Let me say upfront that I genuinely admire people and companies that go out on a limb and try something truly revolutionary, which is a fairly concise description of a talking autographed baseball.
A New Hamshire-based company called NiteLite Sports is rolling out a number of autograph-eligible products from virtually all the major professional sports where the fan can have the player autograph the (insert here either baseball, football, basketball, soccer ball, puck, etc.) and then get him/her to record a 12-second message that is then preserved with the item.
The company’s promotional materials explain that your favorite player can wish you a happy birthday, thank you for being a great fan or provide some hitting or pitching tips. One panel embedded in the ball provides the on/off switches for the audio machinations; a second panel on the opposite side provides a place where a small circular photograph of you and the player can be installed.
Our hobby has at least a 50-plus year history of dabbling with the audio end of things, perhaps most notably with the highly collectible Auravision records in the early 1960s and a vaguely similar undertaking nearly 30 years later with reprinted versions of Topps cards containing “interviews” with the player pictured on the card.
But as ambitious as those projects were, they pale in comparison to what is envisioned here. I’d give a shiny new nickle to be seated next to the first ballplayer – current or retired – who gets handed one of these and is asked to speak a couple of words into the ball.
While the technology commands center stage in these kinds of situation, I’m more intrigued by the major-league sales effort that will have to be directed at the players themselves to get them comfortable with doing something that’s likely to feel a bit foreign initially. To me, that’s the more revolutionary aspect of this: getting players to think outside the box enough to be willing to provide fans with this kind of uniquely personal memento.
If you’ve ever been part of the elaborate doings at a major show with a big-time roster of autograph guests, you probably have a feel for how challenging it can be to get ballplayers to venture much past the demands of a fast signature and a nod to an appreciative fan. I applaud these guys for taking a shot on a product that will ask the famous to do something just a bit different for their fans.
If they can pull off this major reorientation of what autograph signers are willing to undertake for their followers, NiteLite Sports will deserve all the dough that they can muster from it. I’ll be rooting for them … and hoping to be sitting next to one of my favorite Hall of Famers for that inaugural voice-over.
Check it out: www.nitelitesports.com; (800) 282-1533.