An expert at getting MLB autographs reveals her secrets

It is baseball season and you want to decorate your official major league baseball with the signature of a major league player. Getting an autograph is a unique skill but with practice, everyone can experience some success. My goal is to offer a few tried and true strategies that have yielded great success.

Golden Rule: Remember, at most locations (such as a stadium or stadium parking lot) the MLB players you are approaching are “at work”. When you approach any of the players, be respectful of the player and their work environment.

Right space rule

When is the workplace environment most favorable? As stated above, in most instances you will be soliciting autographs when players are “working”. Even in instances of the stadium parking lot or before the game begins, the players are on the clock. From experience, the parking lot has never worked for me. Try to envision yourself in their shoes.

If you were driving into your workplace parking lot and a mass of people were trailing you, hounding you for an autograph, would you be inclined to stop and oblige? You would very likely respond by heading into your office building trying to ignore the unsolicited demands.

As you enter your workplace your efforts are focused on the upcoming day and how to handle what is required. MLB players are no different when they are in the parking lot, most are focused on getting to the clubhouse or home. So when are players likely to be in a better space for signing and greeting the public?

When players are paid to sign

MLB Stadiums: Most stadiums have designated signing areas in the stadium. These will be listed online at the team website. As part of designating an area, management also designates rookies or coaching staff to sign balls before games. There is more pre-game signing on weekend day games than night games during the week. Mike Trout, Troy Tulowitzki, Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez are not the type of players management designates to sign, but the gates are open 90 minutes prior to the game. Come a little early and get your very own autographs from Alfredo Griffin, Brook Jacoby, Mark Reed, Chris Woodward, or Austin Barnes.

Team-sponsored events

Team sponsors such as Earl Schieb Paint and Auto Body host signing events. This is one of the many benefits of being a team sponsor. Players show up and bring the public into the sponsor venue. These are advertised in advance and sessions last about 90 minutes. There are rules about the number of items and the assorted players are generally the utility infielders, backup catchers and relief pitchers. While you do not get tier one stars, mostly everyone that shows up to these events leaves with an autograph. You might even get the dent in your car fixed at the same time.

Pre-game activities

Pay attention to the pre-game festivities. Some of these events have big-name stars attached to the festivities. If Albert Pujols is hosting the pre-game festivities at Angel Stadium honoring tourists from Saint Louis, arrive early and watch the action. There could be a lull in the activities. If you are in position (close proximity) Pujols would already be in the “welcome zone”. He is engaged in pleasing his public on the field and one more request from some fans in the stands is easy to accommodate.

Rehabilitation assignments

Minor League Assignments: For dedicated readers of the Pahrump Valley Times: You are wondering, “How am I going to get an autograph?” The nearest MLB stadium is in the adjacent state. You are correct and because of the long distance to an MLB stadium, my number one recommendation is to pay attention to minor league rehabilitation assignments.

Big names like Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum and Josh Hamilton have graced the minor leagues with their presence due to in-season injuries. The closest opportunity is Cashman Field. Cashman Field is the home of the New York Mets Triple-A team, the Las Vegas 51s.

As a start, just for fun watch the 51s roster for Tim Tebow. He may get promoted later this year. Be aware, minor league players are just like the big leaguers. When they are at the stadium they are working. The best time to ask is after a game. Most of the rehabbing players expect to be asked and will wait after the game. Stay after the game and get in line.

Day trips to California, Arizona

Plan Ahead: Well, you have elected to try your luck at the Major League level and have packed the car with the kiddies heading toward Los Angeles or Arizona. There are ways to increase your chances of getting a selected star player’s autograph. The first rule is to plan ahead. Target your player. I would suggest someone destined for the Hall of Fame like Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw. No. 22 is a two-time National League Cy Young Award winner so let’s select him and build a plan.

■ Visiting Team Advantage: When the team plays at home, there is less public access to the players compared to when they are visiting an opponent’s stadium. Players at home arrive early and take batting practice earlier in the day.

Before a game at Dodger Stadium the players are not on the field. They are in the clubhouse. To increase your chance of success, look on the schedule to find a game date when the Dodgers are visiting Arizona. Securing Kershaw’s autograph is easier when he is visiting a stadium and not playing in Los Angeles. As a member of the visiting team, he will be in the dugout or around the field when the team is taking batting practice (90 minutes before the game).

Since Kershaw is a pitcher, pick a game that he is not starting. He will be at work but not throwing that specific night so there could be more down time. Extra credit assignment to increase your success: Observe Kershaw’s pre-game habits for the games when he does not pitch. Observe his behavior before games when he is in a visiting stadium. If you notice that he hangs in the bullpen before games, locate yourself by the bullpen If he likes to be in the dugout before games, be near the dugout. This demands that you watch a lot of televised baseball but that is not such a bad thing.

Other advice

■ Low Attendance: Your chance of success is best when the Dodgers are visiting a team and stadium plagued with low attendance. Fewer people equals less competition for the autograph. This makes Arizona not only one of the stadiums closest to Nevada but also a strategic choice (The Arizona Diamondbacks team’s rank in per home game attendance is 12th out of 15). Pick a game that has no stadium giveaways, post-game concerts or special appearances by personalities that would drive up the attendance.

■ Be Visible: You are Kershaw’s number one fan and so you already know that he is a charitable man. So you learn all his charities. He does charitable work in Zambia, Los Angeles, Dallas and the Dominican Republic.

You admire the lefty and his work. Visit the Kershaw Challenge Website – Read all about the good works of No. 22. Purchase your shirt from the store and this is the shirt that will make you very visible to Mr. Kershaw. Wear your shirt with pride and go to the designated signing area 90 minutes before the game and wait for your opportunity.

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Guest columnist Kim Hee lives in Palos Verdes, California, and practices what she preaches and has 11 signed baseballs. She is a big Angels fan and regularly sees Albert Pujols at his charity dinner he has every year in St. Louis.