Friday, July 6, 2012

Sharpie Scribbles - Chapter X: I'm Not Who You Think I Am

-- by Matt Hurst
I have never been an autograph chaser.

Even as a kid it just seemed weird to me to get someone's name scribbled down on a piece of paper or a card or a ball. I'd rather have someone's picture taken with me.

That proves I was there. It takes a split second longer to get a picture taken with somebody than to have them scribble something down. Plus, it can't be faked.
Much better than an autograph, in my opinion.
This is no offense to anyone who seeks out autographs. I do weird stuff that I'm sure would cause many of you to look at me cockeyed.

I don't know if I would put money on it, but it's probably very close - I bet I've signed as many autographs as I've had things signed.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not famous. Sure, I've had moments of minor fame in my life (interviews on radio and television shows, broadcasting and radio work, a byline and picture everyday in the newspaper) but by no means should anyone ask me to scribble my name on something.

And yet, I have.

Walking in and out of special entrances to Major League Baseball parks every day for four years will cause kids to just ask you for your autograph. I was in my early to mid-twenties and in decent enough shape for a kid to possibly confuse me for a ballplayer.

I'd always tell them "Trust me, you don't want my autograph."

They'd think I'd be giving them a line, but I'd say "I'm just a baseball writer" and they'd feel foolish for approaching me. I'd thank them for the offer and that would be that.

Once, though, during spring training, a kid asked me for my scribble. I gave him my line and his mother said, more to me than actually out loud, "Please just do it. He wants as many as he can. Then we can leave."

I felt like I was doing the mom a favor.

So I took the kid's program and saw the name "Brandon Wood" right next to where I was about to sign. At this time Wood was a highly-touted prospect whom the Angels wouldn't include in any trade talks. He was the next Cal Ripken.

I signed my name near his.

My career arc has actually been better.
Gracias, Spanish class.

Being on the field during kid's days and things of that ilk means pens and baseballs have been shoved into my hands and I don't want to let someone down by handing it back. So, even though I'm not in uniform, I sign.

I used to practice my signature. Every day in ninth grade Spanish class, when I entertained thoughts that my baseball skills would get me to the bigs, I worked on making my signature visible so that when it was on a baseball along with many other scribbles, people would notice and say "That's Matt Hurst." I did it because I had seen too many baseball players scribble their names in illegible forms. I wanted mine to be recognized by the kids who had asked.

The final stroke on the M in my first name dangles like the state of Florida, as does the final line of the H in my last name. All those days not learning how to ask where the bathroom is has given me a distinct scribble.

When UC Santa Barbara alum Jim Rome came to campus to speak in his first appearance back at the school since he graduated, I was asked to be on stage with him and moderate his Q&A session. 
Rappin' with Rome.

Afterwards, when many people were asking to take pictures with him and his associates, one person came up to me and asked for a picture and a scribble.

"I'm not really associated with Jim," I told the person, trying to explain that as an alum and one of the school's broadcasters, I seemed a good choice to the decision-makers to be on stage with him.

He said he wanted to have memories of anyone with Jim Rome that night. So, I signed.

I always feel bad giving someone my scribble because one day they're going to look at it and go "What the hell?" and throw it out. That doesn't bother me. I just feel like I'm wasting someone else's time.

My favorite Scribble Story, though, comes from a mistaken identity.

I had shared a cab with three other Angels writers to the player's entrance at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati and across the street were Scribble Seekers. Guys with their baseball card books in one hand, a Sharpie in another, constantly flipping through their sets of cards trying to match a pictured face with a real-life one.

The other writers emerged from the cab and, like many other stereotypical baseball writers, they weren't in terrific shape and a little bit older than the subjects they were covering.

When I popped out of the cab, the Scribble Seekers came running over, dodging traffic to get to me. Again, as a mid-twentysomething in decent enough shape and walking in and out of ballparks at the security entrances, people assumed I was worth a scribble.

When the Seekers approached, they saw that I wasn't a ballplayer. That my bag was not filled with hats or gloves or bats and balls. It had a laptop and pens.

The disappointment on their faces was sad, but completely priceless.

If I was ever worth a scribble, I'd always be happy to take the time and sign. I just don't feel I'm worth the effort, even if others think so.

However, there is one place I'm happy my name has been scribbled.

Inside the Green Monster at Fenway Park, I carved my name, making sure my scribble wasn't in chalk and therefore could easily be cleaned up when they wiped away the scribbles every year.

My scribble lives on in America's Most Beloved Ballpark. 

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