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,
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.