Without a doubt, one of the biggest stories, if not the biggest story of the 2008 baseball season has been the amazing year by Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton.
The way he has not only overcome his past problems, but to recover from them and turn into the star everyone thought he would be nearly 10 years ago has been quite the story for fans to follow. Hamilton has turned into one of the league’s top stars, and he is one the hottest player in the hobby. His cards and autographs have soared in value, and the demand for his memorabilia does not look like it is cooling off.
The former North Carolina high school hero certainly has done his part to keep up with the demand by being unbelievable with fans. There are tons of friendly players in the game today that rarely will turn down an autograph, but Hamilton goes a step further than all of them. Not only is he a superstar in a league where stars do not sign as often as commons, but he signs an amazing amount of items for fans.
Stories across the league of Hamilton asking fans at the hotels and stadiums if they have anything else they needed signed are almost too good to be true. Since he was such a great signer, it brought out crowds normally reserved for teams such as the Yankees or people like Jordan or Tiger. On a recent trip through Minnesota, the Rangers, the signing scene got so nuts that it looked like Hamilton started to break a little in his willingness to continue to sign – and sign – for fans. There were normally between 30-40 autograph seekers at the team hotel, and some of them were dealers who pushed Hamilton to sign a ton of items. He signed for everyone the first day of the series, but then refused to sign after both the first and second games of the series. He was willing to sign before each game at the team hotel, but it was quite evident that he was getting very frustrated with how people were taking advantage of his generosity. One only has to wonder how much longer he will be such a willing signer.
The Rangers have a few other stars who were sought after at the team hotel and at the stadium. Ian Kinsler is having a breakout season in his third year with the Rangers, getting named to the American League All-Star team. The 26-year-old was much like Hamilton, as he was more then willing to sign whenever he was asked.
Also very fan-friendly was one of the veterans on the team, Michael Young. In his ninth season with Texas, Young continues to quietly put up impressive numbers each night. He is equally as impressive away from the field by being one of the friendlier players in the game today.
The other good signers with the Rangers included the following players and coaches: Brandon Boggs, Milton Bradley, Marlon Byrd, Frank Catalanotto, Scott Feldman, Eddie Guardado, Gerald Laird, Kevin Millwood, David Murphy, Ramon Vasquez, manager Ron Washington, C.J. Wilson and Jamey Wright.
Brewing up autographs
Another nice story in baseball this season has been the ride of the Milwaukee Brewers. Most baseball experts did not predict the Brewers would have had this successful of a season, yet the youth movement in Milwaukee developed quickly and the Brewers could be a dominant team for many years to come.
One of the main young stars is Ryan Braun. The 24-year-old was not a household name after his productive rookie season, but he surely is now after the stellar season he has had for Milwaukee. Braun is the team’s top hitter and a major power source.
When Milwaukee was in Minnesota this season, Braun signed sparingly over the course of the weekend series. He surely did not sign every time he was asked, but he was gracious enough to sign on a few different occasions.
Another young star with Milwaukee who did sign much more frequently – and who is still one of the nicer guys in baseball – is slugger Prince Fielder. It is rare to find a time when the youngster won’t sign when he was asked, as he was constantly signing while in Minnesota.
Pitching has been a big reason for the Brewers successful season, and the homegrown leader of the pitching staff is Ben Sheets. Injuries have hampered Sheets for much of his career, but when he does take the mound, he’s effective.
Sheets was like Braun in that he did not always sign, but throughout the weekend, he did manage to sign a few times.
One of the better coaches in baseball right now would have to be Brewers bench coach Ted Simmons (who was later reassigned after this article was written). The former catcher played 21 seasons in the majors and was selected to eight All-Star games. Simmons was very cordial with fans who asked him for his signature, as was then-manager Ned Yost.
Other good signers with the Brewers included the following players and coaches: Dave Bush, bullpen catcher Bill Castro, Craig Counsell, Corey Hart, Gabe Kapler, pitching coach Mike Maddux, Seth McClung, Manny Parra, David Riske, Jeff Suppan and Rickie Weeks.
Signing on the sidelines
Now that the NFL season is in full gear, it provides mail autograph collectors the perfect time to send out autograph requests. With each team having more than 50 players on a roster, it provides collectors plenty of possible choices. But remember, like every other sport, the stars and big names are almost certainly not going to answer their mail.
One exception to that rule is Kansas City Chiefs star running back Larry Johnson. The former Penn State star has been extremely gracious with fans both in person and through the mail since he first came into the league. He does not show any signs of slowing down.
Another player answering his mail who will probably become a household name with football fans is Washington Redskins defensive back Laron Landry. Landry is much like Johnson in that he is very nice with any fans who approach or write him.
A few former players who are signing through the mail this season are Ken Anderson and Ozzie Newsome. Anderson answered my request in very quick fashion, as did the Hall of Famer Newsome.
Other NFL players and coaches signing through the mail include Dallas Clark, Tom Clements (Packers), Alge Crumpler, Robert Gallery, Jerry Gray (Redskins), Jason Hanson, Heath Miller, Owen Schmitt and Matt Spaeth.