AL Central teams score big on the signing circuit

Being in Minnesota, I am lucky to have our local team, the Minnesota Twins, play in the American League Central Division. With the current schedule balance in Major League Baseball, each team plays their divisional foes three times at home per season.

While times change, right now the AL Central is one of the best divisions in baseball with not only some of the top teams, but also having teams that are good about signing autographs for fans. This was true as two of those teams, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox, came through Minnesota. Both were great about signing at the team hotel and stadium.

Cleveland signs
The Indians made their first appearance in town of the season and provided the normal output of autographs, with the exception of one night when the star of the team decided to pick up the pen.

Grady Sizemore is the Indians marquee player and one of the top draws for collectors, but unfortunately, he does not sign very often. After his first year in the league, Sizemore has gotten to be very difficult to obtain, and is now one of the toughest signatures in the league. After one of the games, Sizemore got a ride back from a friend to the team hotel and decided to stop and sign for the crowd of people gathered in front of the hotel. It was the first time I have seen him sign in a few years, and that was the only time he signed throughout the entire three-game series.

One of the top signers with the Indians is staff ace C.C. Sabathia. While he might not be pitching like an ace this year, Sabathia has still been the face of the Cleveland pitching staff for half a decade and is regarded as one of the game’s top lefthanders. Sabathia has always been very good to collectors, and he was again signing on a consistent basis on this trip.
Cliff Lee has been the ace of the staff and arguably the top pitcher in baseball this season. In his seventh season with Cleveland, Lee has always been a good signer, and he is holding true to that again this year in his breakout season with the Indians.

Aside from Sizemore, two other toughies for collectors on the Indians are catcher Victor Martinez and slugger Travis Hafner. The pair can be elusive and tough to track down, but both decided to pick up the Sharpie after one of the games at the hotel.
Other good signers with the Indians included the following players and coaches: Casey Blake, Paul Byrd, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jamey Carroll, David Dellucci, Ryan Garko, Jorge Julio, Andy Marte, Jhonny Peralta, infield coach Luis Rivera, Kelly Shoppach, manager Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis.

White Sox silver signers
Shortly after the Indians came through Minneapolis, the Chicago White Sox made their first visit of the season for a quick two-game series with the Twins. The White Sox continue to have most of the key players from the team’s World Series title in 2005, yet they all are surprisingly still good about signing.

One member who was not on the title team yet is one of the best signers and a possible future Hall of Famer is slugger Jim Thome. It is hard to argue with his career statistics. Thome has hit more than 500 career home runs, nearly 2,000 hits and more than 1,400 RBIs.

Thome is one of the few players who really has not changed his stance on signing since he came into the league with the Indians in the early 1990s. He was very gracious back then and still is willing to sign most of the time he is asked. He signed both days at the team hotel when the White Sox were in town.

One of the key members of that 2005 World Series team was Paul Konerko, who hit 41 homers that season and helped a strong postseason success when the White Sox lost only one game in the entire playoffs. Konerko signs more often than not, teaming with Thome for a powerful one-two signing punch.

The off-season addition of Carlos Quentin by the White Sox has worked out well. His production has been a pleasant surprise in the American League. Still just 25 years old, Quentin is quickly becoming a household name with his power stats. He was another White Sox player who signed for fans and collectors while in Minnesota.

Also very gracious is Sox broadcaster and former All-Star Ken Harrelson, who will rarely turns down an autograph request. The other good signers included the following players and coaches: first base coach Harold Baines, Orlando Cabrera, Jose Contreras, Joe Crede, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Toby Hall, Boone Logan, Pablo Ozuno, A.J. Pierzynski, Nick Swisher, and hitting coach Greg Walker.

Mail call
The autograph season for baseball signatures through the mail continues to roll in high gear, with collectors sending off requests to current players. Always remember that writing to players in care of their team during their respective sports season will always yield higher success rates. rather then waiting until the off-season when players mail might not get to them until they start up the next season.

One of the best signers in baseball both in person and through the mail is Detroit Tigers speedster Curtis Granderson. Even with all the veteran stars on Detroit, Granderson is still the one looked to as a leader and is surely a star in the league for years to come. Hopefully, his generosity will continue, as he still is answering mail requests sent in care of the team.
Another American League Central Division star who signs through the mail on a consistent basis is Twins closer Joe Nathan. Not many closers can compete with Nathan’s stats the past few years on the field, as well as his generosity with the Sharpie off the field.

Other current baseball players who are signing their mail this season include: Boof Boonser, Chris Britton, Kyle Farnsworth, Pedro Feliz, Brian Fuentes, Kason Gabbard, Tadahito Iguchi, Jair Jurrjens, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Juan Pierre, Jarrod Washburn, Jake Westbrook and Ty Wigginton.

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