SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — There is an art to scoring autographs from professional athletes, and yelling, “Can you sign?!” is probably not the best approach.
Something as simple as saying “please” can make all the difference.
“If you say ‘please,’ I don’t think we have any more choice,” said Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Rubby De La Rosa. “We just go over there and sign.”
D-backs third baseman Jake Lamb said he loves signing autographs for kids because it reminds him of when he would ask for signatures as a child. He knows a professional athlete’s autograph can make a young fan’s day.
Players, however, have to balance the time they spend signing during spring training against the time they need to take to prepare for the season.
And some fans can be abusive if they don’t get what they want.
Lamb has stories from his days in the minor leagues where fans would get upset and yell profanities at him because he did not have time to sign autographs for all who were waiting.
“We’re people too,” Lamb said. “We’re trying to get everyone (autographs), but we also have a job to do. We’re trying to get ready for a game or what have you. We all try to get as much as possible, but at a point we all have some work to do whether it’s a workout or playing catch. Just be respectful.”
Some fans even go up to the same athletes multiple times. They may try and get a hat signed one day and a ball the next.
“If it’s a different guy every time, then we’ll go and sign no problem,” De La Rosa said. “But (if it’s) the same guy, it’s kind of frustrating to all.”
Lamb feels the same way.
“If I get you once, then I’m not going to get you again.”
De La Rosa said he is grateful to be playing in the major leagues and experiencing the fan love that goes along with it. So he understands why it is important to sign.
“You have somebody always looking for you,” he said. “You’re the hero to these guys. It makes us all feel special.”
Arizona catcher Chris Iannetta said he is “not a star player by any stretch of the imagination,” but he has been around one. He knows reigning American League MVP Mike Trout well because the two played for the Angels together for a few seasons.
From Trout’s rookie days, Iannetta saw the center fielder blossom into a star. Now, Trout is arguably the best player in baseball, and he is generous about signing autographs.
“He’s impressive,” Iannetta said. “Still seeing him today, he’s still the same kid he was that first month in camp. It’s really impressive that he hasn’t changed. I think it’s a credit to him, it’s a credit to his family being a really good family and keeping him grounded.”
It may be Trout’s warm personality and the way he was raised, but Iannetta has known other players — stars or not — who were not as gracious towards fans looking for autographs.
He said fans’ best shot at getting an autograph is by asking for one like they would go about anything else in life.
“You just have to respect the person, you have to respect everybody,” Iannetta said. “It’s our job as players to respect the fans and it’d be very nice if the fans respect us in a lot of ways too. Common sense rules.”