Michael Cunningham saw something quite ordinary when he visited a ballpark back in 2004. Fans wanting autographs. He also saw it wasn’t exactly a smooth process.
“One autograph seeker didn’t have a pen,” he remembered. “Another player was awkwardly signing a ball against his thigh.” Sometimes the ink wasn’t dry on the ball and it smeared while being passed from player to fan and from fan to backpack or pocket. It was one of those “necessity being the mother of invention” moments.
Cunningham had always been the entrepreneurial sort and fancied himself a bit of an inventor. He set out with a plan to try and improve the autograph experience.
The final result was unveiled this summer when the “Sign and Sho” autograph board received licensing approval by Minor League Baseball and made its debut at the Lakewood BlueClaws minor league park.
The board is shaped like home plate, with a plastic ball holding case mounted inside. A pen made of hardwood is attached to the board. When presented to a player, the lid is lifted off the case with the flick of a thumb and the ball is signed while the player rests his hand on the plastic board with the ball still inside. The player then simply closes the lid, returns the pen to the clip and hands the board back to the fan.
“This is a totally new concept. It will take time for players and fans to become familiar with it, but we are confident that in the very near future everyone will respond as did the thousands of fans we’ve already introduced to it by saying ‘That’s cool. I wish I’d thought of that.”
Photo by League Design Partners, LLC.