One of the things I enjoy so much about working at Upper Deck is the opportunity to be able to meet so many of my favorite sports stars. The only thing better perhaps, is getting to introduce fans to their favorite athletes through promotions we run here at Upper Deck. It is really awesome to see the expression on a fan’s face when they come face to face with their favorite players. Through the years, Upper Deck has been able to bring trading cards to life for our fans as they have met athletes like Ken Griffey Jr., Tiger Woods, Gordie Howe, Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, Landon Donovan, LeBron James and so many more. But what if you don’t work for Upper Deck? And what if you haven’t won an Upper Deck promotion or experience where you can meet your favorite athletes?
The first option is not easy, but can be rewarding. Meeting an athlete after a game or at their hotel can be a lot of fun. I have fond memories of staking out a couple hotels with my dad when I was younger for the chance to get an autograph of one of my favorite players. There are a few problems with this option however. First, you never really know when they are going to show up, if at all. You can spend hours waiting for them to show and it never happens. I can also remember a time when my dad and I were at a hotel where I went to the bathroom only to see that masses crowded around Will Clark coming through the lobby when I returned. I missed his autograph because I was so late and totally out of position. That’s what I get for washing my hands. Next, you don’t know who will show up so it is hard to be ready with the right trading card or collectible. And you never want to be the person who asks a person for their autograph and then says, “Who are you?” If you do try the stake out approach, make sure you do your research on who may be there so you recognize them when you see them. You will find your favorite athletes look a lot different when they are not in uniform.
The worst part however is competing with the professional autograph seekers. There are more of them these days with it being so easy to sell signed collectibles through online auction sites like eBay. You will find they will do just about anything to get that autograph before you do and that can really sour what should be a fun experience. Even in a fan friendly sport like NASCAR, it can be very tough to get an autograph from a favorite athlete. Take a look at this:
The next option is to find a sports collectibles shop or show in your area where there may be an autograph signing. Ask your Upper Deck Certified Diamond Dealer if they ever do in-store signings. Many do and those can be great experiences as they are not too crazy and you can usually get a photo opportunity or spend a little more time with the athlete. They are also a lot less expensive usually than purchasing the signature of an athlete at a show. Now the sports collectibles shows are a great way to get a variety of autographs from your favorite signers, but there are definitely drawbacks. You are looking at big lines, expensive ticket prices, terrible food and not a lot of interaction with the athlete because they have so many people to get through and usually they are being monitored by the show handlers. Sometimes the teams have autograph opportunities for fans as well, but they can be a total mob scene.
If only there were a way to meet your favorite players in a fun, laid back setting where they actually want to spend time with you?
Well there is, and most fans do not take advantage of it. If you have a favorite player or team, spend a little time online and find out what charities they are involved in. Without a doubt, there will be a couple times a year where they host some type of charitable event where you can actually meet your favorite athletes. I remember fondly going to an annual charity bowling even that Kobe Bryant hosted up in Los Angeles. It was fairly easy to get some time with Kobe, grab a picture and just have a great experience. And at these events, it’s not just the host who is the main draw. Usually there are other teammates or celebrities involved as well.
Now the cost of admission to these events can be a little steep, but don’t be scared off by the sticker shock, they are worth every penny. Instead of your dollars going into a show promoter’s pocket, your money is actually going to a good cause and is likely tax deductible. That goes for any of the goodies you purchase while there as well. Most of these events have some type of silent or live auction where you can score some awesome collectibles or other experiences.
There is one event I’m really looking forward to coming up this week for a great charity called Just in Time for Foster Youth which helps transitioning foster youth with opportunities and support. They are hosting a charity bowling event this Thursday, September 22 at East Village Tavern + Bowl in downtown San Diego. Luke Gregerson of the San Diego Padres is bringing more than a few of his teammates to the event to make it a memorable evening for those in attendance. If you are wise enough to snatch up a ticket by clicking here, you’ll enjoy some great food, an open bar, a silent auction along with photo and autograph opportunities with many of the San Diego Padres. And you’ll be doing it all while helping a great charity organization so hopefully I will see you there!
I know many of our readers are not in the greater San Diego area and may not be able to make it out to this event, but you may have events like this near you that you enjoy attending. Please share in the comment section below some of the athlete charity events you have attended before so other fans can add those to their calendar to attend in the future.