10/05/2002 1:01 pm ET
Autograph hunters dedicated
By Todd Lorenz / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- When Twins Game 4 starter Eric Milton arrived at the Metrodome this morning the first person he talked to wasn't a coach, manager or teammate, it was longtime Twins fan and avid autograph seeker Richard Brandt of Big Lake, Minn.
Brandt, 54, is more than just a season ticket holder. He's a die-hard baseball fan and admitted memorabilia junkie. For almost nearly every one of Minnesota's 81 home games this season, Brandt has shown up hours before the game to position himself in front of the player's entrance.
"It's like an addiction," Brandt said, "but that's what baseball does. Our kids think we're crazy. I think they want to have us committed."
And it's tough to blame them. Brandt awoke around 4 a.m. Saturday to make the 40-minute drive to Minneapolis and by 9:30 he had secured autographs from Milton, Cristian Guzman, Eddie Guardado, Joe Mays and longtime Twins announcer Bob Casey.
"Most of the guys are really nice," Brandt said. "Even yesterday when it was cold and raining the guys would sign as long as there was an umbrella for them to stand under."
While Brandt's collecting habit might be extreme, it's by no means exclusive.
"In April and May there may be three, four, five guys out here," said fellow collector Frank Kopp of Blaine, Minn. "But once school gets out there could be anywhere from 20 to 50 people out here. Of course there are less on the weekdays."
Kopp should know. He's been hunting autographs in the Metrodome parking lot since 1996. He arrived at 7 a.m. on Saturday and with Friday's take he'd bagged signatures from Matthew LeCroy, Tony Fiore, Michael Cuddyer, Kyle Lohse, Guardado, Mays, Bobby Kielty, pitching coach Rick Anderson and ex-Twin turned radio announcer Dan Gladden.
His most prized possession, however, wasn't signed by a Twin.
"Last year I got Cal Ripken to sign a jersey before a game," Kopp said. "The Orioles were in for a three-game series and Ripken usually only signs for one game of the series so you have to get lucky."
Minutes after Kopp finished talking about his autograph seeking high point, Brandt suffered from one of his all-time lows. He had 1991 World Series MVP Jack Morris on the hook and ready to sign a home run hanky, but his pen wouldn't work.
"I missed him," said Brandt, with a look of disparaged look on his face.
But that's the nature of any addiction.
Todd Lorenz is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.