Photo of NFL wide receiver Steve Smith signing autographs for young fans. 

Image Credit: Fort George G. Meade (CC BY 2.0)

Due to our elaborate list of hotels that teams stay in while on the road, we get all kinds of questions from autograph seekers. We thought it would be helpful to give advice to sports fans on how they could meet their favorite athlete in person. I can promise you that no one is as inaccessible as you might imagine.

First off, let's establish this notion - You ARE NOT stalking these athletes. You dedicate your money, time and mental stability to teams and players. Without you, they would be working 9-5 jobs and wouldn't be driving fancy cars or living in mansions. In fact, many of them are flattered by your fan hood. Autographs are mementos that you will be able to display and cherish forever. If you're willing to plan and put in the time and effort, you'll be able to meet anyone. We'll start off with pro shop signings or book signings.



Photo of Pete Rose signing autographs during an in store appearance. 

Pete Rose

Image Credit: Neil Sanchala (CC BY 2.0)


Pro Shop Signings, Book Signings, Caravan Tours

This is by far the easiest way to gain access to your favorite athlete. I know in Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Bengals always hold their autograph signings on Tuesday afternoons in their pro shop. They announce the signings on the pro shop website randomly throughout the season. The lines are very structured and move quickly. The only downside is that the most popular athletes rarely have their own signings (busier?) but many of the other team's starters will. The pro shop may sometimes also may require you to purchase something in the pro shop to be signed. I have also even heard of player's having signings in area Wal Marts and Kroger's believe it or not. Book signings fall under the same category and layout but may be in a bookstore setting like a Barners and Noble. Most of the athletes that have written books are former athletes. 

Caravan tours are conducted primarily by the smaller market baseball teams. The Cincinnati Reds launch a caravan every winter where they hold meet and greets in cities within their market. Their visits include places like malls and businesses in Louisville (KY), Lexington (KY), Dayton (OH), Columbus (OH) and Huntington (WV). Their lineup usually consists of two current players, one minor league player on the rise, two former players, a team announcer/personality and a member of the front office. Like pro shop signings, the lines are very structured and often move quickly. 

The only downside to caravan and pro shop signings is that you often aren't allowed to pose with the players for photos because it will slow down the waiting line. However, you're able to take all of the photos of the players that you please. 




Photo of Michael Jordan playing golf with Ray Allen.

Michael Jordan & Ray Allen

Image Credit: Ken Lund (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Charity Events

Like the gentlemen in the photo, I have an aunt that was able to meet Peyton Manning at a charity golf scramble a few years ago in Knoxville, Tennessee. The group paid more than $1500 to enter the tournament but were able to spend plenty of one on one time with Peyton. Charity events are the best chance a fan has for photo opportunities with their favorite athletes. If you've got the money, this may be ideal for you. I know former athletes like Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley are very active in charity golf events. The best place to keep up with these events is on each player's website for their individual charity. 




Photo of baseball players signing autographs outside of a hotel. 

Image Credit: Hans Splinter (CC BY-ND 2.0)


Waiting Outside Of The Team Hotel

I always hear the "stalking" comment made when fans talk about meeting players at the team's hotel. As you can see in the photo, you're never going to be the only fan and will always stand a good chance at meeting your favorite player. Security patrols the building, so you won't be able to access their room (which would make you a stalker) but teams will often leave for the stadium three to four hours before the start of the game.  I was able to meet Mike Tomlin and Rashard Mendenhall a few seasons ago while the Pittsburgh Steelers were in Cincinnati. Did I mention that I met them accidentally because I just so happened to be standing outside of their hotel? 

If you're interested in finding out where your favorite team stays while on the road, they're listed on all of our individual team pages. The baseball team's hotels are out most elaborate lists since they travel so much. 




Photo of Trevor Rosenthal of the St. Louis Cardinals signing autographs during batting practice. 

Trevor Rosenthal

Image Credit: Brian Wibbenmeyer (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Early Pre-Game During Warmups/Batting Practice

Most stadiums and arenas will open their doors two hours before the start of the game. Some will open only 90 minutes before the start of the game. Barring an A-hole usher or security guard, most fans are able to access the court and field area without a ticket for that section before a game. Baseball players are obviously the most notorious for signing autographs before a game but it's completely at their discretion. Some will sign more than others. The best place to stand is along the third and first base lines during batting practice. If you're an adult, always give right of way to the kids. Expect a good amount of competition from fellow autograph seekers during batting practice. Basketball players are usually the most willing to sign before the game since their shootarounds are often so laid back. 

If you're a hockey fan, you won't have access to players before the game because of the glass. However, their version of a "shootaround" or "batting practice" is the "morning skate". It often takes place in the mid morning hours on game day at the home team's practice facility. You will be required to do some research on where morning skates take place. 




Photo of the Seattle Seahawks team bus outside of an NFL stadium. 

Image Credit: Sean O'Neill (CC BY-ND 2.0)


Post Game As A Team Boards Their Bus

I've been able to meet Roy Williams, Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan following Kentucky basketball games simply because I went to the back entrance of Rupp Arena. In fact, you can walk right into the back entrance of the building to this day and no one says anything. A team's bus is easy to spot. They usually pull right up to the back entryway. The bus in the photo above is the team bus for the NHL's Florida Panthers. Don't expect for every team's bus to be this elaborate. Many buses will be normal charter buses to remain discreet. Be respectful. Players aren't always in the best of moods following losses but many will often still take time to sign autographs. Aside from a charity event, getting a player to pose for a photo will be the easiest as they exit the stadium. 




Photo of Washington Capitals players signing autographs during training camp. 

Washington Capitals Players

Image Credit: Gary McCabe (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Training Camp/Spring Training

Meeting a player at training camp is the second easiest way to meet your favorite athlete. Why? Because you know exactly where they'll be every year, on what days and for how long. And they will ALL be present barring injury. Best of all? Training camp is usually free. From what I understand, every player is required to sign autographs at training camp at least for a few minutes. The best time to gain access to players is during a morning practice on a weekday. For a weekend scrimmage or practice, you can forget it - too many people will be in your way. The setup is still structured but not nearly as structured as the scheduled signings in pro shops and book stores. 

Always have your sharpie and items you want signed ready to hand to the player. If your favorite team has their training camp in a small city off site, there will usually be a small pro shop set up so that you can purchase items. Keep an eye on the player you want to meet the most and see where he wonders to when practice concludes. The undrafted and rookie players will often sign the most autographs during training camp. 

If you're a baseball fanatic that has a few weeks to spend in Florida or Arizona during Spring Training, you'll be able to meet a lot of players. Many Major League Baseball teams have spring training within close proximity of each other. For example, the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds share the same complex every spring. Check out our list of spring training ballparks to see where each team holds their spring training games.

Best of luck to all autograph seekers! Keep in mind that once a player has retired, the likelihood of you meeting them dwindles greatly. 


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