For us collectors, there is no better feeling than getting an autograph from one of your favorite athletes. You may have caught this bug from a young age meeting a sports superstar who you pretended to be on the field, wearing their number or trying to replicate their homerun swing. Even now, I get that feeling of nostalgia when I meet athletes. It’s that bug that keeps me collecting.

People will go to great lengths for autographs, including sitting outside team hotels and dugouts with their Sharpies ready just hoping for the chance to talk with an athlete. Or for those with the means, you can pay over $500 to get Tom Brady’s autograph today. This got me thinking, what is this whole autograph experience like for these superstars?

Luckily for me, one of my closest childhood friends is a former major league baseball player and was willing to tell all. Brent Lillibridge grew up in the Seattle area and played in the majors from 2008-2013. He has played alongside some of baseball’s biggest stars during his stints with the White Sox, Cubs, Braves, Red Sox, Indians and Yankees. It wouldn’t be uncommon to see him make Sportscenter’s Top 10 with plays like these, robbing Robinson Cano from game winning hits in Yankees Stadium: 


I spent time picking his brain on everything autograph-related that could help those of us who collect baseball memorabilia, including: the best places to get baseball autographs, proper etiquette on getting autographs and Brent’s favorite autograph stories.




From Brent’s perspective, the four best places to get autographs for free, and where athletes are most receptive to greeting fans and providing autographs are: spring training, before baseball games, team hotels and mail-in.

Before I share details, it’s important to note that these recommendations don’t include signing events where you pay to get an autograph (typically $100-$300 per event) – more on that below.

Spring training

If you are able to make it to Florida or Arizona in February – March for spring training, this is hands down the best time and place to get autographs from players of all calibers. Players are more relaxed and there is more downtime with the players practicing in the morning and games in afternoon. Most players have their roles established, so they don’t feel like they are fighting for a spot. Prospects who are fighting for spots are also more inclined to sign autographs because it is exciting for them to meet the fans as it may be their first time playing for a big league team. Even the most famous athletes will spend 5-10 minutes before and after practices and games to sign autographs.

These are the four best times to get signatures during a typical game day. Ideally, you would hang out around the clubhouse and catch them walking to and from the practice field or stadium.

  1. 9 AM – Practice starts. Can ask on the way from clubhouse to practice field
  2. 10:30 – 11:00 AM – Practice Ends. Can ask on the way back from the practice field to the clubhouse
  3. 12:30 PM – Players start to arrive to the stadium typically 20-30 minutes before game time (usually 1:00 PM). You can either wait at the clubhouse as they start to walk to the stadium or at the stadium near the dugout as they are getting loose before the game.
  4. 4:00 PM - Game over. Players will stick around the field for 5-10 minutes to sign autographs or you can wait outside the clubhouse as they come back.

Here is a map of Peoria Sports Complex, which is a good example of most spring training complex set-ups and where you can expect to hang out. 

spring training complex map for signatures

Looking where your favorite team or player plays during spring training? Check out both the Grapefruit League (Florida) or Cactus League (Arizona) maps.

Games During Baseball Season

While not as easy as getting an autograph at Spring Training, there is still an opportunity to snag an autograph from players. Brent made it very clear that there isn’t much of a rhyme or reason why some players will sign and other won’t. If a player has a bad game, you probably won’t see them wanting to stop for the fans. Here are the two places you can get autographs while in season.

  1. Batting practice, this will be your best chance and he recommends coming to the dugout area right when gates open 2 hours beforehand. The home team hits first, usually from 2 ½ hours before game time for an hour and then the visitors will hit right afterwards for about an hour typically ending 30 minute before first pitch.
  2. After the game – Not recommended since players usually want to get home right after the game, especially if they played poorly. On the rare occasion, you may catch them around the dugout for a quick signature for up to 30 minutes after.

Team Hotel During the Season

There are typically a few hotels that will always host the visiting team in each city. They are usually the bigger 4-5 star properties like a Hyatt or Sheraton that are located downtown. There isn’t any site out there (that I know of) that posts where the teams are staying at, mostly because those group rates are negotiated between the team and hotel and that information doesn’t usually leak. I am sure there are super-fans in your town that will post where the team is staying, typically through tip-offs from the hotel staff or someone who notices the team busses arrive. Expect to do a lot of waiting if you go this route for an autograph, but if you do, there is a much better chance you get an autograph with smaller crowds to compete against.

Players typically leave the hotel 3 hours before game time and 1-2 hours after the game. If you camp out around those time, that’s your best chance.

Mail-In To Clubhouse

The best part about mailing in to the athlete at their clubhouse is your fan mail will ALWAYS get to the player. It’s really up to them if they want to sign it or not. Brent said it can take up to a year for players to get through all the fan mail.

There are two places you can mail in a request to get an autograph:

  1. The Team’s Spring Training Clubhouse (preferred) – Players have a lot of downtime for a month, so this is a great best time for them to read through fan mail. Beat the rush of mail and send something in 2 weeks before practices begin. Full list of team addresses at their spring training complex can be found here.
  2. The Team’s Clubhouse – Mailing here will ensure that the athletes get your fan mail when you send year-round. Full list of addresses can be found here.

