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The Autograph of the Future

Posted on August 27, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Filed Under: General Baseball
You hang over the rail, waiting for your favorite player to come out of the dugout and start working his way through the line.  Maybe he gets to you, maybe he doesn't.  Most likely, at best you get a head nod and a scribbled name.  While nothing is ever going to take the place of being in the same limited area with "your guy", there might be something that will be right up there with it.

There's a new company out there called Egraphs, and as you might guess from the name, it's all about autographs with an electronic flair.  You don't have a piece of paper with the major league name on it, but what you do get might be even better.

"How could an electronic signature ever compare to the real thing?" you might ask.  Ah, but the difference is that the electronic version actually gets personalized to you.  Not just your name, but also a message from the ballplayer.  If that's not enough, each Egraph also comes with a recorded message from the player, also personalized.

How does that work?  Well, you can read all the technical details on their website, but basically players sign the pictures using an iPad app and record through the same manner.  Egraphs verifies the signature and voice and then sends it on to you.  You can share them via Facebook and Twitter, keep them stored on your computer, or there's even a printing option (for an extra cost, I expect, though I've not been able to find what it was.  Update: per the folks at Egraphs, that'd cost you another $45, but that would definitely not be out of the realm of the possible for most.)

You can read a few articles about Egraphs here, here, and here, but I got a chance to talk to Gabe Kapler, former MLB player and now the director of player development for Egraphs.  Kapler's the one that talks the players into joining up with Egraphs.  He's also recently wrangled some Cardinals into his new company, including Matt Carpenter, Daniel Descalso and Jason Motte.

I asked Mr. Kapler how he got involved with this company and he said it went back to his days with the Rays.  The brother of David Auld (the CEO of Egraphs) worked for the Rays at the time and brought this to his attention, thinking he would be a good fit for it.  "I thought the idea was brilliant," said Kapler.  "There was a need for a warmer, more personal way for fans, players, celebrities to interact."

As mentioned, Kapler is the one responsible for putting the idea in front of the players, showing them how it works, and getting them to buy in.  I asked him what kind of success rate he was having in this regard.  "A pretty remarkable success rate," was his response.  His contention is the players want to have this kind of interaction with the fans but it's difficult to do in a traditional setting.  With Egraphs, they can have a connection with a fan even as they are miles apart.  "There's only upside and very little downside" to the process for the players and the company goes the extra mile to make sure this isn't a huge burden on them.

The connection is really the selling point.  "We found when the player wasn't rushed to go to batting practice or wasn't rushed to go watch video, they put their hearts and their souls into the Egraph and therefore the fan felt that genuine, warm nature," said Kapler, who also provides Egraphs on the site and so sees the company from both sides of the pipeline.

Of course, you know in this day and age, there's always a smart aleck out there wanting to taunt a player or try to goad them into something embarrassing.  Maybe it's a Yankee fan wanting Pedro Martinez to say, "Yankees rule" or something of that nature.  Kapler says that not only are requests screened on the way in, but the product is screened on the way out before it gets to the fan as well.

"We're a wholesome company that believes in creating life-changing moments for a fan," said Kapler.  "We don't want a player to say something he didn't mean and we want to give him a chance to make it right."  In this day of social media, an Egraph written on the wrong day could be halfway around the Internet before the sun came up if they didn't have these sort of controls in place.

There are a lot of current players on the site, but there are some retired players as well plus, as represented by Mike Olt, some hot new names on the scene.  Kapler says they hope to expand on both sides of the player continuum.  "Egraphs was built and created for any celebrity that has a fan.  Our job is to match that celebrity up with that fan."  No word on whether they are going to then expand out into the blogging community for their next version, but I'm pretty sure Dennis would be a huge seller.   

As Egraphs are currently configured, you get the signed picture plus an audio component.  I asked if there were any plans to add video at some point and time and Kapler said that was on the drawing board.  I don't know that it'll be anytime in the immediate future, but it does sound like that will be coming which will make for an even cooler experience.

Before I let him go, I had to ask what celebrity he really wanted to add to the site.  Interestingly, he wanted to go away from baseball (though he said Cal Ripken Jr. in that sport) to tap Charles Barkley, who was his favorite athlete growing up.  So if you see Barkley as the face of Egraphs in the near future, you'll know why.

