I’m the girl who screamed your name in Houston in June for four days in a row even though you got hurt. And the girl who had the “TROY/Tulo is MY Rookie Of the Year” sign with the glitter and the broken (then fixed) camera that you took a picture with last year in Houston. I cheered my hardest in Anaheim while wearing my lucky pajama pants. I yelled for you at Dodger Stadium despite the jeers from the drunken fans behind me. I’m also the girl whose jersey you signed on Saturday in San Diego.
Oh yeah, you remember, right? We called your name during stretches. The guy next to me asked if you’d be coming back and as you walked away, you nodded. We couldn’t see your face but we took your nod to mean yes.
You went back to your business of stretching and warming up and taking BP and of course we screamed your name. We wanted to make sure that you didn’t forget us, that you knew we supported you, that we wanted you to do well. At an away game, we figured we had to cheer enough among us for a capacity Coors crowd, and since there were about six of us that was almost 7,000 people worth of screaming for each. So we yelled for you and waved and I held up my jersey like a flag proclaiming that you are my favorite ballplayer.
The National Anthem played and you took off your hat and we sang along with the really pretty girl. I briefly admired your short haircut and then you went back to warm-ups. Finally, at the last possible second, you walked over to us. You set your glove down on my jersey and I swooned, and then you looked at the guy next to me.
Had I any idea what was coming, I would have paid better attention and maybe written what you said down, because I didn’t realize what an impact it would have. Pretty much, what you said was “Man, next time I tell you I’m coming back, you don’t have to keep shouting at me. I’m coming back.” You said it in a perfectly flat tone. You weren’t yelling or scolding, but you weren’t joking either. I could tell by your lack of inflection and expression that you were completely and totally serious.
While I appreciated that you didn’t want to chide us like misbehaving children, I was somewhat disappointed that you even mentioned it. Do you have any idea how many times a little kid, a teenager, a dad has been told by a player that he would come back, then left hanging when the player forgot, ran out of time, or just decided not to return?
I know that you are a sweet guy and you kept your word last year. We posed for a picture and my camera battery was dead, so you promised you’d look for me the next day. And you did. I had a sign that said “I fixed my camera,” and you said, verbatim, “Let me take some ground balls.” So I waited. I cheered for you. And you stopped by on your way back to the dugout just after BP and you even smiled and sounded excited to take the picture.
I don’t want to believe that you’re jaded and you think we’re all going to sell our autographs the second we get them. Yeah, we want autographs. But the guy behind me was a fan. I’m your biggest fan, Troy (well, at least one of them, I don’t have a tattoo or anything) and I have cherished your autograph and the picture since I got them. No matter how or where you play, Troy Trevor Tulowitzki, you will always own my baseball heart, and a part of my real heart as well. You’ll always be my favorite player, Tulo. I will always clap my hands red and scream my throat raw when you come up to bat because I adore you.
Which is why I wanted you to know that I’m sorry for frustrating you. I apologize that we didn’t believe you. I never doubted your return, but at the same time I wanted to ensure it, to know that I did everything possible.
In return, I’m asking you to please help us fans out. We won’t badger you if we know you’ll come back, but for us to trust you we need to have reason to believe. You are my reason to believe, and I always trust the Rockies because they’re the most honest bunch of ballplayers I’ve met thus far. But we fans need more reasons to believe in y’all as a class act in general. Ballplayers aren’t known for their honesty.
More flies are caught with honey than with vinegar. All your colleagues would do well to know that. I got tired of seeing Roy Oswalt pull out his BlackBerry. Of hearing stories that Lance Berkman takes a golf cart out a different exit to avoid the fans at spring training. Of Michael Bourn’s “I gotta go, I gotta go” the spring after we traded for him. That’s not how to build a fanbase.
So that you can educate your colleagues, I’ve gathered examples of “good players” who make fans’ lives better.
– Jay Bruce. The first game I attended after the hurricane, I attempted to get several autographs from Reds. I wanted Josh Fogg’s on my Rockies hat, I wanted Micah Owings’ on my D-backs team card, and I had a Joey Votto rookie card I was dying to get signed. But it turned out Joey was really quiet, Micah didn’t sign, and Foggles was on the 60-day and not traveling. I heard guys talking on my left and turned to look. Jay was sitting on the railing (as pictured, back when I still had long brown hair) and talking. With everyone. Hanging out. I walked up to him in my Astros shirt and said, “Jay, I’ll hate myself if I miss this opportunity. Would you take a picture with me?” He said, “Sure!” and hugged me. I almost died. I shook his hand and wished him luck, then went back to my corner. One single experience that left a smile on my face made me a lifelong fan of this young outfielder.
– David Eckstein. My family friend, who is a Padres autograph guru, told me that Eck signed all the time. Even so, given my natural tendency not to trust ballplayers, I was dubious that I could be able to meet one of my favorite players. David proved me wrong when he parked his car and came back outside to sign and take pictures for about ten minutes. He was the sweetest thing ever–just ask Hyun Young, who got his autograph on Saturday and had a similarly wonderful experience with the King of Intangibles. It was fifteen minutes out of his day and it made me (and Hyun Young) so unbelievably happy.
– Hunter Pence. I’ve seen him sign more than I’ve ever seen anybody else sign. And he’s so patient and sweet. He smiles, chats, takes pictures. In this picture, he was getting out of a taxi at Petco with a couple other guys and could have ignored us like Roy and Lance did as they got off the team bus. Nope. He proudly wore his rally-hawk and his dorky carry-on suitcase with straps and took this wonderful picture with me. For one of my first games as a real fan, I made a sign that said “It’s Hunter season” with camo letters and pictures of him on it. My friend held it up while he signed my hat, and Hunter saw it and cracked up. Then he reached over three rows of peop
le to take it and sign it, still laughing, and draw a big smiley face underneath his signature. I have it even though it’s two years old, and I used to have it on my wall before our new house decided to have walls that don’t let anything stick.