 For your best chances of getting an autographed returned, make sure you send:

  1. Pre-stamped and addressed return envelope or package – Make it as easy as possible for the players to send the card or item back.
  2. Keep it small – A baseball card or photo is fine; don’t send anything bigger such as a bat or glove.
  3. Make it personal—A brief letter, two to three sentences saying how much that player means to you and thank you for signing this card is sufficient.
  4. Limit quantity – It’s OK to send a few cards, but don’t push your luck. 15 maximum, less is ideal.

It is absolutely not recommended to mail anything to a player’s home. Brent said to avoid this at all costs and there is probably no chance you would get your item back. Be respectful of their privacy, because it doesn’t feel secure when fans find a player’s home address through tax returns or home records. Players will call the MLB security team if they feel unsafe about how fans have contacted them about getting autographs.

Through The Mail (TTM) 

I've connected with Brent recently on his stance on having cards sent to his home address and he seems to have taken a much softer approach. Now that he is a few years removed from the league, he really enjoys getting fan mail and cards asking for a signature. His newest recommendation would be to try through the mail (TTM) for retired players only. For players still in the league, you have a very good chance to not get your item back, or to receive it back unsigned. 

One last recommendation is to keep it small and simple in the mail. Cards are the best to send in and out. Don't send anything large like a bat or a helmet. Also, for you the sender, you don't want to risk not having a great item sent back. 

For through the mail (TTM) addresses on former players, the most trusted source on the market today is Sports Collectors. There is a free version and a membership version that allow you access to players home addresses to send cards to. 

There are facebook groups that are dedicated to just posting TTM successes and how long of a return it takes to get your signed cards back. You can learn more about what players are charging for TTM or not. Please be courteous and send only 1-2 cards to have signed, nothing more. 

Signing Events

There are pros and cons to signing events. While they are the best way to get an autograph and meet the players, they can be expensive and you may not feel as much of a personal connection since it’s a paid event. Still, this is my favorite way to meet players and even grab a photo with them – without all the work of waiting around hotels or going to Spring Training.

Look out for local sports memorabilia stores for local sports stars. Here is a list of national signing events, services and conventions:

  1. Crave The Auto - A great way to find local signing events by state. One of the most complete lists you will find. 
  2. Tristar Productions – They run the largest annual convention for sports autographs called the National Sports Collectors Convention. There are nearly 800 vendors there to sell autograph memorabilia. Their motto is, “if you can’t find it at National, it isn’t available”.
  3. Steiner Sports - Can send in items to be signed by big names. Have been around since 1987 and a household name in the industry today.

Do’s & Don’ts

Baseball players by and large love to give autographs, it’s their way of giving back to their fans. Unfortunately it can be very difficult for players to determine what to sign with a big group of fans. Unsurprisingly kids have the best chance to get an autograph. It feels more genuine having a kid ask because you know it is going to make their day. The lowest priority are what Brent calls “card guys” – these are the guys who are sitting in the bleachers or hotel street with binders of cards or an envelope with 3 cards and you will find them in all the locations we talked about. Players don’t feel it is very genuine and will always sign kids’ stuff first. Players know when these “card guys” send kids too, so don’t try to trick them. If you are an adult with no kids, don’t feel like you don’t have a chance, just be patient and nice and you may be able to get their attention.

Other Tips And Tricks

  1. Bad to approach if eating at a restaurant or out with friends. It rubs them the wrong way to interrupt them. Wait until they are walking out of the restaurant to ask.
  2. No more than three autographs at a time. Ideally, line up your three cards in a row so it’s easy for them to sign.
  3. Bigger items like a bat or glove are preferred over a ball or card if trying to get a signature in person. Brent says that he knows you went out of your way to bring a big item to the game, so he would be more inclined to sign a bigger item.
  4. Knowing kids may have better chances of getting an autograph, ask a friend or nephew or niece to come with you – it’s a win-win as they get to experience a game or meeting an athlete and may help you get a signature.
  5. When you do get an autograph, make sure to protect your investment with one of our display cases. My personal favorite is a signed bat to show off, so see all our baseball bat display cases to choose from. 


Do athletes collect autographs from the other athletes?

All the time. Before each game, we would give baseballs to our clubhouse employees who would bring them over to a specific player on the other team. Both teams do this and everyone is happy to sign autographs to “take care of each other”. Your baseballs you send over would always get signed. I have an office full of baseballs signed and I am sure everyone else does too.

Weirdest place you got an autograph?

While playing with the Cubs, I took the subway back from Wrigely Field. No one really recognized me as they probably weren’t expecting a player to take the subway after the game. I did get a second look from another guy who put it all together that I was playing first base a few hours earlier. I have also been asked for my autograph while eating dinner with my whole family. It was a bit awkward, but happy to do it.

Weirdest thing you signed?

One time a person didn’t have anything for me to sign, so they pulled out their cell phone! I asked if they were sure, and they said yes they want me to sign it. Another time I as getting takeout at a restaurant and the staff asked if I could sign a take-out box to put on the wall.

Today, Brent lives outside of Seattle and runs a baseball mentorship company called, BASE by Pros. “Building Athletes through Sport Education” helps mentor young athletes by not only giving advice on how to improve an athlete’s performance, but also help equip them to handle the challenges of the mental side of the game.

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