It was great to talk to Mr. Kapler and you can tell he's got a lot of passion for the Egraphs product.  It looks like a wonderful thing all the way around and now you can get a chance to see just how great it is.  Egraphs is letting me give away one free egraph to a lucky reader.  All you have to do is comment on this post before the beginning of Wednesday night's UCB Radio Hour.  I'll randomly select one person to receive the egraph, so be sure to leave some sort of contact info, whether it's a Twitter handle or an email or something of that nature.

Don't miss out on this!  Comment now!

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18 Comments

18 Comments | Leave a comment

Ive been dying to order an egraph for my son Anthony, he's only 6 months old but I feel this is something he can have forever, once he's old enough to listen to a personalized message from a major leaguer he'll be starstruck. I'd love the opportunity to give this to him for his future.

Got an egraph for my grandpa and he loved it. Its a great way to feel closer to athletes and managers!

Egraphs are the autograph of the future! It's an incredible way to interact with your favourite MLB stars. What I wouldn't give for an Egraph from creator Gabe Kapler and Johnny Damon in their infamous pose from 2004, side by side, their numbers displaying 1918 just before the Red Sox broke the 86 year curse.

Autographs are for kids. Seeing their heroes sign something for them and getting a chance to see them face to face. Egraphs are an incredible way of reaching another market. A truly personalized way to connect with your favourite MLB stars.

Thanks for writing this post, and to Egraphs for creating this incredible product!

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This is a great idea. It is a way of bringing the fans closer to the players, and for the players it provides an easy way to communicate with the fans. What would be cool would be a frame that includes the picture and the voice message.

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This is such a cool idea! I love baseball so much!! I love getting the chance to snag an autograph before a game but the players never have time to personalize it. Egraphs is pretty ingenius; I have been wanting to order one for a while now but money is kind of tight with college and all. Maybe someday!
:) thanks!
from
@doctorwhomlb11

I've gotten a few autographs from players and always wished I had recorded the event so I could remember what happened. It always happens fast and then it's over. This seems like a nice way to bridge that gap. There's no personal touch of talking to them face-to-face but it would be interesting to have not only a sig, but the voice as well.

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Love the concept and the selection of players. Ad if I win? It's going to be Sergio Romo because that's what's up!

Oh I would so love an egraph, but as much as I work, I just can't afford one. How wonderful it would be to hear personally from my favorite players! @nicwich

Nice! I talked to Giancarlo Stanton a few time here in Greensboro before he made it to the Bigs. I'd love to talk to him again and see if he remembers me! Plus, I'm a big memorabilia collector and I love the personal touch of the Egraph. It's a really cool idea.
danokeeney@yahoo.com

This is a great idea.

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This has to be the coolest autograph that one could own, affordable, personal one of a kind. Would love to have one

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This looks awesome !

This looks like a great idea.. I may even have to buy one for my girl friend to help make up for not taking her to game 6 last year.. Instead me and a friend from work went. Oops lol. But We were able to watch all of game 7 on the inflatable screen at Keiner plaza then we were able to walk into the stadium after game 7 got over. We were fortunate enough to watch the MVP and world series trophy get presented to the greatest comeback team of all time. We would love to have an egraph from Jason motte. #fearthebeard. And I know she would love to have one from her favorite new player Matt carpenter. #Nobattingloves.

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This is an awesome idea. I hope that more celebrities want to be a part of this. I'd love to have one from C.C. Sabathia or Don Mattingly.

Egraphs is unreal. Really good team of guys over there and I think it's only a matter of time before a lot of sports and celebrities get on board. I need to get a Miggy one for my friend for his wedding.

What a fun idea! I would love to get one of these! Is it wrong if I want one from Ryan Vogelsong instead of a Cardinal? lol I think my favorite part is being able to tell HIM how much he's inspired me and knowing he'd get the message! -@AllBirdsOnBats

Yes, I really would love to win one.

Yes, I will pick exactly who you think I will (since I don't see Chris Carpenter as an option).

And, Joanne, it's perfectly fine to me that you would pick Vogelsong instead of a Cardinal! :)

This is the first time I have ever heard about Egraphs and the whole thing is brilliant! I have to get to the stadium early so I have that slight chance that a player will come over and sign. And the "head nod and a scribbled name" you described is one of the best feelings for any sports fan. The idea of a personal note is even better! My birthday is coming up... this will be on my list! Thanks for the article!
@house9211

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2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Goats
Jon Jay (6)
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Shane Robinson (1)
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2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

2012
Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

2011
Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

2009
Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%


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