a football player with no helmet or pads, it’s a lot different).
- Bring Extra: You can never guarantee who will be willing to sign that day (if anyone will sign at all). My packing list usually covers the following:
- Boxes for cards for each team. Multiple cards for each player if possible.
- Nice and shiny new baseballs for players you don’t have cards for.
- Bag of several pens (sharpies of different colors, ball points, etc.).
- Small towel and water. You don’t want to sweat on your stuff and you don’t want to leave a good spot if you get one.
- You. If you have a partner willing to help (I drag along my brother) you can cover more ground.
- Pack Up Efficiently: I pack up a small backpack with different pockets. I don’t want to have to dig too far into the bag to find what I need. Keeping everything handy allows you to work quicker and work within a small space.
- Be Ready for Weather: I’ve been in DC when the weather turns for the worse in not too much time. I would hate to get soaked and ruin a good day. I try to keep a plastic bag within the bag to be able to protect my things.
Be Polite While Asking for Autographs
There are several sayings you could say here like, “You get more flies with honey….” ALWAYS BE POLITE! This goes for the players as well as for the people around you. The players are giving you their time. You want them to not only do this for this time, but make them want to sign for any game.
It’s start with how you get them to come over. I don’t care what age you are, use “Mr.” So-and-So as much as you can. It kills me when kids yell a guy’s first name. Definitely don’t shout their last name only. Maybe I am old fashioned but I think this is an important point. To me it’s disrespectful to do anything else.
When they get there, you better be ready. Players will keep moving if you are not ready. You don’t want them to move on and you definitely don’t want them giving you “The Face.” They can handle kids being slow, but not adults. This goes back to being prepared.
Say Thank You! We drill into our kids to say their “pleases and thank yous” and somehow that goes out the window as adults. I think in all this you need to set the tone for the folks around you, especially the kids.
But like I said earlier, it’s not just being polite to the players. Be polite to those around you. Help the kids around you get their stuff to the player. Don’t stand in the front, let the kids stand in front. Talk up the other people around you while you are waiting, share a story. Maybe they will be more willing to help you later if needed. You have to be willing to dive in and fight for space and if you can butter some folks up, they are more willing to work with you.
The other important person to be polite to are the ushers and security staff. Normally your taking up space where people are going to sit and eventually you have to clear out. You want to make sure you get as much time as you’re able to get and not make any cases for them making you move earlier than normal. As long as you aren’t pushing people around you should be OK. Like I said, work with the kids. Let them be up front because you can reach over them, help them out once you get your stuff and if they are stuck behind you.
A perfect example of all this can be shown in a few interactions with Ian Desmond (then shortstop for the Washington Nationals). He was signing on the first base side at Nats Park several years ago. Before he came over he told everyone who was waiting that he would come over after he warmed up and to have stuff out before he came over (Be Prepared). When he came over, he wouldn’t give back a ball unless you said thanks (Each time saying “What do you say?” if he didn’t hear it). He’s a great guy, and even though I am not a Nats fan, he became a guy I like, follow, and root for that day just because of what I saw those times he signed.
Remember the two P’s and you’ll not only have a successful day, but you can then sit back and relax and enjoy the game.
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