By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Cubs are arguably the most-sought after team for autographs and event appearances in all of sports. On that note, this group also is generally quite responsive to public appearances for charity and fan goodwill in general.
This was reflected Wednesday evening, when after a 5-4 win against the Phillies, infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist eschewed a postgame celebration to stay on the field and sign autographs for 15 minutes. He wanted to make a concentrated effort to say hello to the fans.
“The players do so much for the fans,” Zobrist said. “I really don’t think they should feel pressure to sign more than they already do. All of us in this room have signed a ton in our time. We will continue to do that. We can’t do it all. There will always be someone who walks away and doesn’t get a signature. You would like to do it for everybody, but you just can’t.”
Like many in the game, Zobrist receives many requests via mail and in person. The drawback is the professional autograph collectors, as they hang out at the team hotel and ballparks preying on the goodwill of players during their off time to profit for themselves. Zobrist keeps an open mind.
“We want to enjoy that time with fans,” Zobrist said. “It is hard to tell the difference sometime between the guy who wants to sell it online or keep as something that is meaningful to them. I don’t think it ruins the experience. The person who says can you sign this but also do this and this hurts the time allowed. If people allow for the next kid to get something, that would be nice. My job is not to judge, but I want to satisfy as many as I can.”
The MVP from of last season’s World Series, Zobrist has seen his mail double since the Cubs won their championship.
“We get it on the guy who sells,” Zobrist said. “It’s a business as well. I know sometimes what the person is using it for, and I still sign. I consider that if my signature is going to help you pay a bill, OK. If we do say no because we have done enough for that day, please do not get upset. That is the only thing we ask as players. We wish we could sign for everyone, but we just cannot.”
Zobrist would prefer to just have a moment with people who want to meet him.
“You always remind yourself to stay humble,” Zobrist said. “You must remember there was a time when you were a kid. You remember looking up to other people.”
The memorabilia in Zobrist’s personal collection is primarily bats signed by former teammates.
“I have a bat rack in my house that goes around my office,” Zobrist said. “I ask the guys to put a personal inscription on the bat.”
There’s one collectable that Zobrist most cherishes.
“I do have a Ted Williams-signed bat,” he said. “That is pretty cool.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.