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The Best Time to Get MLB Autographs on Game Day

As a New Englander, the first sign that winter’s death grip is loosening comes from a ballpark over 1,000 miles away in Florida. Spring training is underway and while the snow in my backyard may persist past Opening Day, a new season is nearly upon us. A new graphing season that is. And as baseball teams figure out how to improve on the previous year’s performance, you too should think about your autograph game plan for 2014. I put together the following guide to help ensure you get more hits than strikeouts (or at least an All-Star-caliber batting average).
Matt Raymond and Josh Beckett
This guide isn’t a straightforward as the NBA playbook from a year ago—major league baseball teams simply operate on a schedule with a lot more variability. The result? Your time commitment is probably going to be more significant and you are constantly taking risks based on incomplete information and… well, your gut. But let’s focus on the positive—baseball offers many more chances during the season (heck, the series) to get that coveted player’s autograph. Here is a rundown of those opportunities.

Arrival (Evening Before the Game)
If the visiting team has an off-day before the start of the series expect them to arrive to the hotel early evening—around 5 p.m.—giving players time to have dinner, relax and get a good night’s rest. You’re faced with a number of challenges in this first graphing opportunity. First, the team comes off the bus all at once and the number of collectors is usually low. Less competition sounds like a good thing but it actually makes graphing multiple players difficult. Players often stop and pick up their bags—it slows them down but also gives them a convenient excuse not to sign (i.e., full hands). Your best bet is to stick around and wait for players to head out for dinner and hope they’re in an accommodating mood. Odds are you’re in for a late night.

In the event of a back-to-back game, you can estimate arrival time with the following equation:

Time game ends + 1.5 hours (postgame interviews/travel to airport) + duration of flight + travel time to hotel = Arrival time

Before the Game (Hotel)
Unlike NBA teams who take two scheduled buses, many major league players take taxis to the ballpark before the charters arrive. To further complicate matters, the range of times during which they leave can be extremely wide. You may see a player head to lunch around noon and then take a taxi from the eatery directly to the park. Others—particularly starting pitchers who won’t play that night—may not head out until after 3 p.m. As a general rule you’ll see members of the coaching staff beginning around 12 p.m. and a bulk of the roster between one and three o’clock. If you’re willing to put the time in you have an excellent shot at the entire team as they depart individually or in small groups.

Before the Game (Ballpark)
Huge group of graphers at the team hotel? You may decide to take your chances at the ballpark on the receiving end of those taxis (and buses). Unless you have a comrade at the hotel who can tip you off when a players leaves—and in what type of vehicle—you’re going to be testing your reaction time to see how quickly you can pull an item out when a target steps out of a taxi. I suggest you do a dry run to get the lay of the land at your local ballpark. At Fenway there are at least three possible entrances a player could use, adding to the complexity of pregame graphing at the ballpark.

If you’re waiting for a team bus, access varies depending on the venue. (Count Fenway out—they drive into a fenced off area.)

We’ve been talking about getting visiting player graphs thus far, but pregame at the park offers your first opportunity to get home players. In Boston, several players live nearby and walk to the stadium. You also may have luck with the players’ parking lot depending on the setup. During your dry run, make sure to scope out which direction(s) they arrive from and the level of accessibility once they park. The home team is usually in by 3:30 p.m. but each player has his own habits. Show up a few times and you’ll get to know their preferences.

Inside the Ballpark
As kids this is where we got signatures from our heroes. We all have memories of hanging over the railing while screaming out players’ names with a baseball in our hand. It still affords a graphing opportunity, particularly between the dugout and outfield where players return from stretching, spring and shagging fly balls. On the infield side of the dugout you face obstacles, including community groups and media blocking the path of players heading in from that direction. Some players only sign at the ballpark and you’ll get to know their habits (usually after being denied multiple times at the hotel!).

If you decide to bring cards to get signed, check out my post on “The Best Way to Carry Your Cards When Getting Autographs”.

