More from Midland

So, folks, there’s been something on my mind for a while and I wasn’t sure how to address it. But at the FanFest this morning/early afternoon here for the Midwest League All-Star Game, I saw some things that made me want to speak out now.

I’m talking about autographs.

Today at the All-Star FanFest, all the Midwest League All-Stars spent an hour signing for fans. This I’ve got no problem with. It’s a great way to interact and it’s for a set amount of time and fans of all ages, shapes and sizes seemed to enjoy chatting with these future big leaguers. But there were several “fans” on hand who clearly weren’t there just to collect the John Hancocks from their favorite prospects.

You know the types. Heck, maybe some of you reading this are those types. I had one person suggest to me that writing something like this would be “biting the hand that reads me,” but so be it. I’m talking about those who show up with five sheets of cards or a box full of balls — or both, in the case of this event — and ask these young players to sign all of them.

I guess people are entitled to do whatever they want, but I just don’t get it. It was painfully obvious to me — and to some players, I’m sure — that these weren’t fans who simply planned to keep the 40 signed Ben Revere cards they got. I kept checking ebay during the game to see if any of these “collectors” had turned these products over that quickly. They hadn’t, but I assure you it’s only a matter of time.

I’ve got a problem with this on many fronts. First of all, it monopolizes the time of the prospects while other, more non-profit oriented fans had to wait longer. Second, it’s truly taking advantage of these young players and the setting. They’re here for an hour to sign, so they’re very unlikely to say no — they really can’t given the circumstances. As youngsters just starting out, they’re not established — and perhaps not world-weary — enough to cut someone off at a FanFest (the Great Lakes Loons and perhaps the Midwest League bear some responsibility for this — there was no one really around to monitor that there weren’t autograph hounds asking for multiple signatures like this).


This was mostly a first-round feature,
of course. These guys knew what their bread-and-butter were. Guys taken in the first round of last year’s draft — No. 9 Jarrod Parker,parker_autos.jpg
No. 16 Kevin Ahrens, No. 18 Pete Kozma and No. 29 Ben Revere were swarmed with requests. And with no place to go, they signed everything. When they’re at the ballpark, pre-game, there are some built-in outs. Players can say they’ve got BP, or a meeting in the clubhouse, or they can simply retreat to the dugout.

But even that is fraught with possible problems for a young prospect. A kid could sign a few cards one day and none the next, or tell someone that they’ll only sign a certain amount of cards and they easily can get labeled with not being fan-friendly (or worse). I used to wonder about kid who were thought to have an attitude, who big-leagued fans early in their pro careers. Now not only do I understand it somewhat, but in some instances I can almost encourage it. It is simply wrong to assume that a player should be willing to help you make money by signing dozens of items. It’s even worse when someone starts bad-mouthing a player for actually cutting things off or — gasp — saying no once in a while.

Yes, these first-rounders got very nice bonuses to become pros. And yes, I presume these signing-seekers have the right to try to profit from getting these prospects’ autographs on balls and cards. But what I saw at FanFest today is something that needs to stop. Or at least be monitored. At the very least, players should be able to set a limit — say one sheet per autograph seeker — without having to worry about ruining their reputations.

5 Comments

GREAT post …

I am waiting for the day when some well-meaning young first-rounder has to miss a start because he has carpal tunnel syndrome from signing five sheets of cards. Maybe when that day comes there will be some more oversight.

Whatever happened to the days when it was all about little kids waiting with a pen and a ball for their favorite player to write “To Johnny, best wishes, Joe Schlabotnik”?

Hi Jonathan,
Good post. I don’t know if this would be called biting the hand that feeds you. Do baseball cards really generate so much revenue in comparison to TV and advertising, and sales of soft goods (hats, jerseys, etc?)
I’ve always thought the notion that players are obligated to sign was a pretty weak argument. If you or I were approached by someone carrying a clipboard and a petition, we have the option of saying, “No thanks, I’m not signing today.” More importantly, the person with the clipboard will most likely thank us very profusely for our time, AND LEAVE.
When athletes get exploited like this—turned into personal cottage industries—how can we expect these young men to then care about anything except their own market value come negotiation time? What goes around, comes around folks. . . .BeesGal
BTW, you beat me to the byline this week. I’ve got a similar story about the autographing ritual scheduled to go up NEXT week. D*m* you! :-P

yeah , when someone does get carpal tunnel from signing cards, then you can bitch.

Problem is, no one would EVER admit that’s what their injury was even if they DID get it … it would be “strained quad” or something. It would be as embarrassing as, you know, tripping while putting on your cowboy boots or something.

And Chiburi, the thought behind the “biting the hand that reads you” is not actually directed at the card companies themselves, but more the fact that many of the avid fans who get tons of cards signed at once are also the avid fans who go to lots of games, read the site to find out whose cards they should but by the dozens, etc.

Slippery slope …

(Oh please, can’t I bitch now, Mr. Pico? Please?)

Ah, I missed the connection. Thanks Lisa! Uh oh, I see more of those fancy blended-drink names flying around. Mark’s not going to be very happy about this. . .BeesGal ;-)

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