Kid’s Corner: Spring Training Autographs

By JAY R. NEILL
Autograph March 2010

1980 Cincinnati Reds photo, signed by Ron Plaza, Russ Nixon, John McNamara and Harry Dunlop The Reds would wear green uniforms on St. Patrick’s day in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

Are you sick of winter yet? I am. I wish I were a baseball player and got to fly away from the ice and snow, heading south to practice for the season in some sunny southern state. Spring training is almost as old as baseball itself. It dates back to 1870 when the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Chicago White Stockings held organized baseball camps in New Orleans.

But even if we don’t get to fly south to play baseball, we can enjoy spring training because it’s the best time of year to get autographs of your favorite baseball players. During training camp the atmosphere is more relaxed, the players have more time to sign and the crowds are much smaller.

I started collecting baseball cards when I was seven and I received my first autograph at a spring training in Florida when I was eight. I’ve been collecting signed baseball cards ever since!

Pick Your Favorites

Andy Pafko signed this Topps Archives card. In this set, Topps reprinted famous cards. 1952 was the first regular issue baseball card set of its kind and Andy Pafko was No. 1 in the set.

So, pick out your favorite players, write a letter explaining why you’d like each of their autographs, and put the card and your letter in an envelope with a self-addressed stamped envelope. Placing a sticker with the team logo on the envelope or a baseball related picture of yourself in the envelope can definitely improve your chances of a response. When it comes to spring training don’t forget the manager and coaches. Almost all of them spent time in the big leagues as a player and they’re often happy to sign.

2010 Baseball Cards

Collecting signed baseball cards in 2010 will be different than it has been for the past 30 years. Topps has entered into an agreement to become the exclusive producer of baseball cards for Major League Baseball. “Generations of baseball fans have grown more connected to the game through collecting baseball cards,” baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. “We look forward to partnering with Topps to restore baseball cards as the game’s premier collectable.”

Topps has a free Web site with games and virtual card collecting in a safe environment that they recommend for kids eight years and older at www.ToppsTown.com. The Topps card design for 2010 is very clean and bright making them ideal to have signed. Series I cards were released on January 18, and are available at a variety of retailers including hobby shops, drug stores, Target and Walmart.

Card signed by Joe Torre.

If you like baseball cards, you can thank Sy Berger. He’s considered the father of the modern day baseball card because, in 1952, he created the 1952 Topps baseball card set on his kitchen table. It was the first of its kind and set the standard for modern baseball cards. Berger worked for Topps for 50 years and without his ideas and designs, we would have missed out on a lot of signed baseball cards and memories. Mr. Berger is a wonderful signer through the mail and really enjoys hearing from collectors of both autographs and baseball cards.

Where is Spring Training?

From mid-February to the first week in April, all 30 Major League baseball teams hold their spring training camps in either Florida (the Grapefruit League) or Arizona (the Cactus League). Since the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds recently moved to Arizona, there are now 15 teams in each spring league.

Tony LaRussa signed card.

I recommend mailing spring training autograph requests the second week of February so they’re waiting for the players when they arrive, but I’ve had successes mailing as late as mid-March. The earlier in spring training you mail your request, the more time a player has to respond and the greater the chance of a success.

If you plan to be in Florida or Arizona during spring training ask your parents whether you could go to a game. The games cost much less than regular season, you can sit closer to the field and you get to interact with the players more. When I buy tickets at a spring training stadium, I always ask the best place to sit to have a chance at getting an autograph.

Two years ago in Sarasota, Jimy Williams, who coached for the Philadelphia Phillies gave both of my boys baseballs used in batting practice. Then, a stadium official asked my boys to say “Play ball” over the loud speaker to start the game. My kids were a little too shy to do it, but it shows some of the great opportunities that can happen at a spring training game.

February Baseball Card Challenge

Willard Marshall signed card.

Will your favorite players sign through the mail? Now is your chance to find out. Autograph is inviting kids of all ages to take our Spring Training Through the Mail Challenge! Get your letters and baseball cards ready for signing. You can find the spring training addresses on page 64. If you g

et signed cards back, tell us about it! We’ll be sharing your successes with readers in the magazine and on the Autograph Magazine Live! Web site.

Go to the Live! site to report your successes and to get step-by-step instructions for through the mail requests.

Join me next month when we’ll take a look at collecting autographs from the artists and writers of comic books.

About Steve Cyrkin, Editor

Steve Cyrkin is the editor & publisher of Autograph, and focuses mostly on forgery, market and consumer protection issues.