You say it's just for your son or daughter, but you're still a kid when you're around a pro ballplayer. Getting an autograph is like bagging your prey -- here's how to do it without getting clubbed with an autographed bat.
Step 1: Write a letter to them Research and network to find out where a player lives. Don't stalk, but write a letter telling them what a huge sports fan you are and ask for their autograph, point blank.
Step 2: Attend fan events Attend the fan events teams will usually put on, like Tiger Fest in Detroit, where some players sign balls, programs, and jerseys and interact with fans. Beyond a small fee to get in, there are no charges for autographs.
TIP: Bring a child any time you try to get an autograph. Borrow one from a friend or relative if you're not a parent yet. Ballplayers are more inclined to connect with them.
Step 3: Go to batting practice Go to batting practice hours before a game and hang out in the box seat area near the dugout as they come out, watching them throw and play. Joke with them when they roam nearby until you get the gumption to pop the question.
Step 4: Visit card shows Visit baseball card shows and pay for an autograph. Get some value added by asking them about the game, rumors, and predictions.
TIP: Have the items you want signed and the pen ready. Make it easy for them.
Step 5: Meet at charitable event Meet the player at a community charitable event, perhaps something for their own foundation, where you will also encounter other active and retired players.
TIP: Let a ballplayer have their privacy when they're out and you happen to run into them. Don't intrude on them at a public place with their family.
Step 6: Take a trip Take a trip to a minor league game to see a player who is there during a rehab stint. They will be much more accessible -- possibly pleased that someone remembers them.
Step 7: Catch them after the game Catch the player outside the park long after a game as they walk to the car.
Step 8: Buy online Buy autographs online if all else fails. It's not as fun, and for all you know a machine signed it, but the story you make up about how you got it is still yours.
FACT: Into the early '60s, Detroit Tigers star Al Kaline regularly held free baseball clinics for kids every Saturday morning when the Tigers were in town. He invited pros from the visiting team to teach skills, answer questions, and sign autographs -- all for free.