Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Getting Autographs from Prospects at Spring Training

Melky Cabrera signed baseball from Spring Training 2006

One of my favorite things about going to spring training is to check out the up-and-coming players, watch them develop and then see them as starting players a few years later.  I love to meet these guys before they really hit the big time, when they are fighting for their spot on the roster, when they put in some of the best effort to show off their raw talent.

Back in 2006, I was watching a young Yankee prospect, Melky Cabrera.  I had seen him make a brief appearance in the MLB the previous season, with little success.  In spring training, he seemed to have his stuff together, and was fun and interesting to watch.  I wanted to meet him.

What was interesting was that I was staying at the Tampa Bay Days Inn, a few blocks away from Legends Field (where the Yankees practice, now known as Steinbrenner Field).  So was Cabrera, along with several other Yankee prospects.  In fact, I would see him practically every day, leaving for the park and returning back to the hotel.  At night, fellow Yankee Robinson Cano would swing by, pick him up and head out to dinner.

I began to see Cabrera and company frequently, so it got to the point where I would wave hello to them.  They would wave back.  After a few days, I flat out approached them and requested autographs.

While I didn’t get a chance to really speak with any of them, it was really interesting to see how hard Cabrera and the other Yankee prospects worked.  They were up and out at around 7 am, and returned over an hour after the game.   Pretty grueling day, especially when you factor in the physical drills, performance during a game against other professional athletes, all while trying to win a coveted spot on the Yankee roster.  Yet still they took the time to sign for a fan.  Pretty cool.

The moral of the story is that prospects often are put up at the small, local hotels.  So, if you choose to stay there as well, you just might get an opportunity to know them a bit better.  Just be respectful.  Keep in mind they are on a six week job interview!

These days, I don’t get to see Cabrera play as often as I used to, since he has bounced to the Atlanta Braves and then to the KC Royals (I live in a NY market, so I don’t catch those games as often).  But when he is in town, I still feel the connection from that day at spring training – and that makes me a fan.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Autograph Seekers Tips

Since it is the season (spring training, that is), I thought I would share some inside tips on successfully obtaining autographs at training camps.  While there are always tons of people at spring training games looking to get their own piece of memorabilia, there are certain things you can do to help stand out from the crowd.  Here are the best tips to get autographs with some of the roster’s best players:

  • Get to the park early.  Getting to the park several hours before the game allows you to view batting practice and gets you in front of the players at the beginning of their day when they are more likely to sign. They are often taking bp at the main ballpark (not the practice fields). They will usually come up to the fence to sign for fans.
  • Come prepared!  Bring baseballs and several pens (they get lost or stop working so bring a few) along with a bag to hold them.
  • If a player is signing, have the ball and pen out of the bag/box and ready to be signed.
  • Be respectful of the player whether they sign for you or not.  Don’t heckle them if you don’t get a signature.  You might get another chance later.
  • Always thank the player for a signature and their time.  Most players really do appreciate their fans, and probably get just as much of a thrill at meeting you as you do meeting them.
  • I have also had a bit of luck getting autographs or simply chatting with pitchers in the bullpen area of some stadiums during the games.  Again, be polite and respectful.  There may be times where pitchers can/will chat with you, and there may be times when they can’t.  Never heckle them if they can’t talk or sign.
  • When you have gotten an autograph, make sure you note it down.  I usually mark the box for the baseball I got signed and return the ball to that box.  This does two things: it protects the signature, which can smudge if not handled carefully, and it helps me figure out who signed the ball when I get home.  Some signatures will be almost illegible!

Most of all have fun getting autographs!  I love meeting the players and talking to them, as they all have different personalities.  The stories are worth so much more than the autograph!