Around ten years ago, back when my kids were still involved with competitive swimming, there was a local kid whose family I knew, who had just had a particularly good swim.
One day I saw him and his mother in the lobby of the pool, so I walked up to the boy, and said, "I hear you were ranked second in the nation for 9-year-olds this year." He just nodded solemnly.
I then said, "Listen, don't laugh at me or anything, but can I have your autograph?"
He looked up and nodded, unsure what to think.
I said, "Wait here a sec, I'm going to go get a pencil and paper."
When I returned from the lobby desk, his mother said, "Jack, I think Mr. Craig is making fun of you."
I replied gruffly, as if annoyed by her comment, "No Mrs. [Smith], I am not making fun of anyone."
I instructed the boy, "Just write Jack Smith...50 yard backstroke 31.9….age 9….second in nation."
When he finished and handed it to me, wide-eyed, I said, judiciously, "Hey, this is going to be worth some money some day." I stuck out my hand and said, "Thanks a lot, man," as we shook.
You have to remember that the window of opportunity here is relatively narrow: eight and nine, that's it. At six or seven they haven't quite grasped the concept of an autograph yet. and from ten on, they realize that you're not really being serious.
In retrospect, it would have been even better to enlist a co-conspirator to also ask Jack for his autograph. That way it would have been less about the old weirdo and more about him.
You may think it beneath your dignity to put yourself in a supplicating position vis-a-vis a nine-year-old. It's not. Your dignity is something you lose only when you try too hard to maintain it.
On the rare occasions when I bump into the family these days, they're always quite friendly, and I'm pretty sure it's in large part because of that autograph.