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Mr. Rogowsky, who has started writing a book about the art of getting an autograph, instructs his teens on expert tactics.

“It’s about the three P’s,” he says: “Pens, pockets and patience. I always bring a blue Sharpie, not black, so it stands out. You need pockets to put your stuff in, and you have to be patient. Remember that they’re people, too. Young guys, I call them by their first name. Veterans and coaches, I say Mr. So-and-so. And you’ve gotta be in the right place at the right time.”

One person in the right place at the right time is 7-year-old Alexandria resident Conrad Bartenstein, who sits in the arms of his father, Rob, a few rows back from the Houston dugout.

Astros first-base coach Jose Cruz notices the father and son, who both wear bright orange Houston T-shirts — the Astros‘ old color — and calls for Rob to place his son on the dugout so Cruz could reach the Nationals program Conrad wanted signed. The father, a Houston native, squeezes through the crowd and sits his son down, then pulls him back after thanking Cruz.

“It’s pretty exciting,” the elder Bartenstein says. “That’s his first autograph, and it’s of a player I grew up idolizing in Houston. This is what it’s all about, being at the park with dad. And autographs put you close to the game.”

After the game, a Nationals victory, Mr. Cockerham and a handful of other fans — and hounds — wait outside the player parking lot, calling to each car that passes. About a third of the players pull over and sign autographs from their cars.

“It’s pretty cool, because I remember when I was a kid, asking for autographs,” Nationals closer Chad Cordero says. “But I was real shy, so I would always get my brothers to go with me and I see a lot of the kids doing the same thing.

“Then once they ask and you sign, their face lights up. So I do it as much as I can,” the pitcher says.