Sanford, Florida native Chaz Lytle was a star at Seminole High School where he batted nearly .500 and was a lock as an All- State selection.
Tony Reid- When was the first time you were asked for you signature?
Chaz Lytle-It had to be at the University of Georgia. I signed my first autograph and I was thrilled. It was a great feeling. I said to myself that I would always do this. I won a batting title in 2003. In 2004, I was a fan favorite because it was really important for me to go out there and sign autographs. It has always been a pleasure. I still do it to this day. I’ve been out doing autograph shows recently. It’s great to get out and see the people that still care. It’s very important for me to show them I care.
TR– What is your most memorable fan interaction as a player and also as a fan?
CL– For me, it was always about having a relationship with fans. The fans are there to support, especially in the minor leagues. I have played with a lot of guys who have shown that respect but unfortunately, I have played with a few guys who would go up and sign ‘Michael Jordan.’ Those guys got in a lot of trouble with the organization. The fans are showing their appreciation. Kids can have and do what I did. It just takes a lot of hard work. I used to do it. I have a picture of George Brett and I, signed by George Brett. I had it blown up and the next spring training I went down and showed him the picture and he signed it. If George Brett, a Hall of Famer, could sign for me, heck, that is pretty cool. I have always looked up to George Brett.
I have been around Minor League and Major League Baseball since I was a kid, traveling with my dad. That one was a big deal to me.
I’m glad a lot of fans to this day appreciate us. There is an underground Facebook that a lot of Major League and Minor League players are on. I don’t want to get into that too much. Some guys don’t want people to know where they live. If you are big name player I totally get that. I tell people my address. Here it is. If they want a card signed, or whatever it is, one guy wanted a helmet signed. Here it is. Send it. One hundred percent of the time it has been a nice interaction. They send a SASE.
I find that people still care to this day. I hope the people are collecting them. I’m not worth much money. They are taking the time to write a hand written letter. That goes a long way. I’m always up for signing. I do it for the fans. I would sign anything, anytime, anywhere for anybody and I enjoy doing it.
TR–Do you remember seeing yourself on cardboard for the first time?
CL-It was the coolest thing in the world. I remember when I signed the contract, it was like $500 or $1,000. I still have that contract and it’s framed and it’s on my wall to this day. I saw it and I was like ‘Oh my goodness.’ Then another card came out. Then another one. I was with the same agent as David Eckstein at the time. I was on a Topps card. Then they came out with a Bazooka card. Then they came out with a smaller card. Then they came out with the Topps Heritage card. Wow. Being on a trading card and even having that information on the back was special. My dad passed away last year and he took a lot of pride in showing his friends that.
TR–Did you and your dad collect cards together when you were younger?
CL-Oh, tons and tons. We had an autographed Babe Ruth ball. I think it sold for $16,000 at the time. When I was tooling around the Minor Leagues at Tinker Field, I was one of those fanboys. I would sit down in the bullpen and get Eddie Perez or Greg Maddux baseball cards. Then the next thing you know I was in Spring Training facing Greg Maddux. Tim Raines always said to treat the fans right. They will be the ones there backing you up. I went to the same high school he did.
TR- How much did you actually collect cards and autographs as you got a bit older?
CL– I was a huge collector. That’s how I made it, though. David Eckstein, Troy Glaus and Darin Erstad were working out. I was always one of those guys who would kind of stalk them a bit. They were always really nice to me. They would invite me to shag fly balls. They went to our high school. The invited me to start hitting with them. I was always a cage rat, I just hung around, like the autographs you were talking about. I would sit there when everybody else gave up.
If it was an NBA game I would figure a way to get courtside and get an autograph. There are ways to scrounge. I would go to spring training games. I would go to Jupiter (FL) to a game. I would hope to catch a foul ball. If I didn’t I went down there and got my hat signed. That is what drove me to be a player. They were down to earth. Once players talked to me and made me feel human and I knew they were human, I knew I could do it, too.
TR–What are your thoughts on the current sports card market?
CL– Now, I walk into Walmart and they have Prizm cards. They have all these cards. I can’t even buy a pack of cards. There are ten guys in line cleaning them out! I asked the vendor how much they are worth. She said she gets followed around from store to store. She said cards were worth a lot more now than they ever were. I thought they went out. I need to start doing cards as a full time job. This is big money, huge money! They even took the cards out of the retail stores. It’s crazy.
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