The MLB All-Star FanFest takes place during the same week as the annual Midsummer Classic in the host city (this year it was Pittsburgh), while the NSCC (the National) rotates every summer, but seems to make more frequent stops in Anaheim, Chicago and Cleveland. This year's National -- now in its 26th year -- takes place at the Anaheim Convention Center from Wednesday, July 26 (VIP night) through Sunday, July 30.The first National I ever attended was in 1991, which was also held in Anaheim. It remains the most heavily attended National in history as more than 120,000 rabid sports fans walked through the aisles that weekend. And what I recall most fondly from that event was meeting my boyhood idol and Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski. He shook my hand and signed an 8x10 photo for me, which I still have proudly displayed amongst my BoSox memorabilia. I used a black Sharpie Twin Tip permanent marker that day and the signature is still holding strong. Always on the "sweet spot" When it comes to getting baseballs signed, there are a couple of rules of thumb to consider. First of all, purchase the real deal: an official Rawlings Major League Baseball, complete with current MLB Commissioner Allan H. ("Bud") Selig's machine-generated facsimile signature printed on it in blue. Don't try to make do with your son's little league baseball or some Minor League knockoff. If it's a big leaguer's signature you're after, make sure he signs a big-league ball.
On the exact opposite side of Selig's replica signature you'll find an area where the red seams of the baseball come closest together; that's what's known as the "Sweet Spot." That's prime signing territory and exactly where you want the ballplayer to scribble his name. But remember: never use a Sharpie or permanent marker on a baseball. Only use a ballpoint pen, preferably sporting blue ink. Otherwise the ink will start to bleed into the baseball over time and fade. And that just won't do.How bad do you want it? If using the U.S. Mail doesn't float your boat, and you're just too far away from either the FanFest or National, you can always stay local and visit your home team's ballpark. Pregame batting practice provides the best chance for getting a signature, unless you're lucky enough to walk right into one of the players as he's entering the ballpark. But the chance of that happening is remote as each of the MLB stadiums has secure parking and entrance areas for the players that can't be accessed by the general public.
Simply show up at least two hours before game time and make your way down toward the front row next to either dugout. That's about as close as you can get, and then you'll need luck to intervene. Some players will spend a few minutes signing autographs for the fans and some won't. It's simply the luck of the draw.Every once in a long while, purely by accident, you'll see a big leaguer about town, out of uniform. That's when the Boy Scout in you needs to take over. Are you prepared? Do you have one of his trading cards on you for him to sign? Did you remember to put a couple of his cards -- or even a baseball -- in your glove compartment? What about a Sharpie or a ballpoint pen? If you did, you deserve a merit badge. And last -- but certainly not least -- always be courteous when you request an autograph. A few key words like "please," "appreciate" and "thanks" will go a long way in helping you secure your desired autograph.
Terry Melia is the sports content manager for the Upper Deck Company and the former editor of Trading Cards Magazine. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.