Royals FanFest is just a few days away and I want to share some tips with you that may help you get more autographs out of it. Season Ticket holders get into FanFest two hours before the general public and that is a huge advantage. Being able to get in that much ahead means that you can line yourself up for three to four autographs before the general public makes it in. Also, in years past the big name players were normally there in the mornings but not so much in the afternoons. These two tid-bits make for a really big advantage for season ticket holders. I have attended several of the past FanFests and have learned these simple tricks to maximize your chance at some autographs.
When to arrive?
This seems easy right? On Friday the doors open at 12 for season ticket holders and 2 for the general public. Well it not quite that easy. I am die hard about FanFest autographs so I usually plan to be at Bartle Hall no later than 6:15 in the morning and that is with my 3 hour drive to get there. Why? because doing this in years past will usually get me around 50 to 100 people back from the front of the line. You don’t need to be there that early and still have good success but being near the front of the line is crucial to maximize your chance at autographs. I have to drive 3 hours to get there so I am going to maximize my opportunities any way I can. Getting there this early means that you may get to sit inside near the escalators that lead up to the main waiting line area. Once they let the crowd go up the escalator and head for the main area it is a mad house. Please don’t push and shove, running is not the best way to get there either. If you are lucky you will get one of the front row places in line. The line will fit 10+ people across so no need to shove past others to get a good spot in line.
Its going to be a long wait no matter how you look at it. Whether you get there at 6am or 10am or 1pm if you want an autograph your going to wait. I always utilize a backpack to hold all of my supplies though some people use buckets or something else. This includes writing utensils such as pens, sharpies, and paint pens. I never trust the pens that they have at the autograph tables, more on that later. I also include several different snacks like multiple kinds of jerky, fruit, and protein bars. Its good to be healthy but you can pack what you want. My rule of thumb is that I will pack nothing that will get my hands dirty or sticky because that could impact the item you want signed or the autograph itself. Whatever you pack will save you from spending a ton on food at the venue. Always pack a sealed refillable water container because there are multiple water fountains around the hall that can be utilized to refill your container. No need to buy $4 and $5 bottles of water or soda. One of the most important items to bring is your own chair or stool. One thing to keep in mind is that you will be waiting in line for hours crammed in like sardines. If you bring a chair your also going to be carrying it around all day long so bring a small foldable chair or stool that is easy to carry around. Several options are available from a compact cane stool to foldable chairs that fit in a backpack and even the aforementioned bucket. Buckets can be great because you can get a lid for it and it will double as a chair and hold all your supplies.
Bring items to get signed
This is a no brainer but some people still forget to do this and if you do the Royals provide large postcards that you can get signed but do yourself a favor and bring your own items. Baseball cards, pictures, bats, hats, posters, game used items or anything else. I normally bring at least one card per player listed to be there. Go to a local card shop and pick up some singles of the players listed to be there. They will run anywhere from $.10 up to a couple dollars each. Make sure to get a hinged hard sided card case to carry them in so they don’t get damaged and are easily accessible. I use a hinged snap case that will hold 35 cards and keep them from getting damaged. I also bring 8×10 pictures that I have taken of the players. This is my favorite thing to get signed as they are always one of a kind. On a higher level my absolute favorite thing to get signed are pictures of me and the player together. Much harder to pull this off because you have to be lucky twice. Once to get the picture and once to get it signed. I will also bring a hand full of brand new Rawlings Official Major League Baseballs or ROMLB. If you use lesser quality balls then the autograph will bleed over time to a point where it will be hard to read it. Important note here, do not handle the baseball prior to or after getting it signed. When you do have to handle it put your fingers on the seams of the ball. Your fingers always have oil on them. Handling a ball will leave the oil on the ball. A couple thing that happen here is that the oil from your hands can cause the pen to skip when the player signs it. This can ruin a perfectly good autograph. Also as time goes on, the spots where your fingers and hand touched the ball can turn black making the ball and/or autograph look bad. Most importantly never, never ever get a ball signed with a sharpie.
Bring your own pens
No matter what you are getting signed bring the pen you want the player to use to sign it with. I have seen too many people get a bad autograph because the pen the player was using messed up or their sharpie dried out. Sometimes the player is like “I’m sorry” other times the player will try to write over that spot again only making things worse. Now your our a card, ball, picture or what ever your getting signed is ruined and you stood in line all that time for nothing. Making it even worse is if the item is something that is not replaceable like a multi signed item that you have been getting signed for years or an expensive game used item. Depending on what I am getting signed the pens I carry are:
3x indelible (permanent) blue ink pens – I like blue ink therefore I only carry blue ink pens. Indelible or permanent ink because some ink will naturally fade over time. Never use a gel ink pen as they will fade and you will no longer have that autograph. Surprisingly the $1 or $2 for a pack of 10 Bic or Pilot pens are some of the best ones to use but stepping up to a $6 to $10 a dozen is a good idea. I will use new pens for a while to make sure that they write nicely and that the ink does not clump while using it. If anything goes wrong I will not use that pen. I have used this kind of pen for years and never had a problem.
Black, Blue, Silver, Gold and Bronze Sharpies – depending on what I want to get signed I will bring any combination of these or all of them in multiples.
Gold and Silver Paint pens – again depending on what I want signed I will bring these. Usually if I am getting game used items like batting helmets, bats or even pictures. The key to these is always use new ones and have them prepared before the player uses them or your in for a bad autograph.
No matter which ones you use always bring something to test them on before letting the player use them. After the player appears and identify what I want them to sign I will start to prep the pen by writing on scratch paper or my jeans while I am standing in line waiting my turn.
