Monday, June 20, 2011

Minor League Baseball Means: Autographs

I have been collecting autographs in Minor League ballparks off and on since 1996. My first autograph in a Minor League baseball stadium was Magglio Ordonez and came courtesy of my manager asking me go with him to a Birmingham Barons game. I didn't do a good job at work hiding my obsession with baseball and my manager invited me to help him out with another top prospect that would be in that stadium: Derek Lee. Before he asked me to go with him , it never occurred to me to go to a Minor League baseball game to get autographs. I didn't even go to a Barons game to watch Micheal Jordan play baseball. Even at a young age, I realized the chance of making Major Leagues was small. 30% of AAA players will get one at bat in the Majors. 20% at the AA level. 10% for all other levels. It just didn't seem to be worth it but I decided to go anyways.
Magglio at the time looked like a bean pole and maybe weighed 180 pounds at the time. Oddly, he was penciled in that night to play second base for the Birmingham Barons and was batting low in the lineup.  After signing my one card, he kinda asked me "If I had anything else for him to sign " and still to this day I wished I would have gotten him on a baseball. While Magglio was nice and accommodating, Derek Lee was the opposite.
Before the game, he told us that he would sign after the game. Then after the game he said out by the bus. As he was boarding the bus my manager and I got his attention. Derek set his traveling bag down and quickly uttered "That we had no clue who he was" and asked me "What position he played ". Up until this event, the only time I had asked an athlete or anyone for an autograph was at a paid signing in which my Dad had to reassure me that one day I would be glad that I had secured the players autograph. Having Mr.Lee contest my baseball knowledge on him was a whole new game. My manager was 100% sure this was Derek Lee wasn't he ? I don't remember what I said in response to Mr. Lee's question but I received two of the sloppiest autographs in my collection from Mr Lee that night.
From then on, I made it a point to at least know something about the players that I was watching and asking for autographs. Getting an autograph in the Minors for the most part is hit or miss and depends greatly on the setup of the stadium and knowing when to ask.  The players' fears of you  listing their autographs on Ebay or other sites, has only made it harder over the past ten years.  I had my fair share of Mr Lee's the past 15 years but showing a little interest in the players goes a long way. And for your information: Derek Lee played and has always played first base.

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