Once upon a time, I was very into writing to people associated with Major League Baseball in hopes of getting autographs for my collection. I’d guess more than half of the 920+ signed cards in my All-Time Mets collection were acquired that way.
As I got signatures from most of retired Mets players who were still willing and able to sign, and as current players became less willing to respond to fan mail, I wrote fewer letters.
Last year, SportsCollectors.Net tells me that I sent out 14 autograph requests and got back signed cards as a result of eight of them.(In comparison, as recently as 2014, I sent out 83 letters resulting in 58 successes.)
Last month, I wrote to a half dozen short-time former New York Mets players whose autographs I didn’t have. Today, I got three responses.
The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball is a league of second chances.
Minor League Baseball teams are affiliated with Major League Baseball teams. New Jersey’s Trenton Thunder are a New York Yankees’ farm team, while the Lakewood Blue Claws are affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies. These major league clubs supply the players and coaches to staff the minor league teams. If you go to see them, you’ll be able to watch a handful of players the big league squads consider as prospects as well as a larger number of “organization guys” that are needed to complete the roster.
Each year, some of the “prospects” lose their shine and some of the “organization guys” get pushed out by someone younger or more talented. Independent baseball teams like the ones in the Atlantic League give these displaced players another shot to prove their worth to one of the 30 big league team. Sometimes, it works out — before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he pitched in the playoffs in 2016, Rich Hill spent a summer with the Long Island Ducks. More often, guys just get to keep playing for an extra season or two.
When I started collecting autographs in the late 1980s, if a baseball player was hired to sign autographs at a card show, you could frequently get a signature for $10… sometimes less. A star or Hall of Famer might cost $20 or $25. Larger shows would often have a free signer with paid admission.
I give JP’s Sports & Rock Solid Promotions credit for keeping the free signer tradition going for most of the shows that they run. At their White Plains show later this month, perfect game pitchers Tom Browning and Len Barker will sign for free on Saturday, Jan. 14th.
But some of the guests seem out of my league.