When the taxi heading south on Third Street slows down outside AT&T Park, the autograph hounds pick up the scent of potential prey. Some two dozen men, most in their teens and 20s, have gathered by the visiting team's entrance to pounce on members of the Los Angeles Angels. Or at least to beg for their signatures on baseballs, hats, shirts, and anything else that shows ink.
The cab pulls up, and out steps Angels slugger Garret Anderson, who wears faded jeans and a face stonier than the nearby statue of Willie Mays. He saunters past a gauntlet of pens and pleas "C'mon, Garret, just one?" without stopping, slipping through the iron gate that separates the anointed from the unwashed. He leaves behind slumped shoulders and murmurs of "What's up with him?"
Chris Lauser watches the futility of his young cohorts from a few feet away. "He doesn't want to sign, that's OK," says the retired human resources manager and Giants' season-ticket holder. "You can't force it. You have to see if they're in the right mood."
Vladimir Guerrero is clearly not in the right mood. While Anderson exuded casual disinterest, Guerrero, the 2004 American League MVP, stalks past the autograph hounds with body language that announces, "Not today, mofos."
Darryl Monroe, who has collected more than 1,200 autographs, shrugs off Guerrero's blow-off. "Vlad never signs," says Monroe, a freshman-to-be at City College and a cousin of Baltimore Orioles pitcher LaTroy Hawkins. "So, you know, whatever."
The luck of the hounds changes a few minutes later when Jose Molina and Frankie Rodriguez show up. Both players sign almost every item thrust at them, even offering a smile or two in return. After they ink his baseball, one young man breaks from the group and runs off, holding his trophy aloft. Scanning the street for the next cab, the next quarry, Monroe has a calmer reaction.