Go for the players. Go for the ambiance. Go to spend time with those you love. Go for the beer. Go for the weather (from this point forward, I swear).
Look it’s getting bad. Losing record at home, more walks than the slow half of a 5K ... look, though, dang it; there is still plenty to do from the fan’s on-field perspective. I’m here to make it fun again. No matter how far we get, I always find adventure and wonder at Coors. I’m here to share it with you and make things fun again at the world’s greatest ballpark.
Today is my follow-up from before where I promised you a step-by-step guide to getting an autograph, now that you’ve followed my steps to obtain a foul ball (you did follow my guide right? Of course you did!). Now that you have that swell souvenir, it’s time to take it to the next level. I wouldn’t fault you if you wanted to keep your initial ball unblemished, but once you get your second and multiples, it’s time to get some ink on ‘em. Getting your ball (or bat, or whatever) autographed has many of the same applicable insights, just with a twist. So if you’re looking to get that Charlie Blackmon auto, or a Troy Tulowitzki signature (patience my young Padawan), here’s what you need to do.
1. Possess secret weapons. I guess this is the nature of the game -- after all, it’s a kids’ game! Bring children with you to the ballpark. Dress them appropriately in Rockies gear, perhaps with the hat off-kilter. Bring them to sections 118, 119, 120 or 121 before the game starts.
The presence of a child will help you circumvent getting ignored by the players’ disinterested gazes. Similar to obtaining foul balls, children will tilt the autograph experience in your favor.
2. Know where to go. As I hinted at in Tip No. 1, about 30 minutes before the game, head down to sections 118-121. The former might be the outer limits of your range, though, just as a warning. Blackmon will sign for us in 118 but for the others, you’ll have to go down a section or two. Before the game begins, the ushers let you down there without hassling you, but remember: once the players disembark, please return to your normal seats. People have paid to sit in theirs to watch the game.
3. Go to spring training. Seriously, aside from Tip No. 1, this is probably your best bet, and you could even be successful without secret weapons. At spring training, the players are much more accessible, and frankly they are in a much better mood. Even better is to go follow the Rockies "on the road" and go to a visiting ballpark. Then go down by the field before the game and just wait. Talking Stick is the worst place in Arizona for this, as it’s always crowded. Better to go to another park -- perhaps, where the A’s play -- if you're seeking autographs.
I have a team ball from 2007 that was missing a few players, one of which was Jamey Carroll. In 2010, I went down to Surprise and saw the Dodgers, for whom Carroll was playing at the time, and I was able to get him on the ball with little to no resistance.
4. Attend Rockies Fest. This is another way to practically guarantee an autograph, but from whom is always the adventure. If you’ve never been, you get tickets to autograph events in various places around the stadium. You show up at the time and place, and then once the timeslot begins, you find out which player will be signing (it’s usually two at a time). In this manner I’ve received many, many prospects, and the occasional big league stud. Two years ago (the one year I couldn’t go) finally produced the first one-on-one session with Tulo. I should say this is one of the few ways to get Tulo’s autograph. Tip Nos. 1-3 will not work on him; you have to transcend your game to get the transcendent.
5. Pay money. This one is lame, but unfortunately it works. This is almost the only way to get Tulo's signature. There are three methods:
- Send your item and $25 to the Rockies Charity Fund to Coors Field, attention Troy Tulowitzki. In about five to eight months (or so it seems), you’ll get your item back autographed by Tulo. Carlos Gonzalez also does this. I justified this a couple of times by saying, "it’s for charity, you know!" Actually $25 is a bargain because …
- Contracted events. Sometimes when a new Sports Authority, or a new Target or whatever, is opened, the company will have a player come for the event. It’s almost always a promotion in some way for the store/event, but they’ll have a player show up to work the crowd and sign a few autographs. You have to be careful, though, as at most of these types of events, you have to pay or buy something. For example, there's the infamous situation with Ubaldo Jimenez at Dillard's. I took the Secret Weapons out there after learning in the paper that Ubaldo would be modeling the Perry Ellis (or whatever) line. So, we decked out in our Ubaldo gear and went down there. You had to buy like $90 in pants to get the meet-and-greet/autograph session. I’m a man of simple tastes and don’t wear designer pants (I assure you I do wear pants!), but I was determined. Leveraging my items from Tip No. 1, we waited. And waited. And waited. After a while, the store attendants were all cleaning up and Ubaldo was long gone. Finally, one of the handlers was like, "I applaud your patience, here you go." Tip No. 1 had paid off once again! The signature was on one of those cheap plastic baseballs, though, so I’m glad that I didn’t buy $90 pants.
- eBay. This one is lame and has the potential for fraud, but if you’re living with regret that you never got to see the Toddfather in person (and therefore were never able to get that coveted autograph), eBay is for you. But if you’re using it, be careful to always buy from a reputable seller. If it’s too good to be true, that's probably the case. Look for legitimately certified items and not just random dudes on eBay writing on baseballs. You know all of this, of course. This is the tip I recommend least, as it doesn’t mean anything. Obtaining autographs is all about the story. eBay yields no story. All of my autograph encounters have great stories connected to them. That’s why I do it.
6. Pay attention. Like a foul ball, paying attention can net you an autograph. But in this case, pay attention to the opponent. Remember, many Rockies greats end up on other teams. For example, Matt Holliday is due at Coors Field next month as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. Matty’s always been a crowd pleaser, so follow the tips thus far and go over on the third base line. You may be able to snag a Holliday's John Hancock. Which leads me to the next tip ...
7. Be prepared. Want a CarGo autograph? Wear a CarGo jersey. Want a Blackmon auto? Grow a gnarly beard. Want to chat with Morneau? Make a sign that reads "We don’t want less yes, we want Morneau!"
This also works for opposing teams. Going back to Tip No. 6, if you’re looking for Holliday, pull out that old No. 5 Rockies jersey and go camp out down the third base line when the Cards are in town. Honestly the more obscure player, the better, though that isn't always the case.
There are really only two all-time greats for the Rockies in terms of players going all-out to sign. The first is the original No. 19, Ryan Spilborghs. That guy was always signing – every game. He was truly a man of the people and, as we know, still is. The other of course is the man, the myth, the legend: No. 17 himself, the Toddfather. Todd Helton was always signing, despite his superstar status. If he could get into Cooperstown on class, he’d be a lock.
Also, bring a Sharpie. There have countless fans I’ve seen foiled for lack of a pen. Sharpies are skinny and easy to transport, so really there’s no excuse for not having one. You certainly can't count on the players/handlers to have one.
8. Karma. If you get an autograph and it’s one you maybe already have or you’re just a grown up with a life and stuff, by all means give it to a kid. You’ll be rewarded tenfold in the future! I’ve given away more autographed balls than I can count, but it always makes someone’s day and again, makes for an incredible story! That's what baseball is all about anyway.
9. Have good manners! I’m pretty regularly disappointed when people yell at the players, "Hey, come over here … " or "Hey, No. 5!." Always ask like a grown up. Be polite, use their name and be very nice. How would you like it if people were always bugging you like that at work? "Hey you, get this done!"
Some people may be like that, but us Rockies fans, we’re better than that. Don’t be a Red Sawk.
Finally, once you've used these tips to acquire the treasured autographs, do not -- DO NOT -- use the ball in your sandlot game of baseball, even if you think "Ruth" is a girl. After all, if that mean dog gets the ball, there's no getting it back (unless you live by Tip No. 8, of course).