Postgame (Ballpark)
About twenty minutes after the game ends you may see the first players trickle out of the ballpark. The bus will leave about an hour after the last out. Stake out the same entry spots used by athletes who took taxis before the game. Keep your eyes peeled because the postgame crowd will obstruct your sight lines and cause confusion. Remember that scene in Skyfall when Bond is looking for Silva in the subway terminal? That will be you, over and over again.

You may also get lucky with the home team—basically, it’s the pregame ritual in reverse but after the game players will be traveling—whether by car or on foot—at a less leisurely pace (because they’re tired, with family, headed to a meal, etc.).

Postgame (Hotel)
With the exception of the last game of the series (when the team will head directly to the airport), postgame at the hotel provides decent opportunities, particularly if it happens to be a day game. The returning cabs and buses give you a shot at the entire team but fatigue is a factor (not just from participating in the game, but signing autographs throughout the day). Again, the ideal scenario is that players go out and you have multiple chances when they leave and return to the hotel. In 2009 I got Johan Santana on a ball and Jose Reyes on a bat at 3 a.m. when they returned from a long, late night out on the town. When graphing, patience pays off. But, you have to be willing to accept the cost.

When and where is your favorite time and place to get MLB autographs on game day?

About the author: is the founder of Autograph University. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and two sons. Connect with him on Twitter at @mattraymond.

73 comments… add one

  • Adir Landes March 24, 2014, 8:38 pm

    Which time would be the best for getting the all-stars on the team, and which time would be the least crowded.

  • Matt Raymond March 25, 2014, 11:13 pm

    Hey Adir – it really depends on the player. Star or not, everyone has their own routine. It’s not like hoops when you can count on the big names taking the second bus. As for the crowd, get there earlier and/or stay there later. At noon you won’t see the crowd that you will at 2pm or 3pm. And if you stick it out until midnight (or later) you may catch some guys coming back from dinner/drinks when other collectors have thrown in the towel.

    Matt

  • James March 28, 2014, 1:10 pm

    Any tips for a 4:10 game time on opening day?

  • Matt Raymond March 31, 2014, 12:57 pm

    Hi James, I’d adjust the 7pm times ahead by at least 3 hours (perhaps 4 to be safe) on Opening Day as players may head to the park earlier with various festivities and to allow a bit more time to get acclimated.

    Good luck!

    Matt

  • Lauren April 8, 2014, 9:11 pm

    Hi, I know its best to use a blue ballpoint pen when getting OMLB’s signed. Do you have a preference on the brand/type of blue pen that you would recommend?

  • Matt Raymond April 10, 2014, 9:58 pm

    Hi Lauren, I use Bic Cristal.

  • Bob January 22, 2016, 8:47 pm

    I recommend Bic Round Stic Grip in Blue

  • Jay April 16, 2014, 3:44 am

    So I’m doing my first official mlb autographing tomorrow in chicago vs boston. What time would u say the away teams buses would for sure be gone from the hotel? I’ve done nba & know the last bus is for sure gone by 2 hours before the game. Just trying 2 get an idea for the mlb teams. I am aware some players leave earlier in taxis or personal cars just trying 2 get a good idea thanks

    -jay

  • Matt Raymond April 16, 2014, 12:05 pm

    Hi Jay, thanks for the question. Depending on how far they need to travel, I’d suspect they’d be gone by 3:30. Let us know how it works out.

  • Phil May 20, 2014, 9:44 am

    Have the opportunity to Graph the Yankees today and tomorrow in chicago, wish me luck

  • Matt Raymond May 20, 2014, 11:40 am

    Good luck! Let us know how you do.

    Matt

  • Hunter June 9, 2014, 3:54 pm

    Do you know where or if players sign entering Safeco Field in Seattle?

  • Tom June 18, 2014, 4:42 pm

    What time is a good time to graph at the hotel before players leave for a 1 o clock game or a 7 o clock game? Also where do I find out where visiting teams stay in NY?

  • Matt Raymond June 18, 2014, 4:48 pm

    Hi Tom, I’d suggest 9 a.m. and 12 p.m., respectively. I don’t have specific hotel information to share.

