It’s been a tough couple weeks for Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, but he clearly hasn’t lost any of the star power he earned in dominating hitters most in the season.
As evidence, hundreds of Reds fans lined outside a West Chester sports memorabilia shop Thursday to get a glimpse and a rare autograph from Chapman.
After not surrendering an earned run before June 7, Chapman has gone 0-3 with a 10.13 ERA since then, blowing two saves, including Tuesday night on a walk-off home run in Cleveland.
There had been speculation that an aching back had affected the left-hander’s performance. In his appearance at the Sports Gallery on Thursday, however, Chapman dispelled any such talk. Although the Cuba native had difficulty understanding questions he was asked, he clearly understood the one about his health, and pointing to his back declared it “fine.”
Hundreds of Cincinnati Reds fans lined outside a West Chester sports memorabilia shop Thursday to get a glimpse and a rare autograph from closer Aroldis Chapman.
According to the shop’s co-owner Mark Fugate, who opened the Sports Gallery in August of 2010, this is the second public autograph session for Chapman in the past two years. The previous signing event also took place at the Sports Gallery in April of 2011.
“We were very excited to have Chapman back. He doesn’t do public signings very often. Actually both of them have been here and we are quite proud of that,” Fugate said.
“This was probably one of the biggest events we have ever had.”
Chapman, who threw the fastest pitch ever recorded in a Major League Baseball game at 105 mph, has been one of most discussed players on the Reds since he signed in 2010.
“He is definitely mysterious, you can just tell he is still trying to adapt to life here and just the language and everything like that,” Reds fan Erik Adamson said. “It is just a tough barrier for him, especially with all the outside news like the speeding tickets and guy in Florida who is suing him for $18 million or whatever.
“It is tough, because as a Reds fan, we have seen him pitch but we don’t know what he is like off the field.”
There is also a lot unknown about the value of his autograph.
When Chapman was first called up to the Reds, signed baseballs were going for $100 to $150, according Jeremy Brown, owner of Ultimate Sports Cards and Memorabilia in Las Vegas. Brown, who also makes appearances on the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars,” said the current value of a signed baseball by Chapman is around $40 to $60.
Brown, however, did say that Chapman’s signature has a “higher upside” than most players and should increase in value if he ever becomes a starter.
For an autograph ticket Thursday, Sports Gallery customers had to pay $40 for baseballs and mini helmets; and $55 for bats, jerseys and equipment. However, the actual value of Chapman’s autograph could be the greatest among Cincinnati fans.
“I have seen him six or seven times in person and watching him throw as fast as he does, especially earlier this year … I thought it was a great opportunity to meet him,” Adamson said. “I am at the smallest stage of building my collection, but it was one that I definitely wanted to have.”