When I was a kid, through the mail (TTM) autograph requests were one of those things that intrigued me but which I never really pursued with any real intensity. I had some friends who were pretty successful and I remember being kind of jealous of their success. But I was also having a lot of fun with in-person hunting at San José, Stanford, and Scottsdale* and was a staunch believer of the experience of meeting the players and connecting the autographs to my memories.
*Yes I’ll eventually scan and write posts for Stanford and Scottsdale.
I did still send out a few. That I probably chose my subjects poorly by focusing on stars meant I didn’t have much success. The only card of mine that I got back signed was this Willie McGee. I don’t remember much about it now aside from being happy to get it. Definitely not the kind of thing I could pin a memory to.
I also received this postcard from Nolan Ryan. This confirms what kind of players I was sending to. Early 1990s Nolan Ryan was the biggest non-Rookie player in the hobby. By. Far. So for me to be sending him a TTM request was insanely optimistic thinking on my part. I remember being disappointed in the return because I suspected it was an autopen.
Thinking about it now, if Ryan were going to autopen TTM responses he’d’ve been better off autopenning everyone’s cards. So I’m more inclined to believe it’s real now. Also it’s been kind of fun to discuss these early requests on Card Twitter and find that I was not the only person my age with such a postcard.
Anyway, after dabbling in TTMs I concluded that writing letters to players would never match the in-person experience. Given that that was my mindset, I was probably correct to stop doing it.
My mind has changed this year. This is partly because it’s been great fun to see other people sending letters and getting responses. But the big change was making my Giants set and realizing that sending copies of the cards to the various players was something I wanted to do. The letter doesn’t just have to be a polite “please sign my card,” it can be about the player and my project and include things for the player to keep.
Instead of fixating on getting things, I can just enjoy writing and sending out cards. And if things come back? Even more fun!
A couple weeks ago my son caught me finishing up some mailings and was curious what I was up to. So I told him about how TTMs work and asked if he wanted to try writing some letters himself. He has the bug so he was into it. Which is a good thing since if he learns about writing letters and what kind of power he has—especially as a kid—with regard to writing letters to people and companies*
*I’ve been trying to get him to write to Trader Joes about all the palm oil they use in their products. Palm oil is one of the things he’s learned is bad so we’re avoiding it as much as we can. Unfortunately this has meant dropping some of his favorite foods and he doesn’t realize what could happen if he wrote to them about it.
I wanted his first request to be something that would encourage him to write more. So I figured that sending to Pat Neshek would be the best bet. Neshek is a fellow collector who’s hit the dream scenario of being able to collect cards and autographs from his fellow ballplayers. He’s also deeply supportive of kids getting into the hobby and, as a parent, I deeply admire him for that.
My son of course knew exactly who Neshek was and which cards he owned.* I cautioned him about sending cards he’d really miss if they got lost so he picked a 2017 Update card rather than risking a card from his 2017 complete set getting lost in the mail. Then he sat down to write his letter.
*I miss having a photographic memory of ALL my baseball cards.
I almost didn’t want to mail this. The note is cute enough. The drawing though is all kinds of wonderful. It must be fun to be famous enough to get fan mail like this from kids.
I also wrote a letter thanking Neshek for being so supportive of kids in the hobby. Then I showed my son how a self-addessed stamped envelope (SASE) works and how to rub a card with a dryer sheet in order to prepare the gloss coating for taking an autograph well. He then addressed the envelope and we dropped it in the mail.
Despite my cautions that this would take at least two weeks to come back my son was counting the days. He wasn’t bugging me if anything had come in the mail but it was definitely something in the back of his mind. It only took 10 days for the SASE to return.
No good photos of him opening the envelope because he tore into it faster than he opens Christmas presents. But this smile speaks for itself.* One very happy boy and one brand new lifelong Pat Neshek fan. We may have to make the trek down 95 to Philly to see a game now.
*This was also exactly why I didn’t want to break out the Hunter Pence cards from Marc before the return arrived.
The card is in a penny sleeve in his main binder for now. I suspect that sleeve will see lots of action as the card gets shown to anyone (and everyone) who visits us for the next couple months.
It’s actually a great choice of card for a signature too. An All-Star card is always a nice thing to commemorate with a signature and this is a a decent action shot showing how his sidearm works.
Also this is just a ton of fun to compare to the drawing in the TTM request. I love how the beard and glove turned out and I’m glad I had the foresight to snap a photo of the letter before we mailed it.
Oh, and yes I also included a card of my own. The only one I had but I wanted my own memento to share this with my son. It’s not the first TTM return I’ve gotten since I started doing this but it’s the first I’ve opened*—or well seen opened by someone in the same room as me.
*I have over a dozen at my parents’ which need to be muled over to my place at some point.** The nature of TTM is that permanent addresses need to be used except for cases like Neshek where you’re certain a return will come back within a month.
**Yes this will also be a blog post once that first batch gets delivered.
I may send another letter to Neshek later this season since his 2019 Heritage card is perfect but no matter what happens it won’t be as cool as this mailing. And if my son is a fan for life, I’m not far behind.