Let’s talk about autographs for a second. I can’t recall a moment in my life where I ever thought, “I totally want this person to sign my piece of paper!”, but hey- I can respect that. I’m also not the type of person to be interested in any sort of “celebrity” so perhaps that’s why I’m weird, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Some sports fans want autographs and some of these fans seriously need to work on their manners and respect players’ personal space. There, I said it.
Before I get too far into that… If you want Mat’s autograph, he signs by the dugout before almost every game he isn’t pitching. He typically puts priority on the kiddos and signs for as many people as he can. The bummer here is that even when you sign for 47 people, the 48th you didn’t get to is going to be mad and think you’re a jerk. They might even send you a letter that declares, “I know you saw me before the game against the Diamondbacks and you ignored me on purpose because you’re a terrible person and you should reevaluate your life because I’m always right and I know everything” when none of that reflects the truth. *Sigh*. Such is life.
Away from the ballpark, there are a few appropriate occasions to ask for an autograph and a few very inappropriate. I can’t speak for all athletes but I can speak on our experience. The bottom line is this: If you recognize an athlete in public and decide to ask for an autograph, you really shouldn’t get mad if he or she respectfully declines. Also, if you see us in a public place and scream, “That’s Mat Latos!!!”, you can most definitely expect me to hate you and the both of us to run away. There’s nothing fun about being at the zoo or the Del Mar fair and suddenly having dozens of camera phones in your face.
Before I go on, I need to let you know that real fans and autograph collectors need to wage a war on what I call “eBayers”. These “eBayers” are people who wait around for baseball players with giant binders asking them to sign 39 photos and 23 cards. They then go list them on eBay because they are only looking to make a few dollars. I can respect a hustle but the hustle needs to have some respect. There are almost always real fans mixed in a group of autograph seekers but the “eBayers” make the experience so overwhelming for athletes, real fans often don’t get the experience they were hoping for and that stinks. Sometimes, fans need their balls signed and “eBayers” need to respect that.
While I’m on the subject, there is nothing, I mean NOTHING more creepy to me than people who wait outside of team hotels for autographs. I’m pretty sure the people who do this are almost all “eBayers”. Let me put it to you this way- we live half of our lives in hotels. When we’re on the road, the hotel is our respective home. If you think it’s cool to wait outside of our home to ask Mat for an autograph on his way to work, you’re yucky. I’m sure this might be a new thought process to some people but that’s what I’m here for- to offer MY perspective on this baseball life. I should note that I probably wouldn’t think it was so creepy if I hadn’t been followed around the streets of Chicago by one of these guys, but I’ve made up my mind- creepy it is. This probably goes without saying but Mat will not sign outside of a hotel on the road. Consider this a protest.
Another glaring flaw in the autograph system are the individuals who feel entitled to a baseball player’s personal time and then act a fool when he declines to sign. I could give you a boat load of examples but here’s one: Last season we were in Philly and we hadn’t seen Mat’s parents in quite a few months. While heading to dinner, a dude (an obvious eBayer- they all smell the same) interrupted Mat getting in the car to ask for an autograph. Mat politely responded that he wasn’t going to sign right now and the guy got pissy. Mat explained that he was on his way to dinner with his parents and, I don’t recall the exact diction, it went something like this, “C’mon Man, just sign for me. C’monnnnnnnnnn.” Sometimes “no” means “no” and this was one of those times. The enraged autograph seeker then yelled at my in-laws, “YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOUR SON!” Not only was this rude and unfounded, there is NO need to insult a player’s family ever. Dear dude I hope to never see again, if you’re reading this, I am ashamed of YOU. Go listen to some Avril Lavigne and get your girly angst out.
What fans may or may not understand is that during the season, ballplayers get very little personal time with their loved ones. If you see an athlete out to dinner with his spouse or family, that may be the only hour he gets to spend with them for weeks or even months. In no way shape or form am I calling any fan annoying or bashing autograph seekers; it’s a hobby and fans are what make this game so great. I am, however, asking you to be mindful that ballplayers are human too and if they’re anything like my husband, they want to make fans happy as often as possible. If you spot an athlete and he doesn’t seem to be in a rush or carrying 17 grocery bags, it’s okay to ask for an autograph or say “hi” or tell him to eat the opposing team alive in your inside voice. It’s even okay to go freaking crazy- it happens to the best of us, I just can’t tell you what reaction to expect.
The next time you don’t get the response you want when interacting with someone you don’t personally know, ask yourself what may be going on in his or her personal life before you get grumpy with them. I’m talking your barista, your grocer, your favorite ballplayer, and your dry cleaner. All of them.
We’re all human here.
Except for the aliens and zombies who read my blog, of course.