There are many different ways to collect autographs -- through the mail, at card shows, or purchasing autographs online or at stores. The most enjoyable, however, is collecting autographs in person. Another dimension is added when you collect in person; not only do you get guaranteed authenticity, but memories are formed that could last a lifetime.
Getting an autograph in person:
- Be polite! This cannot be stressed enough. Your chances of landing an autograph are greatly increased when you respect the players. Shouting "Hey You!" over and over is not the way to go. Not only will you likely not get an autograph, it decreases the chances of anyone going near you.
- Respect the ushers. They can be your best friend, or worst enemy. Sometimes the ushers can help you get an autograph, but only if the player agrees first. They won't ask a player for you. They might, however, hand items to a player, to help make sure everyone gets one. Be nice to them, and they'll be nice to you!
- Be prepared -- know the players. If at all possible, bring a team roster with the players listed on it. Players appreciate it when you know who they are, and will respond more readily to your requests when you know their name. Team rosters can be found at www.mlb.com, in the team pages section.
- Patience is key -- it will pay off. Waiting for an autograph can often take a long time, but just be patient. Once you find a good spot, remain there. Moving will only cause problems -- bumping into people, banging a knee (or more) or worse, missing out completely. More often than not, once you move, a player will head right to where you were and you'll try to get back, only to miss out.
- When going to a game, bring the minimum number of items. It will be much easier to move around, and you are at less risk for losing items. Getting through the security lines will also be quicker! One of the best and easiest items to bring is one or two Rawlings Official Major League Baseballs. The balls are easy to toss to a player above the dugout, and you do not have to worry about getting out personalized items. You can get the baseballs from the Rawlings website. They will also be available at most ballparks.
It is important to get the official ball, as the surface is the best for autographs. Most of the non-official balls will have a slick surface, and signatures can easily smear and will fade over time.
- Using the right pen is important. For baseballs, the best pen a blue Paper Mate ballpoint. They can be purchased from Paper Mate's website. The ink will not fade and it is not easy to smear.
Do NOT use Sharpies on baseballs. The ink fades drastically over time, and can often disappear entirely. Sharpies are good for baseball cards, photographs, and magazines. Some baseball cards have very slick surfaces and these should not be used for autographs, as the pen ink will smear.
- Getting baseball cards signed. This can be difficult, but very rewarding. Baseball cards are fun to get signed, but can be somewhat difficult to handle while trying to get autographs in person at a ballpark. They are best used at autograph sessions, or more controlled settings. One easy way to get cards signed, however, is to make an "autograph album" for them. To make one, purchase a small photograph album with pages in it. Make sure the pages are blank. Then, buy some photo corners. Take a baseball card and put it on the page. Trace the corners to get the dimensions. Then put the photo corners on the page, and fit the card you want to get signed on the page. This will make it very easy to flip through and find the specific cards you want.
- Get there early! To get autographs at a ballpark, be sure to get there early -- preferably before batting practice starts. BP usually starts about 2 hours before gametime. Batting practice itself is quite fun to see, and you get the added bonus of potentially getting an autograph. Once you arrive at the park and get in, head to the dugout area of your favorite team. The best areas to get autographs are above the dugout or just to the right or left of it. There will often be less people at the visting team's dugout. Pick a spot and stay there, relax, and, enjoy BP while awaiting your chance. Most times you can come away with one or even several autographs.
Other ways to get autographs:
- There are a number of sites available. Be very wary of authenticity. Only purchase from official dealers, mlb.com, or through baseball card companies such as Upper Deck and Topps. eBay is not recommended. Here are some good sites:
- Through the mail. Getting autographs through the mail is slow, but possible. Players get a lot of fan mail each day, and can't possibly answer it all -- and many do not. Some, however, do, and you can get autographs through the mail. It is a very slow process, however, and not all that effective. There is also little guarantee of authenticity.
- Card shows. Card shows are some of the best places to get autographs. There are often scheduled signings, and you'll receive a certificate of authenticity from the signing. They can be expensive, however.
Collecting autographs is a fun and rewarding hobby, and hopefully this article has helped you to get started!