Hobby Musings: Acquiring A Long-Awaited Autograph – In August of 1997, I attended my first MLB game. My family was about to move out to Pittsburgh from the eastern part of Pennsylvania. Supporting my newfound love of baseball, my dad took me to see the Pirates play the Marlins. I remember that we arrived to the game late and missed the fireworks of Gene Lamont and Francisco Cordova being ejected. I remember a lot else from that game, including the enjoyment of visiting Three Rivers Stadium with my dad.
At some point during the game, Marlins outfielder Moises Alou hit a high foul ball that I swear reached to the very top of Three Rivers. The ball landed right behind our seats. Before the people behind us could react, my dad reached back and scooped the foul ball to give to me. To this day, it remains the only foul ball I’ve ever gotten at a game. My dad purchased a protective case for the ball that it still remains in to this day.
Wanting to get the ball signed by Alou, my dad took me to the player’s buses after the game. While getting treated to Bobby Bonilla chomping on a large cigar, Alou’s signature unfortunately eluded me. I do still have the signature of the Pirate Parrot that I got from that game though. While I was bummed not to get the ball signed, I cherished that memory of that game with my dad and that foul ball through the years.
Over time, I always had hopes of getting Alou to sign the ball, but I didn’t see him in person again. Not long after moving to Connecticut over 10 years ago, I thought I had my chance. Alou was set to do a minor league stint with a team about an hour away. Weighing the pros and cons of making the trip, I resolved to go and try to get Alou’s signature. Unfortunately, he ended up getting injured beforehand and not playing in the game. He retired shortly after, and I thought my chances of getting the ball had pretty much vanished.
Fast forward to the 2019 National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago. In part of my preparation and research for the National every year, I keep close tabs on the autographs guests that TRISTAR hosts. One day, I was scrolling through their announcements, and I happened to notice that Alou would be one of the athletes signing. Needless to say, I was pretty excited at having a new chance to get his autograph.
I grabbed the baseball and brought it with me to Chicago. Thanks to TRISTAR, it was a relatively easy time from there as I got my autograph ticket and waited in line to get Alou. I won’t deny that I was a little bit nervous for the moment. After all, it was an autograph 22 years in the making for me, far longer than I’d waited for any other autograph in my life.
When my time came, I brought the ball up to Alou and told the handler the pen I wanted to use. I was able to tell Alou my story about how he had hit the ball all those years earlier. He gave me a little smile and a nice signature on the sweet spot of the baseball. He was also kind enough to allow me to take a picture with him and the signed baseball.
After getting the ball authenticated, I texted a picture of it to my dad. A little confused at first by the random image, I explained to him what it was. We both shared the memory of originally getting the ball, and I could tell he was happy hearing about the new development in our story. Talking with him again a few weeks later, he told me how others he had relayed the story to had gotten a kick out of it.
Bringing it back from Chicago, the ball is now sitting in my man cave at home. It’s not just a treasured part of my collection, but a treasured memory of my childhood and a special time with my dad. While the signature wasn’t required, it did cement a final chapter in what was a long journey for me. It’s something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life and one I’m looking forward to sharing with my own children.
One of the best parts of going to a signing and meeting an athlete is being able to share memories like this with the athlete you admire. Though I’ve always understood the appeal, it’s not something I’ve ever fully appreciated. However, getting that ball signed and reliving the memory with my dad is something that stands on its own from anything else I’ve had happen to me in the hobby. It truly is something that stands apart for me, and I think for my dad too. Even as I write this, the whole journey brings a smile to my face. And I daresay it’ll continue to do so years from how. 22 years is a long time to wait for an autograph, but in this case, it was more than worth it.
For more Hobby Musings from Kelsey Schroyer, follow him on Twitter @KelSchroy75.
Hobby Musings: Acquiring A Long-Awaited Autograph
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