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.

5 thoughts on “Autographs and eye contact”

  1. I went to a Cubs game when I was 8 and all the players (Sammy included) stayed 20-30 feet from the fence. If it wasn’t for Harry Caray, I never would have gotten an autograph.

    If there is one good player story, it was when Tony Graffanino gave us an autographed BP ball at a Devil Rays game.

    I don’t know what happened to the ball, but the memory stays in my head forever. You don’t forget something like that. I wish some players would realize that.

  2. If you’re lucky enough to live near a minor league city take your kids there. Last year I went to a game here in Reno where the local team, the Aces, had just started their first season in triple-A. I was sitting down the right field line halfway to the foul pole in row 2, next to a young mother who had brought her four year old son to the game. Kid had a kid’s glove and was paying attention to everything except what was on the field prior to the game. The players were strolling in toward the dugout (opposing team) and one of the players reached into the stands and plopped a ball into the kid’s glove. The point is, in the minors the players still care about the fans.

  3. I don’t really care too much about autographs anymore, I don’t really see the point. However, Carlos Delgado seems to care. After being taken out of a spring training game in Dunedin in 2004 around the 5th or 6th inning, he stopped and signed for fans as he was heading to the clubhouse while the game was still going on. Then during open workouts in Jupiter in 2005, he stopped and signed again between stations, which I don’t think you’re really “supposed” to do. I snapped a few pics with my camera phone.

  4. What’s the end result here? You’re not going to make a personal connection with an athlete if you’re in the midst of a group of 40 people, are you?

    A kid wants an autograph, the player wants to move along and get through the rest of his day. So he signs a ball, a card, a slip of paper and makes a kid happy.*

    * This isn’t even getting into the slimy underworld of baseball memorabilia where adults hire kids to get autographs so that they can put them on eBay the next day.

    I could see being put off if a ball player didn’t take a second to say hello if it was just my child and him (and my kid wasn’t bothering him), but I think that you’re expecting too much of an athlete to make eye contact, say hello, etc. when there is a crowd of people.

    Little Billy is a face in the crowd, not everyone is special.

  5. Sorry to hear about your friend’s experience, but I don’t think it’s fair to paint all big leaguers with such a broad brush, Jeff. I’m one of the last 800 Oakland A’s fans out there and I’ve taken my son Jalen (now 6) to spring training each of the past two years. We’ve caught a game at the Indians’/Reds’ beautiful new complex in Goodyear, AZ both years and it’s been virtual conga line of ballplayers willing to stop, sign and engage fans. Eric Chavez, for example, asked my son where he was from. When he replied, “San Diego”, Eric lit up with an ear-to-ear grin and said that’s where he was from, too. Phenom Michael Taylor politely introduced himself before signing. And, several players were graciously posing for photos.

    If you’ll allow me to shamelessly share a few, I’ve posted them here:

    http://thatbootlegguy.blogspot.com/2010/03/great-day-to-be-jalens-dad.html

    There are still some good apples out there, Jeff. You just have to drive 45 minutes outside of Phoenix to find them 🙂

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