It has been debated for years about how to get kids more involved in the sports card and memorabilia collecting hobby.
Plenty of ideas have been implemented over the years. Some of those ideas failed, while others found some success.
Advances in technology is often used as one of the reasons to help explain why today’s younger generation isn’t as involved in the Hobby as past generations. There have been attempts by many companies to use modern technology to get kids involved in the Hobby.
The latest attempt is the use of a mobile device app created by lettrs that allows fans to send fan mail to Major League Baseball players, as well as obtain their digital autographs. Click here to find more information about this.
Will this app, meant to enhance interaction between fans and collectors with Major League players, accomplish its goal of appealing to the younger generation? I don't have the answer to that; only time can give us that answer.
I will say this: Almost everyone has a mobile device, even kids. Go to any event, including sporting events, and you will see people staring at their phones. Sometimes whatever they are looking at on their phone is more engrossing to them than the event they are at.
I don't think it hurts to give this a try. One thing I am interested in is seeing how the Hobby traditionalists react to this app. Will these digital autographs be considered “real” autographs?
One thing I am positive of: Digital autographs will not replace the experience of obtaining an autograph in person. Obtaining an autograph in person creates a lifelong memory.
When I was 11 years old my mom, my sister, and I attended an event in Green Bay in which we stayed a couple nights in a hotel near Lambeau Field. The year was 1982 and the NFL players were on strike.
One day we were by the pool area in the hotel and there were a couple of coin-op video games in the area – including a Pac-Man game. A group of men were playing Pac-Man and we noticed people would walk up to them with a piece of paper and two of the men would sign it.
We thought they must be famous so I took a piece of paper and approached them. The first person signed it. The second person then signed it. When he handed it back me, he said, “That will cost you a candy bar.” I didn’t know if he was serious or not, and I can’t remember if I thanked them.
After returning to where my mom and sister were, we looked at the signatures and realized the first person to sign it was Mark Lee, who was a defensive back with the Green Bay Packers. The second person to sign it, the one who said it would cost a candy bar, was Ezra Johnson, a defensive end with the Packers.
Those two players didn’t mean anything special to me prior to me meeting them in person. After that meeting, though, Lee became one of my favorite NFL players to follow. When I would buy packs of football cards and receive a card of Lee or Johnson, I thought of that meeting and would share the experience with my friends. I also cheered for them when watching them play on Sunday afternoons.
It is those types of experiences that can’t be replicated via an app.