Use the right pen for the job
One of the reasons I bring so many different types of pens is that I like to get different items signed. I will never use some pens with certain items. Here are a couple of my rules:
Baseball cards – only get signed with sharpies or paint pens. Always test your preferred pen on a duplicate card because some card/pen combinations will bleed or the ink will bead up and not stick to the surface or make a continuous line.
ROMLB Baseballs – Only with blue ink pens. Again never, never ever get signed with sharpie. Sharpies will bleed very easy on a ball.
Pictures – Sharpie or paint pen.
Game used items – Sharpie or paint pen.
Posters – Sharpie or paint pen.
Protect your items
Your items will be sitting in a bag getting shuffled around and handled all day long. Having protection for the items is always a good idea.
Baseball cards – like I said above I use a 35 count hinged card case for my cards but there are many other options for cards. I use these because it gives the card and the autograph room to breath before putting in a rigid card holder. As you are leaving the signing area you pop open the case and put your card on top. This means that you at not trying to stuff it in a narrow protective case possible damaging the card or autograph as your walking. These are available at any baseball card store or online.
ROMLB Baseballs – I only use Ultra-Pro baseball cubes. These cubes are large enough for a baseball to fit into with out rubbing against the ball. I also use them to display my baseballs because they are also made to stack squarely making for a nicer display. Other brands of ball cubes are smaller and squeeze the ball this can rub off or damage the autograph and the ball. They also will not stack nicely with other brands of cubes making displays look awkward and uneven. At times I will carry some tissue paper with me to put in the corners of the cube so the ball does not move around and damage the autograph.
Pictures – Always allow the autograph to dry before putting in a top loader. Ultra Pro makes rigid top loader picture holders for every size of picture. A tip here, I will always put a piece of paper in the picture holder to allow the picture to be put in or taken out of the top loader with no problem. With out the paper the picture can be damaged when you are trying to put it in the holder by bending it. These are often available at baseball card stores and online.
Posters – These are really easy to ruin if you do not have a poster tube for them.
Bats – Use a bat tube to protect that autographed bat.
The autograph line
Only a certain amount of people get an autograph from a player. Be sure to get into line as early as you can and spend the entire day in that same line. Each autograph area is set up with three rotating lines. The current line, these are the people that are getting autographs or are the next in line for autographs. The secondary line, these are the people that will get autographs from the player after the current line gets done. Both of these lines are within the serpentine area. Then there is the third line, these people wait outside both these lines against a wall or out of the way until the current line is done. They then are allowed into the serpentine area and become the secondary line. If you are in the third line then you will be waiting two to three hours for an autograph. The current line goes for an hour, then the secondary line goes for an hour then finally your turn. If at all possible stay in the same group of lines because the players rotate. I have seen one player get to all the different areas in one day. Staying in that group of lines will maximize your chance of getting a big name player and will enable you to get more autographs overall.
Jumping out of the line
When your player arrives to the table and is not one of the more desirable players then people may jump to a different line. This will especially happen earlier in the day before the general public is let in. This tactic is used to try to get a better players autograph. I had this happen last year when Alec Mills showed up in my line. People jumped to the secondary line because it was not yet full while others stayed for Alec Mills. Those that jumped out of the line were got Salvador Perez. If you do jump out of line make sure that the line you get back into is not closed off yet. Cutting line is never a good idea.
Getting that autograph
When it is finally your turn to get your autograph you do not have much time to get it done. Make sure you have your item and your pen ready. Remember, it is ok to ask the player to use your pen. It is ok to ask the player to sign in a specific area on your item. Sometimes they may even ask where you want them to sign it at. It is also ok to ask the player to inscribe something simple. Every baseball I get signed I ask them to sign on the sweet spot. The sweet spot is the open spot between the two seams on the opposite side of the OMLB and commissioner’s name stamp and is one of the most common and desirable places to have a ball signed. When I get a baseball signed by a player on the 2015 World Series champion team I ask them to inscribe with ball with “2015 World Series Champions” after they have signed it. They will often abbreviate it to “2015 WS Champs” and that is ok by me. I have never been refused at Fan Fest for this request. For any Royals Hall Of Fame members I will ask them to inscribe the ball with “Royals HOF” and their year of induction. Always be respectful and tell them Thank you. They don’t have to be there and they don’t have to sign anything for you so be thankful that they are here and that they did sign for you.
Have fun and obey the rules
There are lots of Royals fan all around you all day long. Take the opportunity to make new friends. Always listen to and obey the rules. The staff at the event is there to make your experience more pleasurable. Don’t make their job hard and don’t obstruct others from having a good time. Everyone is there for the same reason, to share in their love of the Royals. While we are here tell the staff THANKS. There is not a more thankless job than what they are doing. They put up with a lot of bad stuff while trying to make your experience a good one. I have seen more than one person get removed from line for being disorderly or trying to cut in line. Make things easy on everyone and obey the rules that are laid out.
Survive the day
The most important thing to do is to take care of yourself and those around you. It may not seem like your doing much but it will take a strain on you. Some people get sick, some pass out and some have to leave early because of it. Stay hydrated, eat some snacks and enjoy the company of thousands of Royals fans around you. I am there until they close the place down then head to the hotel and get ready for Saturday.
Go home or go to the hotel and rest up because your probably going to start again in the morning. On Saturday the doors open at 9am for season ticket holders or 11am for the general public. That means I want to be back in line by 6am again because Saturday is busier than Friday was.