SIGN HIM UP!

Astros rookie fireballer joins ranks of Biggio, Bagwell, Correa- but there’s a price

Collectors are showing interest in Hunter Brown. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

What a difference a day makes – especially when that day was Sept. 5, 2022 and Astros pitcher Hunter Brown threw six innings of three-hit, shutout ball over six innings against the Texas Rangers.

Things happen fast. Only days later, Brown was sitting in his hotel room signing hundreds of baseballs, now on sale for $99 at tristarproductions.com.

I spoke with Bobby Mintz senior vice-president of sales and celebrity relations for TRISTAR Productions about striking hot while Brown was striking out Rangers batters.

SportsMap: TRISTAR is one of the biggest and most influential leaders in the sports collectibles industry. Did you sign Hunter Brown on the basis of that one spectacular game?

Mintz: No, we’ve had our eyes on Hunter all summer in Sugar Land. We’ve been tracking his potential, his 97-mph fastball, wipeout slider. He’s the No. 1 prospect in the Astros organization. We’ve had interest in signing him for some time. When Hunter got called up to the Astros, we talked with his agent about doing something. His agent said to let Hunter get through his start and then we’ll do it. We put the deal together in the days after his debut and he was signing baseballs the following Friday. We took the balls to our office to be authenticated as being the first lot of balls that he signed, that’s important to collectors. I won't give you details of our contract with Hunter, but we will be aligned with him for a considerable time moving forward.

SportsMap: Does a player’s personality play a role in whether you’re interested in signing him or her?

Mintz: Absolutely. We do shows around the country but we’re a Houston-based business. We have a big show each year in Houston. So being a Houston athlete has a big part in our decision. Hunter is very hard-working. He was a Division 2 pitcher with Wayne State University and a fifth-round draft pick. He increased his velocity and he’s worked and worked. He does have all the intangibles you look for, he’s nice and humble and very appreciative of what’s happening for him.

SportsMap: How important is it for you to sign players when they’re young, before they hit superstardom?

Mintz: It’s critically important. We scout players just like teams do, looking for their potential. Over the years, we’ve presented players at our shows who’ve gone on to become superstars, like Carlos Correa, George Springer, Ken Griffey Jr., Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Tom Brady and others. Sports collecting is much like the stock market, you hope to buy an autograph or memorabilia that will go up in value. Collectors are looking to buy an autograph of a young player for $39 now in hopes that it will be worth $139 the following year.

SportsMap: TRISTAR has been around a long time. When and where was your first show?

Mintz: It was in 1987 at a small hotel near Hobby Airport. Our headliner was Mark McGwire and people were lined around the block. Some camped out overnight to meet McGwire and get his autograph. We were on our way.

SportsMap: You’ve presented thousands of athletes at your shows. What’s in your personal collection of memorabilia?

Mintz: With me, it’s personal items and memories, not necessarily the most valuable in terms of money. I have a photo of Tom Brady and he signed it with “Thank you for your friendship.” I have a photo with Peyton Manning at the first show he did after being drafted. We’re both 25 pounds lighter in the photo. (Editor’s note: 25?)

SportsMap: When is your next show in Houston?

Mintz: We will present our 37th TRISTAR Collectors Show on Feb. 3-4-5 at NRG Arena.

SportsMap: Last one, do you ever talk with athletes about their penmanship? I have autographed baseballs in my sock drawer at home … I have no idea who signed them.

Mintz: Yes, we do have conversations about handwriting, all the time. Most athletes understand that fans need to read their autographs clearly. We find that younger players are less careful about their autographs. Sometimes older players will take them aside and tell them they need to do a better job with their signature. I won’t tell you his name, but we once had a major superstar sign at our show and his autograph was so bad, so completely unreadable that we never invited him back.

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