Now in the past I made a "do's and don'ts of autograph collecting" post but after the photos for that post went offline I turned it back into a draft post waiting for newer pictures to put in so I can republish it. Plus it was meant to be a post about etiquette AT the ballpark. In the meantime I thought I'd do something similar but kind of different. How to actually go about preparing for IP autographs. It's not as tedious as you'd think but you do need to do some research and preparation beforehand if you want to make the most of your time.
1). Pick Venue/Team(s)
Right, so the first thing is to select a stadium to go to. Since Fuji inspired this post, let's use Municipal Stadium as an example.
Thank you to everyone for a fun-filled #SJGiants season! See you at #Muni in 2017 for our #DiamondSeason! pic.twitter.com/myrY3oKD7o— San Jose Giants (@SJGiants) September 10, 2016
Municipal Stadium is home to the San Jose Giants. The high-A ball affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. The SJ Giants are in the California League, meaning that their opponents will be the high-A ball affiliates of the Mariners/D-Backs/Rockies/Athletics/Astros/Rangers/Padres/Dodgers/Angels. If I were in Fuji's shoes, I'd try to go when the Giants take on the A's affiliate, the Stockton Ports. That way I can boo the home team and root for my favorite team's future stars (that's what I personally do in Brooklyn for the record ;)).
Now I know autograph collectors who have the will power, energy and luck to do BOTH teams in one game but I don't have the will or want to do that. I just focus on one side and stick to it. If I'm lucky and I'm going with a buddy who was planning to do the other side, I'd ask them to get stuff for me while I got stuff for them done on this side.
Right, so let's say that I went to this San Jose Giants game. The first thing I'd do is pick a game to go to (or rather a game that I can go to, assuming I'm on like a one week vacation there's only so many games I can choose from). Then I'd choose which team to get autographs of, because I'm sure not doing both. This is where I transition to my second phase.
2). Gather Cards or Items I Could Potentially Get Signed
So I'm looking at the two rosters for the teams that are due to match up on that day, I'd first see if I have any cards for any of the players. Or alternatively, I could see if there are really unique players whose autograph are worth getting on something like 8x10 pictures or baseballs.
Before I go any further, let me just say that the limit for autographs from a single player per game should be something like 3-4 cards. If you're the type of vulture or hound who gets dozens of cards signed at a time by the same player, then you're a piece of scum. Stop it. No reasonable person who is not looking to simply make a profit needs more than 2 or 3 of the player's autograph. If you are in the business of selling in person autographs, all I can say is that it doesn't justify your actions and you're still a jerk.
The first part is fairly easy. I just copy and paste every player's name from the roster sheet into eBay followed by terms like Bowman or Team USA to ensure that I don't get something like CD's by musicians who had the same name or something like that.
Granted minor league rosters aren't limited to 25 or 40 players so this can be tedious but if you're really unfamiliar with the team, this helps.
Doing this helped me find out that DJ Snelten had a card in 2013 Elite Extra Edition, Aramis Garcia had a card in 2014 Bowman Draft, Martin Agosta has had cards in 2012 Elite Extra Edition AND 2014 Bowman, to name a few notable finds.
Also, keep in mind that this is a high-A team. What this means is that there are likely minor league team issued cards of many of the other players that were made by the team/level right below this one. In 2015 the teams right below San Jose that released team sets the previous year were the single-A Augusta GreenJackets and short season A-level Salem Keizer Volcanoes. Chances are many of those players (not all) will be with the team. If you're planning this trip weeks or even months in advance, pick those up and keep them prepared.
|Picture Property of eBay seller, stbsports1|
|Picture Property of eBay seller, stbsports1|
Now some of you may be asking to yourselves, "doesn't the team itself also have team sets readily available?" Well the answer is yes and no.
It all depends on WHEN you go. If you go too early in the season (say like April or May) then the only team sets you'll find are from last year. And while there may be some repeaters who were in last year's set, you won't have the rest of the players currently with the club until the team sets are released later on. Teams release their sets at different times. Some as early as June, others as late as August. If you get lucky and go AFTER the team sets are out, then you might obtain some cards of the players who are there, but by that point it's also promotion season. ALWAYS expect at least two to four players who are in the team set to be at another level (either above or below).
