Getting baseball autographs is an infrequent exercise for me.
If I manage to have a ball signed once a year, I'm good.
The autograph scrums that take place before spring training games are something I try to avoid.
Anytime I see a throng of autograph-seekers crowded at the bottom of an aisle along the third base side of a ballpark, I stay away.
Navigating a pack of autograph-seeking fans armed with baseball card binders, photos, bags of balls, even bats, is a hassle.
Likewise, I know box seat ticket holders, trying to get to their seats, hands full with food and beverage, can be a little put out, too.
Anyway, Monday morning at McKechnie Field before the Phillies-Pirates game I staked out an empty aisle further up the third baseline.
All I had was my glove, a ball and a Sharpie.
There were either of two guys I was hoping to get.
One was Ryan Howard, the Phillies' slugging first baseman.
The other, third base coach Ryne Sandberg. The Cubs Hall of Fame second baseman is heir apparent to succeed Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel.
As gametime neared the Phillies starters began trickling onto the field to stretch inside the third baseline.
Howard was one of them.
The cry went up nearby:
"HEY, RYAN! SIGN A COUPLE?"
Howard kept on walking.
That left Plan B, because I wasn't sticking around any longer than I had to.
Aah, there came Sandberg, working his way along the railing, patiently signing as he went.
Keep coming, keep coming, I silently urged him as I held out my ball and Sharpie.
Finally, Sandberg arrived and took his time signing his name and his No. 23.
I thanked him and wished him luck.
Turning around, there was a mob of anxious autograph buffs behind me, but I quickly worked my way through it.
I had my prize.