You know the Apocalypse is upon you if the Kansas City Royals won't sign autographs.
Two years ago I attended a Rangers/Royals game at the Ballpark and managed to get about 7 or 8 Royals to sign for me, including Mike Sweeney, David DeJesus, Terrence Long and Ruben Gotay. Needless to say, I was pumped when I went to the Ballpark this past Tuesday for another game between these two teams. I know the Royals aren't anyone's idea of a good team, but at least the signatures would be plentiful.
Or so I thought.
I got down to the dugout at 4:30, a half hour before the Royals took batting practice. I was the first one standing in a line that never grew beyond eight people. When the team came out, I quickly managed to snag Brandon Duckworth and manager Buddy Bell. I thought I was off to a great start. And then the cold chill of athletic indifference blew through the stadium as virtually no one else on the Royals bothered to even acknowledge our small band, let alone step over to sign a couple. And it was not just the veterans. It was the coffee-cup prospects as well. Alex Gordon, Mark Teahen and Shane Costa didn't so much as look at anyone, and Billy Butler teased us by starting to walk our way, then smiled and turned toward the dugout after batting practice. The rest of the team stood out in center field doing nothing, then made a mad dash for the dugout 45 minutes before the game. Maybe one or two of them signed a single autograph on the way in. I was one of lucky ones, getting coffee-cupper Justin Huber to sign my game ticket (I had left his cards at home by mistake). That was my night.
I wish I could say this was only one night, but the truth of it is that it's an epidemic in sports that athletes and fans find themselves on opposite sides of an ever-growing wall. Let's face it. Players don't care anymore. They make enough money they can afford to look down on the average fan. Interaction is almost a foreign word to them. Agents discourage it, card companies sometimes prohibit it (ever hear of exclusive deals?), and the Communists in the Commissioner's office don't help when they specifically decree that players can't sign autographs less than 45 minutes prior to game time. Perhaps Comrade Selig should go to Frisco and Round Rock and see how it's really supposed to be done.
To prove my point, I went to two more games earlier this year, against Oakland (historically a great signing team) and Milwaukee. Between them, I managed to get Huston Street, Kevin Mench and Chris Capuano. Maybe two of the A's signed, and their prospects (Travis Buck) did the same as Gordon and Co. Prince Fielder came over to sign before the Brewers game, signed maybe two, then turned and walked away. That is downright contempt. If you're not going to take the 3 minutes to satisfy the whole line, don't even bother. Like I said, it's an epidemic, and it's time for the fans to start fighting back.
I could cut superstars some slack here. They get besieged by autograph requests daily that number in the thousands and can't possibly get to everyone. I understand that. What irks me though is the attitude of the guys hitting .240 with two home runs and 12 RBI's. They ought to be happy that someone wants their stinking autograph. And the prospects should fall under the same umbrella. Until you've done something in the major leagues, you really have no good reason to refuse to sign, especially when there are only 10-15 people (in 2 lines and over the dugout, combined) waiting. I hear so much junk about players being worried about eBay. Get off it, Roid Rats. You make more money in six months than I will likely make in my lifetime. If I make $10 off it on eBay, so freaking what?
I would encourage any other fans who are fed up with this terrible treatment to write Comrade Selig and their local team owners. That is the only way things will change. One fan may spend $2000 for a luxury box and another fan $5 for a bleacher seat. But in the final count, they each count as 1 under attendance. Get enough $5 fans to boycott in protest it will change when the figures come in.
Turn your backs on us? Two can play that game.