The Reebok NFL Players Rookie Premiere has become more than just a photo shoot for trading card companies in recent years. It’s also become an important promotional event for some Southern California hobby stores.
For the past few years, Players Inc has sponsored player appearances at a hobby shop prior to the photo shoot. Last week, Players Inc sponsored free autograph signings at two card shops in Los Angeles. Former USC receiver Steve Smith (New York Giants) appeared at Beverly Hills Baseball Card Shop in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, former Auburn running back Kenny Irons (Cincinnati) was at The Bullpen.
Matt Federgren, owner of Beverly Hills Baseball Card Shop, said the rookie signing night is becoming an annual highlight at his store. “It’s the fourth year we’ve done it,” Federgren said. “It’s a win-win for everybody involved. We provide a very good atmosphere for both our customers and the league and the media – it’s amazing how many people are involved in the event. It’s a great symbiotic relationship.”
Federgren estimated that he gave out approximately $1,000 in prizes to youngsters, much of which was donated by Topps, Upper Deck and Donruss Playoff.
“I think some of the kids were more concerned about the prizes this year than the autographs,” he said with a laugh. “It was comical. The manufacturers give such great prizes for me to hand out.”
“And Steve Smith was a wonderful guest. These guys are such nice men. I’ve only had pleasant experiences with all my guests.”
Mitch Guttenberg of The Bullpen had similar praise for Irons, a rookie running back picked in the second round by the Bengals.
“It was great. Kenny Irons is one of the nicest young men I’ve meet in a long time,” Guttenberg said. “We had a pretty good turnout and he was amazing with the kids. He signed as many autographs as any kid wanted.
“We had a blast. I’d definitely do it again.”