Anyway after all of that, I do the same for the other team. Whichever team has the more appealing player(s) or most players I want to get autographs of is the side I usually go on when I go to games.
IF for any reason you don't have ANY cards to get signed, then a great fallback option is to just look up who the highest rated prospect on the team is. Pull up MLB.com or Baseball America's top 30 prospect list for the club and see if any are on the roster.
In this example, Bryan Reynolds was the highest rated prospect on the San Jose Giants. He's the fourth best Giants prospect on MLB.com. After that there are Aramis Garcia (sixth best), Jordan Johnson (ninth best), Dylan Davis (17th best), Heath Quinn (19th best), Reyes Moronta (24th best), Cory Taylor (27th best) and Gio Brusa (30th best). If I didn't have any cards of anybody, then I'd attempt to get Reynolds on a ball or a picture.
The same can apply to the opponent too. If the opponent was the A's affiliate then theirs would be Grant Holmes (the 3rd best OAK prospect on MLB.com's ranking).
Okay, so after all of that madness, you either have a pile of cards or at least one ball or picture you want ink on, great.
3). Prepare Roster Sheet & Methods of Identifying People
My local baseball team does not have the names on the back of the jerseys. In fact very few minor league teams do. Why would they need any? The players (for good or for bad) won't be back next year and it saves on money to just keep the good jerseys for next year. As such you'll need to rely on three things to help you identify players correctly and stop yourself from feeling like a total idiot for asking the wrong person.
The first is the jersey number. This is why the roster sheet is important. If you're over the age of 10 then you cannot just yell out "hey number 7!" for an autograph. You look at the number (once you can see it that is), match up it to the name on the roster sheet and yell out the player's first name. You need to really show the players that you want their autograph. Not just get an autograph for the sake of getting one. They can tell based on the way you address them whether you're a fan or just an autograph hound.
|Profile Picture Courtesy of MiLB.com|
The second is their face. We live in an interesting time where you can find profile pictures of most players that turn pro on the internet. Whether it's the official profile picture on MiLB.com or the profile pictures used on the player's former college baseball team's website or on places like Perfect Game from their exhibition game days. The only exceptions are the players from Latin America but by high-A ball they should have pictures of them floating around. Yeah, if you can recognize faces (as autograph collectors seem to be able to do as if by magic) then you're all set. This should especially be easy if you're only focusing on like one or two people.
The third and final thing you can rely on are the details about the player. If you're only after like one or three players it should easy enough to memorize (however briefly) some personal info like their weight and height. For instance, if the player you want an autograph of is 6'8", he's obviously going to stand out because he's so tall compared to everyone else. Or if his weight is closer to 300 then chances are he's going to be bulkier or wider than some of the other players.
4). Do Some Research On The Stadium
|Stadium Map on the San Jose Giants' official website|
This one is optional but one thing that would be pretty beneficial would be to take a look at the stadium before you ago and see how it is. More specifically how the areas close to the dugouts are. Some stadiums are a built in a way where the areas close to the dugouts that are prime spots for waiting for players to autographs to come are closed off to the public. Based on the few pictures of Municipal Stadium that I saw on Google Images, it doesn't look too bad, but it's not Richmond County Bank Ballpark either.
That said keep in mind that the field is not the only place where autographs can be obtained. Chances are there will be a table set up on the concourse where two (or more?) players sign autographs. If it's a stadium like Dutchess Stadium (the Hudson Valley Renegades stadium) the parking lots or employee entrances will be better.
5). Go To The Stadium, Enjoy Myself & Follow The Proper Etiquette
The second most important step probably, lol. If you're aiming for pre-game autographs then be sure to get to the stadium before the gates open (which is usually like an hour before the game starts). Be mindful that at least two pitchers (starters) will be charting behind home plate in the stands, expect failures and have fun.
|Picture Taken By Mickey Pfleger | Getty Images|
Woof, so all of that is the preparation that I would need to do in order to have an enjoyable IP autograph collecting session in San Jose. It's a lot, but if you're a crazy loon like me then this is nothing.
So Fuji, if you're wondering what you have to do in order to prepare for IP autographs at minor league baseball games, this is basically it ;).
As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).