Rosella Age, 20, will never forget the day she called out to Don Mattingly from the bleachers of Yankee Stadium for a signature.
"I had to call his name several times," she said. She called and called and then the "serious, rough-looking man" came over to sign her baseball. Age was elated: "He's a legend!"
For Major League Baseball fans, obtaining a signature takes a combination of guts and motion. They have to move to be within proximity to their favorite player, and then, like Age, call out cold turkey in hopes the player or coach will respond favorably.
But former Microsoft employee David Auld has come up with a way to take the "cold" out of that experience and make getting autographs as easy as turning on your computer. Last year, Auld launched Egraphs, a digital autograph company that allows fans to buy the signature of their favorite player via the Internet.
For $25-$100, fans can get a digitally autographed photo along with a handwritten note and a personalized audio message from the likes of R.A. Dickey, Cliff Lee, Andrew McCutchen and Clayton Kershaw.
Auld, the company's chief executive officer recruited former major leaguer Gabe Kapler as director of business development. Kapler is a fan of the new approach: "Taking the cold out of the autograph experience with the celebrity made a lot of sense."
The company's website lists about 130 players, with several sold out - including David Ortiz, Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder and CC Sabathia. For the players, the process is relatively fast and easy, thanks to a custom iPad application. The app lets players record an audio message through the iPad's built-in microphone.
Consumers can share their Egraph on social networks and purchase a framed print with a certificate of authenticity. Each signature and recording is biometrically verified.
The audio is the best part of the whole process, said New York Mets 20-game winner R.A. Dickey. Each of Dickey's messages is different, based on whatever the fan shares in the note they send the player when they purchase the egraph.
Some fans are breathing a sigh of relief. "It's much easier, especially for a grown man," said Jim Nash, a West Virginia native and Mattingly fan who doled out $50 for a Mattingly signature. "It's much more personal."
Mattingly likes the high-tech approach: "It's actually kind of cool. It's like new age for me," he said. "Let's say you sign for a Steiner...you would sign about 200 things. You don't know where they're going. But this...is cool because you have a little background of who it is and how they're connected with you."
But not all fans are excited about the new service.
"I think it takes the specialness out of the experience," Age said. For her, interacting with a legend was a huge highlight of her teen years, totally worth the risk. "I'd hate to see that interaction lost for people." Age also worries that making signatures easier to get could make them less valuable.
Brandon Steiner who runs Steiner Sports, a major sports collectibles company, shares a similar concern.
"I don't understand how that's a collectible," he said. "I don't understand why somebody would want that, a facsimile autograph. It's kind of like a replica jersey that people get when they're 6 years old."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.