    Matt

  • Jacob Grossman June 21, 2014, 11:13 pm

    Hi Matt just wondering if you know where teams stay playing in NY and where the nba draft prospects are staying.
    Thanks, Jacob

  • Matt Raymond June 23, 2014, 4:59 pm

    Hi Jacob, I don’t have that information. My advice is to get out there and network with local graphers. That is valuable info so you need to build relationships. Start by going to publicized signings – for example, they’re doing a bunch of signings in Times Square with the draftees.

    Cheers.
    Matt

  • Jacob Grossman July 8, 2014, 4:14 pm

    Thanks I actually did my first graphing at the Braves mets game last night and got Justin Upton on a romlb with the sweet spot jacket. I also got craig kimbrel and Jason Heyward on photos. I am going to the game tomorrow night and wanted to ask you if I get bj upton should I get it on the same ball modifying the sweet spot jacket so he had to sign on the top panel or get it on a different ball. Thanks jacob

  • Zach C July 23, 2014, 2:04 am

    Hey I was wondering if you had any specific tips on getting autographs in Philly. They are playing the Giants tom and I don’t know what to get to get signed any ideas and where I could find them. Thanks and go Giants!

  • Matt Raymond July 24, 2014, 8:16 pm

    Hey Zach, sorry I don’t have any city-specific info. Good luck.

    Matt

  • Jacob Grossman July 24, 2014, 11:48 pm

    Just wondering what time to be at the hotel for a 12:10 game.
    Thanks, Jacob

  • Matt Raymond July 25, 2014, 7:45 pm

    I’d get there 7-8am.

  • Tom August 3, 2014, 9:45 pm

    I see that you graph in New York can u hook me up with some hotel information for visiting teams?

  • Matt Raymond August 3, 2014, 10:12 pm

    Hi Tom, I’ve actually never graphed in New York and don’t have city-specific hotel info to share.

    Matt

  • Joseph July 25, 2014, 9:22 pm

    I want to autograph the tigers in two weeks when they are playing the yankees. What time would u suggest I get to the hotel for a 7:05 game. I want the best chance to get the stars ?

  • Matt Raymond July 25, 2014, 10:22 pm

    Hey Joseph, check out the “Before the Game (Hotel)” section of the post.

  • Paul Bartosz August 16, 2014, 9:58 pm

    Have you ever had success with a team when their flight comes in at the airport? I have some team planes’ tail numbers and was wondering if that would be beneficial.

  • Matt Raymond August 25, 2014, 9:24 pm

    I’ve never tried at an airport but know that some graphers have had luck with celebrities there.

  • Justo September 9, 2014, 10:53 pm

    Hi Matt. I was wondering of you can give me any tips. Like where to stand? Anything to look at for? Do they sign inside the lobby?

  • Matt Raymond September 22, 2014, 11:13 pm

    Hi Justo,

    Every hotel layout and level of security is different. That said, your best bet is probably on the sidewalk between the hotel entrance and the bus. You’re out of range from hotel security – for the most part – and you still have time to get the graphs.

    Matt

  • stephen September 22, 2014, 1:21 pm

    I have tickets to Jeter’s last ever game. It will be in Fenway. I know there will be tons of people trying to get his autograph so the adds are against me. Any suggestions for pregame? I wont go to the hotel I will be at the field as early as i need to be. First pitch is at 1:35. I will be in the stadium at 11:30am. Any advise would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  • Matt Raymond September 22, 2014, 11:12 pm

    Cool opportunity, Stephen. I think you just have to prepare as well as possible – get down to the field ASAP and try to make your arms as long as possible :) I’d probably go with a ball as an item. It’s going to be a madhouse – let us know how you do. And even if you don’t get a graph, enjoy the moment (and that’s coming from a Red Sox fan).

    Matt

  • Luke April 13, 2015, 1:18 am

    What time should I get to the park for a 7:15 game at AT&T park?

  • Max April 19, 2015, 2:38 pm

    Hi, the braves last game is today and they have an off day tomorrow and they play the mets the day after. What time would they get to the hotel and what day.

  • Andrew Shepherd June 17, 2015, 8:47 pm

    Hey I will be graphing the MiLB Nashville Sounds on Friday. Any pointers on getting game used items? thank you!

