JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Autographs and eye contact

foster

A friend of mine recently took his son to spring training. They had a wonderful time—caught a few games, watched the Mets work out, probably bought a hat or a ball or whatever.

When I asked whether his boy was able to snag any autographs, however, silence followed. “Autographs?” he said. “These guys barely look up.”

Indeed, it’s true. And pathetic. If there’s one thing that irks me about the majority of major league players, it’s the complete and total and deliberate lack of eye contact made with fans. You don’t wanna sign? Fine—you certainly don’t always have to. Don’t wanna give away a batting glove? Completely your right. But that I loathe is when ballplayers jog off the field during BP or after stretching … and don’t even glance up or wave or smile at the hundreds of people gathered there. They seem to have no idea about the impact a mere “Hello” would have on a tyke.

In fact, I’d argue that it’s “cool” for ballplayers to act such a way. Rookies see it in veterans and try to duplicate their ways. Avoid overeagerness. Don’t make eye contact. Etc.

When I was 12, the family took a trip to San Francisco. We caught a (frigid) Mets-Giants game at Candlestick. Before the action, my brother and I went to the railing, where Kelvin Chapman signed my program. Though George Foster, the mercurial outfielder, didn’t lift a pen, he managed to hand out the above pieces of paper, which included signatures. At the time (as a punk kid), I considered the act dickish.

Now, it’d be extraordinary.