I’ve got more stories but Jen‘s also provided some beautiful ones, so I’ll relay those.
– AJ Pierzynski. “I went to SoxFest in 2008 solely for the purpose of meeting AJ
Pierzynski. I started following baseball again because I went to a game in San Francisco in 2004 when he was a member of the Giants. I didn’t know any of the names of the players because all the ones I DID know weren’t playing due to an off-day or going to the All-Star Game. He very quickly became my favorite player. He signed with my White
Sox in 2005, and my mission was clear: I will meet him, I will get my picture with him, and I will get his autograph. SoxFest was my chance.
“SoxFest is held at the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago. It’s a massive hotel, and AJ was signing on the sixth floor. At the beginning of the day, you pretty much had to take the stairs unless you were disabled or elderly. I ran up six flights of stairs to get in line for his autograph. Keep in mind I’m the most unathletic person ever, I only run if I’m being chased by a dangerous person, and I have horrible knee problems from years of cheerleading. I RAN UP SIX FLIGHTS OF STAIRS for this man. He finally came out at 10:00 to start signing. The line is snaking around, and I’m having several minor panic attacks. I get to the front of the line with my picture. He doesn’t look up at me, but he says “hi” and I say “hi” back. He signs it, hands it to me, looks up and says (this is a verbatim quote), “Whoa, you’re really pretty.” I almost died before being ushered away by security. So my mission is almost complete. All I need is my picture with him, and I can die happy.” — Never again will you hear this: BE MORE LIKE AJ, BOYS. All any fan wants is for her player to appreciate her adoration. Sign whatever she wants and take a picture with her. She’ll never boo you.
– Jake Peavy. “In April, I went to the Padres Fan Fest with Kaybee and Hyun Young. Kaybee and I got in line to get Jake Peavy’s autograph, and we were put in the overflow section. The security guard/usher/whatever he was told the overflow section that it was highly unlikely that Jake would sign for us since he had a set number of people he could sign for. Kaybee and I stayed anyway since you never know how many people he would actually sign for.
“As the last few rows of people in the guaranteed section were nearing the table where Jake was signing, the usher started letting people from the overflow section go down. Apparently Jake was signing for everyone. EVERYONE. All of the overflow people got autographs too.
“So when Kaybee and I got down to his table, I said something to the effect of “I’m a White Sox fan, but you’re my new favorite Padre.” He smiled and laughed, and he signed my ball on the sweet spot. It was awesome.” — Don’t y’all want these to be the stories we tell about you? Not, “yeah, he jumped off the team bus on his BB and didn’t even give us a glance.”
– Josh Fields. “I got to meet Josh Fields at SoxFest in 2008 after I met AJ. That year was the first year they decided to do separate photo lines. So Josh was there just taking pictures. I was in line for my picture with him, and when I got up there, he said “Hi darlin’. How are you?” He also asked if I’d gotten my Pierzynski jersey just for SoxFest. He was super sweet, and I suspect it was due to him being such a Southern gentleman. I took the chance and asked if he’d sign my ball even though he wasn’t supposed to. And he did. Then the security lady/usher/whatever she was told everyone in line that Josh couldn’t sign anything, so don’t ask. :)” — Gotta love Southern boys. If you’ve got an accent, let it out, and if you’ve got sweetness, bring it 😀
– DJ Carrasco, Jeff Marquez, and Chris Getz. “I went to spring training for a weekend during my spring break. I was unable to get any autographs on Saturday since I barely made first pitch, but I went on Sunday to the A’s ballpark since that’s where the Sox were playing that day. I waited outside and was unable to get autographs since a few guys only signed for the little kids. Which was fine, but I was seriously on the only female there. When I went inside, I hung out near the Sox dugout. Soon DJ Carrasco came to sign for people. When he took my ball to sign, I mentioned that he was the first to sign for me this weekend, and that I was leaving after the game. He was genuinely excited that he was the first to sign for me that weekend. After DJ left, Jeff Marquez came to sign. I had been pushed out of the way by some mean guys, and Jeff motioned for me to toss him the ball. I said, “If I could throw, I’d toss it, but I can’t,” and I handed him the ball. He chuckled and signed it for me. Then I went with the mob of people closer to the dugout because Chris Getz was signing. He was talking to some friends and didn’t really acknowledge most of the people he signed for, but he did sign for a lot of people, myself included.” — We don’t really need y’all to make conversation, although that is the reason I love Tim Byrdak. Sometimes just a laugh or a comment is more than enough to make our day.
And here’s what not to do, courtesy of @clintonde:
I know y’all’s job is to play your best. I get that and I respect it–we hate it when you lose too, you know. But we love you no matter what. And I know you’re not directly responsible to the fans, and that you hate it when fans say that you are. We like to say that we pay your salaries, but we won’t stop going to games if one of you is rude, and y’all know that. You have no real motivation to be nice. You get paid whether or not you decide to be polite.
So it’s up to y’all, ballplayers, and that’s why this is an open letter. More than addressing the letter to Troy, I have used him as an example. Troy, your classiness makes you more of a winner than a World Series ring could. And no matter what you do or don’t do, I’ll support you wherever you go. You’ve won me over with your personality more than your bat or glove (although your putting your glove on my jersey when you signed it… that was great).
Toss a fan a ball and win her over. Give a fan the cold shoulder and lose her forever. It’s y’all’s choice. Make the right one.
Much love and endless fanhood,