So, what I am most proud of about my collection is that I've met almost all of the athletes I have acquired an autograph from. The whole reason I started collecting was to meet the player/celebrity and maybe have an interaction with them while asking them for an autograph. Now when I say meet the players, I don't mean at a paid signing/event (I'll cover that in the upcoming weeks), I mean at the sporting venue, on the street, at a charity event, in a public place.
As I mentioned in the first posting most of my autographs are from professional baseball players, but I've used the same strategies for any athlete/celebrity that I'm trying to get an autograph from. Here are some hints that have been successful for me or that I've seen work for others.
1. Know who you are going to see. If you're attending a game, print out the roster and learn the names and uniform numbers of the players. This will help you seek out your target when there are many to choose from during warm ups or pre-game preparations on the field.
2. Always call a person by Mr. or Mrs, or in the case of my experience meeting Bill and Hillary Clinton, Mr. President or Senator. Calling a player by their first name, overall, won't go far to help you out. For the older collector's as myself, even when a player is younger, not using their first name is usually helpful or at least increases the odds of getting that person's autograph.
3. Don't keep yelling at the players/persons to come over to you. One or two call outs is enough. I have found that the more you hound and bother a player the odds of them coming over becomes slim to none.
4. If the celebrity does come to your area, offer your writing utensil first. Let them keep it. By offering up that item for them to use you are almost guaranteed an autograph yourself. This has worked for me with Jonathan Papelbon, Bill Mueller, Hideki Okajima, Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe and many others. Not to mention if you don't get it back, you've probably only lost about a $2 item.
5. Don't make fun of the person when they come to you. If you start to criticize them for something, they'll walk away. Remember, they are not obligated to sign autographs, so any bad comment or any "razzing" of them will ruin the experience for everyone. Saying things like "good luck tonight", "Good game" or "How's your family" has worked really well for me.
6. Don't push!! Don't push!! Don't push!! Once pushing starts, it becomes a very unsafe situation for the fans, especially the kids up front and unsafe for the player. The reason people won't sign autographs is due to the fact they know they'll create a mob scene and they don't want to cause issues in the stands or waiting areas. I have seen Mariano Rivera, Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols and President Obama be willing to sign autographs at the park or at events, but they had to stop after about 5-6 people because the pushing and shoving caused unsafe situations.
7. Stand by kids. That doesn't mean push them out of the way or take away their opportunity to meet one of their heroes. What I mean is that a celebrity will almost always gravitate to a child's request to sign an autograph first. Some people will only sign autographs for kids, which is fine, but if you're lucky, you might get one yourself, especially if they see that you're letting the kids go ahead of you.
8. Be patient. My experience is that you need to stay in one place when trying to acquire the signature. It is rare when I've moved to a different location and actually been able to get the autograph I wanted. To this day I regret moving from an area I had at the front of the wall in Pittsburgh at a game in 2003. I decided to chase Pedro Martinez down the right corner. The problem was that he ended up coming right down the wall and because I moved I lost my spot. I was never able to regain my spot to get his autograph.
Additionally, you never know when or where a person might sign. So be ready for it to happen anytime. For instance at a baseball game most players will sign during batting practice, however, Red Sox players have been known to not sign then, but right before the game starts. I have seen many people leave their spots after batting practice and lose the opportunity to get an autograph.
9. Be mindful that once a celebrity leaves their workplace they are on their own private time. Bothering a person at a hotel, at a restaurant or when they're with the family can be very bothersome for them. If you bother them there they will most likely not sign for you and if they get too annoyed with those requests, they won't sign in their workplace either. It becomes a lose-lose for everyone.
10. Don't expect to get more than 2 autographs at an event/function. Nowadays, because of the EBAY phenomenon players are less willing to sign and they are also undergoing more in depth pre-game preparation. Try to decide ahead of time who you really want an autograph from.
11. Have extra sharpies or pens.
11. Say Thank You.