Three years ago, I took my son to Seattle to see his first two live Major League Baseball games.
Before the first game, Grady just missed out on an autograph by Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. Bradley was the only player from the team to stop and sign autographs during batting practice, and a bunch of the adults who got there first got Bradley’s John Hancock instead.
Grady, then 11, seemed pretty happy to be within a few feet of one of our favorite players, though, and the Red Sox won the game thanks to a three-run pinch home run by Mitch Moreland in the ninth inning.
So, we considered it a great night.
Since we brought a Sharpie and bought a brand-new ball at the gift store before the first game, we got to the second one even earlier the next day. We waited in line for the gates to be open, then quickly made our way to the seats down the left-field line.
I have no idea how hundreds of fans, mostly adults, were already there, lining the field looking for balls and autographs.
There was no way he was going to get an autograph, even if a player stopped by to sign.
However, Grady sported the new Red Sox hoodie we bought at the team store outside, and it caught the attention of young Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers.
As we were walking toward the field, about 20 to 25 rows up, Devers pointed at Grady and fired the ball from his position during batting practice.
I mean, he fired it. Devers threw the ball as he was throwing it to the first baseman, and it appeared that he was nervous.
As the ball sailed toward Grady, Devers put both hands on his head as he flinched. It was as he just said to himself, “Oh know, I threw that way too hard.”
Grady somehow managed to get the Sharpie and ball out of his mitt in time to snag the Devers throw. The ball forced Grady’s left arm back behind his shoulder, and the Red Sox fans in the area applauded for him.
Then, the adults turned their attention to trying to get a ball and maybe an autograph.
I have always wondered why a grown man or woman would ever feel the need to fight for a signed piece of paper — that is not a check — signed by another grown man or woman.
Yeah, I get that some people do it to make money. They get their expensive baseball cards signed so they can sell them. While that might be a less-than honorable way to make a buck, it makes sense.
Adults clamoring for autographs or pictures with athletes, though, is just pathetic. It is even more silly to pay for them.
OK, so I can see some exceptions to that. I could see going to an autograph signing and getting one from an athlete who was your hero as a child.
My brother once got Dick Butkus’ autograph for my dad, who is a Bears fan largely because of the ferocious Hall of Fame linebacker.
When I was lucky enough to meet with and interview William “The Refrigerator” Perry, who was in Butte to promote a Tough Man competition, I got a few autographs. He signed my old license plates that read “85 Bears,” and he signed an old magazine cover that featured the Fridge with Walter Payton from 1985.
I gave both of those autographs to my son years ago because the autographs were secondary to meeting one of my childhood heroes.
My pal Matt Vincent, also a Bears fan, and I got to sit down for an hour with the Fridge and ask him about everything imaginable. He was such a nice guy.
When my oldest daughter was young, I asked Matt’s wife, who just happens to be the daughter of legendary daredevil Evel Knievel, to get her an autograph of the “Last Gladiator.”
So, Delaney has one of the few authentic Evel Knievel autographs, and his daughter can attest to it. About 90 percent of the Evel autographs out there were actually signed by Muzzy Faroni.
I also got to shake hands with Ken Griffey Jr. and Joe Frasier, and the memory of those encounters are way better than a signed piece of paper, which I never asked for.
The great comedian Steve Martin is said to hand out cards that say something like “I met Steve Martin” instead of signing autographs. That is even better, but I would not bother a guy at the dinner table for one.
At this stage in life, the one person I might ask for an autograph would be Jim McMahon. He is far and away my favorite sports figure who is still alive. He takes a back seat only to the late Walter Payton.
Never, however, would I stand in front of a child or push people away like George Costanza trying to avoid a fire to get his autograph.
Yet, that is what so many of these fans do at every game in every Major League ballpark. It really is a sad sight to see.
It is an even sadder sight when adults complain that they did not get the treatment they felt they deserve from one of these athletes.
Recently, a clown associated with frat-boy website Barstool Sports named “Jersey Jerry” took to Twitter to bash Bears quarterback Justin Fields. Jerry was not satisfied with Fields’ demeanor as the quarterback posed for a photo with the grown man at a sports marketing event.
Jerry called him a “crumb bum scum bum” and a “punk” because Fields said “sure, I guess” and rolled his eyes before agreeing to take a photo with Jerry, a grown man. Jerry said Bears fans should be ashamed of themselves for having such a quarterback.
Somehow, I think the irony was lost on Jerry, even if so many people on Twitter tried their best to point it out to him.
Call me crazy, but I like my quarterback even more because he gave a clown like Jerry an eye roll. You just know Jerry is the kind of guy who stands in the front row begging for autographs while the kids move around and jump up and down, trying to get a peek at their heroes.
Guys like Jerry deserve a good rolling of the eyes.
After the applause settled on Grady’s catch and the fans turned back around, Devers pointed at Grady with his glove hand. The star third baseman nodded as if to say, “Nice catch, kid.”
I was the happiest dad that night because my boy was the luckiest kid at T-Mobile Park. His new favorite player just threw him a ball and gave him a nod of approval.
Any boy in the world would take that over an autograph any day.
As we sat down and Grady checked out his new ball, I could not help but feel sorry for those grownups in the front row.
They thought they were the lucky ones.