Max Scherzer is not the kind of person who accepts the status quo without analyzing it first. He has theories about everything, from how to optimize a March Madness bracket to how to learn a new pitch, to how to attack a lineup once, twice or three times through.
When Scherzer thought about his experiences with autograph seekers over the years, he saw flaws in the system. The adult fans hawking autographs to sell online bugged him. The parents using kids as a front to do the same rubbed him the wrong way.
“I love signing for kids. To see the smile on a kid’s face, that makes our day as well,” Scherzer said. “… but we don’t want to sign for people who are trying to make a dollar. That ruins it for everybody else. That’s the thing, sometimes we can come across as jerks because we don’t like dealing with someone, but sometimes it’s a genuine fan. I know nobody minds signing for true fans.”
But Scherzer also knows that for true fans, the opportunity to get autographs does not always come easily. Tickets are expensive, the chances of getting an autograph remote. So he considered a new approach: A website on which fans could order signed memorabilia from their favorite player — or even send something of their own for that player to sign — for a fee that would go directly to charity. The fans get their autograph, and the players get to help a cause that matters to them.
Scherzer had already been a part of a program like that, one that dealt only in baseball cards. But fan appetite called for more, for jerseys and hats and balls and the rest. Scherzer mulled an upgraded version of that program with his best friend from high school, who decided he wanted to help. Over the last few months, he and Scherzer worked through the logistics to set up FanSigner.com, an initial version of the site Scherzer envisioned.
Ryan Zimmerman agreed to participate, too. All of his autographs will earn money for the ziMS foundation, to benefit the cause of multiple sclerosis. Anthony Rendon is in, too. His funds will go to the Nationals Youth Academy. Stephen Strasburg has also agreed to participate, though his charity is not yet finalized.
“I need proof that this works in the D.C. market to make sure that players are happy and how we’ve concocted this is going to work,” Scherzer said. “I can’t take this to other teams or other players before we see if this is something that people can enjoy.”
Obviously, Scherzer hopes the website will take off, and perhaps be something that can expand league-wide. For now, all money from his autographs will go to the Humane Society, for which Scherzer has taped public service announcements and done a great deal of work during his time in D.C. His wife, Erica, is also deeply involved with the Humane Society, among several other causes.
“If I can lend my voice and name to help further a cause or further something that can make an impact in the community, I think it’s great to do,” Scherzer said. “I can’t give all my time to it, but I think there’s different causes and things sometimes where I can affect positive change, and provide the right example for kids to think about. Hopefully that comes through.”
For now, the site is new, a fledgling, still-growing operation he hopes will catch on. But the site is up and operational, likely to be tweaked a great deal as it grows. Scherzer, after all, is always plotting ways to improve, from adding a pitch to his already devastating arsenal, to rethinking the way fans, athletes, and the autograph trade function in the future.