Giving Photos to Players? Collector Rich Hanson Devises A Winning Game Plan

If it’s baseball-related, Chris Creamer
would be the first to spot the “symbolism.”
Check out his awesome collection

Why, or why not?

Which group of autograph collectors has more fun?
You mean, which collectors get more?
Rich Hanson is a throwback hobbyist. I wrote about him back in 2010, and have counted on him for classic hobby insights since.

I asked him about one practice that might shock some collectors. He takes pictures of minor leaguers who agree to pose. Then, he sends two copies and a SASE, in hopes that he’ll get one photo back autographed.

He doesn’t sell the photos to players or trade? Nope. I asked if he’s still sticking to his hobby plan for 2014. I’m grateful for the following reply:

“I’ll bet I’ve taken a few thousand pictures over the years.  I don’t have a fancy camera.  It’s mostly just close-ups (head shots).  I can’t carry a big camera and the cards that I want to get signed as well, so I’m content with my pocket camera.  Rarely do the players turn down my offer of an extra picture for themselves.  A lot of these kids are a long way from home and it’s nice to have something to enclose in a letter to mom and Dad.

“Mike Trout, Byron Buxton, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, even A-Rod I’ve gotten pics of.  I used to be the only one doing it.  Now there are two to four people doing it at every ballpark that I go to, and yeah, the dealers and EBayers have infiltrated this end of the hobby as well.  Just look at how many pictures you’ll find for sale on the site, both signed and unsigned.

“I donated a stack of about 60 [Burlington] Bees pictures to the Bees winter auction/fundraiser this year.  About half of them were signed.  I figured they’d bring in a decent price and was surprised when I didn’t see them on the auction table.  The Bees GM told me when I asked that they wanted to keep them for the team archives.  I felt good about it, that they appreciated them that much.

“It’s been fun to be able to give pics like an extra signed Miguel Cabrera to a friend.  At one time I made copies of the pictures that I’d take for two other autograph friends in Burlington, but one has since passed on and one has pretty much lost interest in the hobby.

“I’ve gotten some real appreciative notes back over the years when I mail the pictures to players.  I always save the notes too.  Over 24 years I’ve amassed a history of the Midwest League in signed cards, pictures and laminated magazine and newspaper photos.  It’s been a lot of fun.  That’s what the hobby should be.  FUN.  Not a money-making enterprise.”

Thanks, Rich. It’s nice to see a baseball fan who thinks of what he’s giving, not just what he’s getting. 

Rich Hanson, TTM Vet: part 2 of 2

Yesterday, Rich Hanson noted his beginnings as an autograph collector. Today, he has some advice:

Q: Do you think you have more luck with minor leaguers than retired big leaguers?

A: I’ve had a lot of good minor league responses. I still have the note that Jason Isringhausen wrote back along with the cards he signed; a real kind note telling me how much my letter moved him. Many times, a player will include a minor league team issue card or a short note at the minor league level. I regret that’s becoming rarer and rarer though. Between dealers selling autographs on EBay and TriStar hosting prospects at shows and charging major league prices; even at the college level a player may not sign now. I struck out with both Stephen Strasburg at San Diego State and Bryce Harper at Southern Nevada. The hobby has become a business for many people.

Q: Do you have hobby advice to share?

A: For through-the-mail collectors, do your homework and be creative. A player is more apt to sign if you send him something unique and/or homemade like an 8-by-10 collage or homemade card. He knows he’s not as likely to see it on Ebay.

Hand-write your letters. I firmly believe you get a better response. Don’t send anything out you are afraid to lose. Odds are that’s the item you won’t get back.

TTM is fun, but it doesn’t match getting signatures in person. Minor league baseball is affordable and fun. Support your local minor league team.

Every autographer, whether TTM or in-person, should have Baseball America’s Baseball Directory in their possession. Next to your pen and address book, it will be your most valuable resource.

Last of all, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy this hobby as much without the following: the players, coaches and managers who are kind enough to take the time to accommodate our requests. My wife Nancy, who helps me immensely and never (ahem, rarely) grumbles. She’s wise enough to realize that there are worse places for a guy to want to hang out than in a ballpark. Mike Kirkman and Dale Roberson, both of whom taught me a lot of fine points of the hobby. The Burlington Bees staff. They usually give me a heads-up when a roving instructor shows up. Rick and Jennifer Ryan and the graphers in Des Moines, who always are helpful and make me feel welcome at Sec Taylor Stadium, and Angie, Chuck and Joyce, who are just as helpful in Clinton. The OACC autograph ring that I belong to is very supportive and knowledgeable as well. So many more, Ian in Cedar Rapids, Dave Malamut and Tom from Kane County. You get the idea.”

The idea is simple but powerful. Share this hobby with anyone you can. Work together. Build your team. When your hobby teammates come through, thank them in word and deed. Thanks for the insights, Rich!

(That’s Mr. Hanson, complete with “Otis Campbell’s” T-shirt, on the bottom row at a Burlington Bees minor league game. His baseball buddies have dubbed themselves “The Family Section.”)

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