  • james June 18, 2015, 11:55 am

    Just curious as to how I can find out team hotel info or flight info (i’m assuming they are private flights, not listed)? I live in KC and little brother is huge Red Sox fan, trying to get pedrioa’s autograph. have tried the ballpark route the past few years with no luck. any advice would be great.

  • Dino Montano July 4, 2015, 8:05 am

    I’m going to a signing next week for a MLB player. I have a phot I want to get signed. I notice at the ballparks other Graphers have their photo on a cardboard like with tape on the edges.. I’m assuming so it prevents from bending. How should I prep my photo n what materials should u use to do it.?

  • Matt Raymond July 25, 2015, 10:13 pm

    If it’s a sit-down signing there really shouldn’t be any prep needed. Just have something rigid to put your photo in after it dries. I typically use a cardboard photo mailer that is open on one side. At a signing, I’d bring along an 8×11 plastic sheet with a backing board – something like this: http://www.autographu.com/the-best-way-to-store-your-autographed-photos/

  • Mike July 13, 2015, 9:09 pm

    Hey Matt-
    I’m wondering when the best time to graph is. Before the game, at the hotel. Or after, at the exit of the stadium?

  • Matt Raymond July 25, 2015, 10:11 pm

    At the hotel as the players are boarding the bus/entering taxis.

  • Zach July 14, 2015, 12:26 pm

    Hi Matt,
    What is the best place to stand at Fenway for visiting teams autographs?
    Thanks

  • Matt Raymond July 25, 2015, 10:10 pm

    If you mean in the ballpark, along the third base line. Outside you can catch visiting players getting out of taxis on Ipswich Street.

  • James rapone July 18, 2015, 8:11 pm

    How can you find out what hotel so the visiting MLB teams stay at?

  • Adam Cook August 3, 2015, 1:20 pm

    Hey Matt,
    There are a few Sports Illustrated magazines I have that feature some Royals players that I’d love to get signed by them. I just don’t know how to store the magazine(s) once they get signed, or even before they get signed. Do I keep the magazine or do I just take out the cover and place it over something hard like cardboard? Thanks for any help!

  • Ryan August 18, 2015, 10:50 am

    What is the best strategy for getting the home team at the ball park

  • Sam August 18, 2015, 12:30 pm

    Hey Matt,
    I go to a handful of games at Fenway a year and always love to get autographs. Where is the best spot to get Sox autographs and visiting players’ autogrpahs? Also, do you know if any players who are shagging fly balls during BP will sign then?
    Thanks,
    Sam

  • James August 28, 2015, 8:08 pm

    I am going to be in Boston Labor Day weekend. Would ideally like to get some Red Sox auto’s on Sunday September 6th (1:30game time). May or may not go to the game. I’ve read your article. Not interested in Phillies. I hear there is three players entrances. The players parking lot looks so well shielded that it doesn’t seem doable. If you can say what you feel is best bet, what would it be?

  • Raymond October 21, 2015, 1:12 am

    hey matt
    im going to the bulls vs mavs preseason game in lincoln nebraska oct 23rd whats the best time to get pics with stars should i try the airport when they arrive if so what time would that be or should i try to find the hotel there staying at and if so what hotel would that be

  • Cale November 29, 2015, 4:43 pm

    How would you recommend getting the Royals in 2016 because they just won the World Series?

  • Matt Raymond January 20, 2016, 9:00 pm

    Visiting hotel, home ballpark, organized signings… Obviously the win will probably make them tougher (signing habits and bigger crowds). Good luck!

  • Cale November 29, 2015, 4:56 pm

    Me again, so i’m hoping I can get Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, and Wade Davis. Mainly because these players are nice. Not saying anything mean.

  • Michael Buckelew February 20, 2016, 4:13 am

    Hey Matt I will be attending spring training this year for the SF Giants March 17 th .I know February is better for autographs but is March still good and on days they play at night do they practice during the day? Or is it like a regular game day where your only chance is a few hours before the game? Thx for your feedback

  • Tyler Sladick April 11, 2016, 11:17 am

    Hello, Im kinda new to this stuff and was wondering where and how you figure out where the team hotels are for the visiting teams? I would love if you could get back to me… thanks!

