Matt's Autograph Odyssey: Volume 1

Sports collectibles has become a huge business. Unfortunately, some collectors have even been known to entice youngsters to part with autographs from favorite players for a price well below fair market value. Those same collectors then turn around and demand big bucks for the signature. For many fans though getting an autograph is still just the thrill of having a small piece of their favorite player that they can cherish.

As a baseball fan, my passion for the game goes beyond the action on the diamond, or the snacks at the ballpark. When baseball is not being played, or even when it is I become a collector of autographed memorabilia, and I go about it in a not so conventional way. Besides the usual practice of staking out the perfect spot at the ballpark or hanging near the players cars, I enjoy sending letters and cards in the mail in hopes of obtaining a signed item returned from my favorite stars. Through this column I will divulge some of the secrets, tips for fellow collectors, as well as my successes and failures with players from the Phightin Phils.

When the calendar tears away to reveal the month of February, it can only mean one thing for baseball fans everywhere: The start of spring training for all 30 Major League Clubs. Besides the usual anticipation for the season ahead, collectors like myself try to capitalize on the player's arriving in their sunny Florida or balmy Arizona and send requests to many players as they gear up for the upcoming campaign.

Before I go any further I'd like to share just how I go about receiving autographs through the mail. It all begins with the letter. Although some players do not even take the time to read the letter with the requests, some do, and in which case your writing becomes crucial in deciding whether or not the player will sign for you. I usually write my letters explaining how big of a fan I am, and share some memories I have from that player's career, before finally asking if the player will sign my cards. Not that it makes much difference, but players usually sign more often if you handwrite your letter, instead of typing your request.

When it comes to addresses you can usually find the team's address through their home page, and sometimes if you search long enough you may be able to find a few home addresses on the Internet as well. Recently I have received signed cards from John Kruk and former Phillies utility player Ricky Jordan from their home address. Another tip, it's always good to double-check the address before you send a letter in the mail.

Next, you must always enclose a SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope) for the player to return the item, or items to you. Most players have to pay extra for their stamps and envelopes through their teams and usually toss the letters that do not include a SASE. But here's a tip, even with a SASE, it is not smart to send anything that is too valuable, because after all, there is no guarantee that you will have the item returned to you.

Finally, the waiting game sets in. That's the phase of the game I am at right now. Since pitchers and catchers have just reported to their assigned spring training destinations, my letters have probably just done the same. This year I have sent to about 20 pitchers and catchers throughout Major League Baseball and a handful of letters to Phillies players, they are: Jim Thome, Bobby Abreu, Mike Lieberthal, Todd Pratt, Roberto Hernandez, Billy Wagner and Brett Myers to name a few. I will include my results in upcoming columns.

Hopefully this has helped those new to the hobby and I hope that those of you who are simply Phillies fans found this column interesting and a brief respite from the usual events surrounding the Phillies.

If you have any questions or ideas for future columns, feel free to e-mail me at: Phillyphanmk@yahoo.com

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