Click it, and you’re looking at a photo that the Angels’ left-hander signed for the host of the “Tosh.O” Comedy Central series, inscribed: “Daniel, Trying my hardest to get my ERA to 2.0.”
But one more click on the audio arrow, and Wilson is saying: “Tosh, what’s up man? It’s C.J. Wilson. I know you’re not sure who I am because I’m just a baseball player, don’t have any YouTube hits, but I just wanted to say thanks, the work you do on the green screen is on the best jobs in Hollywood, but just be careful of those interns because when you’re squeezing them and licking their faces and stuff, one of their dads might be a lawyer.”
To Wilson, and to Tosh, and to anyone who knows what the two are all about in their owns worlds, the technology of what just happened might be just as cool as the message delivered.
What Wilson just managed to do is show off the next generation of autograph gathering.
A new company called Egraphs.com works, according to director of business development Gabe Kapler, because there’s not only nothing like it out there, but the time is perfect for it to work.
“This is something you couldn’t have experienced without the cutting-edge technology we have right now,” said the former Taft High of Woodland Hills big-league outfielder, who retired after the Dodgers released him on the last cut of the 2011 spring training, capping a 12-year career.
“The Twitter and social media feedback we’ve received on this thing already is extraordinary. The emails we’ve got show the fans are excited about the experience, and being a part of one of the early adopters of something new is exciting, too. With the athletes, it makes them feel like they’re also ahead of the curve and a trendsetter.”
The Egraphs.com experience starts with going to the website, finding a player you’re interested in connecting with, and buying, for $50, a high-res photo emailed to you or whomever you choose that comes with a personalized autograph as well as a recorded message up to 30 seconds. For another $45, they’ll ship the 8×10 photo framed with a certificate of authenticity.
Signature-recognition technology and voice-analysis software assures the authenticity of the autograph as well as the message.
It’s not necessarily going to replace the time a kid spends at the park handing a big-leaguer a baseball in hopes he’ll scratch his name on it. But it is something far more personal in the long run, and gives the players a chance to be a little more thoughtful in how they record their messages on their iPads, allowing the fans who buy them to share on their own computers, smart phones or tablets.
Although dozens of players have already signed on to the project Kapler says that there are just 24 up on the sight, including the recent additions of the Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and pitcher Clayton Kershaw as well as the Angels’ Wilson, Torii Hunter and Mark Trumbo. Dodgers new outfielder Shane Victorino is also involved, going back to his days with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Mattingly and Kershaw also donate their proceeds from sales of their Egraphs to their personal charities.
Kapler’s involvement goes back to the fact his spent the last two years of his career playing for the Tampa Bay Rays. Brian Auld, the Rays’ senior VP of operations, developed the idea with his brother, David, who worked at a strategist for Microsoft in Seattle but has since quit, recruited some friends and has become the CEO of Egraphs.
The website launched in mid-July, and some of the initial inventory of player photographs are already sold out.
“Maybe the best one I’ve seen so far is from Jimmy Rollins,” Kapler said of the Phillies’ shortstop. “He made an Egraph for a newborn fan named Celeste, whose parents got it for her. They said one of the first words she ever said was ‘JRoll,’ so Rollins was able to tell her thanks and said he was going to keep that as his nickname.
“There’s the warm and personal, energetic action between a player and a fan, and something they can now hold onto forever. It’ll never be reproduced, never be impersonal.”
Kapler said he always enjoyed the autograph experience he had with fans when he played, especially after he was a part of the Boston Red Sox team that won their first World Series in 2004 after an 86-year wait. He knows he and his teammates always spent time daily signing things mailed to them.
But sometimes, time and schedule gets in the way. Signing items for 25 kids may leave another dozen feel left out who also waited.
Egraphs, he says, really solves that problem.
“I know I would have loved to have this when I played,” said Kapler, who lives with his high-school sweetheart Lisa and their boys, aged 12 and 10, in Malibu these days.
And were he a kid who wanted a certain player to sign and record a message for him?
“The same guy then as I’d want to have to it now – Charles Barkley,” said Kapler. “When I was a kid, I was a Sixers fan and he had just such a big personality, so funny. His voice is so recognizable. He’d be my guy.”
Just wait. The way Egraphs is moving, it’ll probably happen sooner rather than later.