  • Ben April 17, 2016, 11:31 pm

    Where do the Padres Players exit petco park

  • Ryan April 18, 2016, 1:30 am

    Do you happen to know where the angels could possibly be staying in July during their Boston trip ?? It’s going to be our first trip from California to Boston. What suggestions you have for autographs ? Thank You So Much.

  • David Cartwright July 2, 2016, 9:58 am

    I have been to an angels@d backs game and almost got Mike Trout’s autograph. What I learned is that right after warm ups, trout will sign right next to the dugout and will only sign a few things. So, you should stand in the front row, be right next to the dugout, and yell for him as loud as you can. Good luck.

  • Ben stavar May 2, 2016, 10:49 pm

    Jeff is u bame

  • Eli May 9, 2016, 5:36 pm

    Hi! I’m going to the Indians @ Astros tonight which starts at 7:10 p.m. I am hoping to get pregame autographs from Kluber, Lindor, and Carrasco. What time do you recommend I arrive at Minute Maid to get those autographs?

  • Garrett June 11, 2016, 6:42 pm

    Going to try my first baseball game any tips for White sox at Indians? 3 game series hope to do both teams

  • Grapher25 June 18, 2016, 4:31 pm

    Hi Matt I’m taking my son to the home run derby in SD @ petco park it starts at 5 pm and they have a all star red carpet show at 12 pm do you think the players leave to the stadium a lil later cuz it’s not a real game or they still leave hours before and do you have any tips about where they enter at petco park. Would I have a better chance waiting at the hotel or outside of petco park to get a autograph any help would be appreciate thanks Matt

  • Ian June 23, 2016, 4:54 pm

    Not a proffesional autograph seeker! Taking my son, a NYM fan to see them play the Nationals in DC next week. His dream is to meet Matt Harvey and Yoenis Cespedes. I don’t want to let him down. Can you tell me where they stay while in DC.
    TIA

  • David Cartwright July 2, 2016, 10:10 am

    I am going to the astros vs mariners game at minute maid park. I really want jose altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer’s autograph but mostly I want Correa’s autograph. The only time I can be there for autographs is right after warm ups/right before the game. Where exactly do you think I should stand to get Correa’s autograph and how should I get the others to sign my ball. Lastly, I have a rawlings r8u baseball do you think I could use for getting a signature with a black autograph pen( it’s basically a sharpie)

  • stacie July 25, 2016, 1:45 pm

    I’m going to see the RedSox play the Angels on the 29th and want to get a signature from Ortiz. Do you know if the visiting team uses the same entrance as the home team at Anaheim Stadium?

  • Ty July 31, 2016, 3:09 am

    I got Ichiro’s autograph at a Yankees game but sadly he held the marker like a chopstick and barely made an imprint on the hat. It’s barely visible and I’ve considered going over it again, should I?

  • Ichiro For Real February 9, 2017, 8:36 pm

    Yes first get blindfolded and eat some buttered popcorn should work out.

  • Reed August 19, 2016, 9:34 pm

    What time should i get to the ball park for autographs

  • Jose Can u See February 9, 2017, 8:37 pm

    6 AM

  • MATT January 28, 2017, 9:22 am

    I’m traveling to Boston this year for a game. Wherected is the best place I can land an autograph of a red sox player? Any secrets you can fill me in on?

  • Hung Bear February 9, 2017, 8:35 pm

    Ever get any porn stars autographs?

  • Michael July 13, 2017, 12:13 am

    How do I get a autograph in Yankee stadium for a 1:00 game? What time should I be at the stadium at? Do you recommend any types of seats?

  • Benjamin Chin July 13, 2017, 1:57 pm

    I live in Newton,MA. I was wondering how I could get a autograph from a Boston Red Sox player.

  • Dawn July 30, 2017, 9:32 am

    How do you find out where the teams stay?

  • Bryan August 9, 2017, 12:01 pm

    I want to get the Mets when they’re in town in Philly. I know they stay at the Westin. What time should I get there on gameday and any recommendations on where to stand?

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