I think it was Thursday when I saw Ian Snell pitch and I got a real bee in my bonnet about it. For some reason I felt like I HAD to see him before he left... so I decided to get behind the sawhorses.
When the players exit McCoy Stadium, they leave through the doors at home plate. There are sawhorses there, and the kids looking for autographs must stay behind them. Most of these people are hardcore - binders and bats and balls, the same people every night.
You might think these guys are hustlers, dealers, whatever. You might be wrong. Many of these people just collect autographs the way some people collect stamps or seaglass. At worst, they're oddballs and misfits, but they know that and are proud of it.
There's a very small minority of people that are making $$$. Some of the players... a lot on the visiting teams, too... and certain security members are in on this. I am not sure how it works, exactly, but it's some weird, complicated scheme.
So anyway, I happen to be good friends with one of these people. He was my 'in'. Last Saturday night, my friend had gotten tickets from Ivan Ochoa. I snuck into the park (bad, I know, but I almost never do it and BESIDES THEY OWE ME!!!) and found him in the Ochoa seats.
Post-game, we headed down to the sawhorses. And waited. I hung back and watched it all go down. These people already know who's signing, how many per person, who's gonna blow them off, who's an asshole, who's a good guy, who signs like crap, what kind of cars they drive... yup. Borrowing blue or silver Sharpies or blue pens (this stuff is really important).
I made small talk with some of the folks. One guy was trying to give me pointers, even thought I told him that autographs weren't really my thing. One guy kept saying that they should let Marcus McBeth pitch for six innings (????). This same guy started talking to Fernando Cabrera in crappy street Spanish about how they 'should have kept him in'. Cabrera, to his credit, did not respond to these heated comments. I'm sure Fernando also appreciated the whole 'mi pana' thing.
Note to self: Speaking Spanish to Latin players is shit currency. It will not win them over.
So finally Ian Snell and his giant headphones made an appearance. He signed my scorecard from the night he pitched and my friend took a snap of me and Snell. That's pretty much all I wanted.
I also got my picture taken with Fernando Cabrera. Yes, I went there. I felt so cheap! But now I never have to go back. I do not know how the 'graphers' handle the derision and rejection, the pleading for autographs... I just couldn't do it. Someone handed me cards for Tom Gorzelanny to sign and he smacked. Me. Up. I only wish I'd thought of a snappy comeback, such as "THANKS FOR SIGNING THESE CARDS, MISTER GORZELANNY! I CAN FINALLY RETIRE NOW!"
If you're going to be such a miserable prick about signing, why do it at all? Why do it and act like a jackass? Just say, sorry, I can't.
1. Lastings Milledge was a hot commodity. He's a superstar, man, why's he still up in Pawtucket?
2. Fernando Cabrera is generally considered to be the nicest and most accommodating signer.
3. Ian Snell is not 5'11". He may not even be 5'9".
4. Shelby Ford was really very nice.
I'm through. See you in August.