Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post reports that the Marlins have erected a new fence at their spring training facility closing off access to an area where fans have traditionally gathered to get autographs from Marlins players.
It’s outside of the player entrance to the clubhouse. Before, fans could gather on the sidewalk and reach through a gate to hand players balls or cards or things to sign. Now they can’t get to the sidewalk because of a new fence. And even if they can get to that fence, it’s covered by a mesh screen which blocks anyone from reaching through the gates. Capozzi has a picture of the foreboding looking barrier in his article.
As Capozzi reports, a Marlins spokesman said it was about safety, but that’s implausible. Rather, a source tells him, it’s because players complained about autograph-seekers who were particularly interested in big stars like Ichiro and Giancarlo Stanton. The addition of Barry Bonds to the coaching staff, he says, finally inspired the Marlins to act.
The article notes that the complaint was about autograph brokers, not kids. I understand how those guys can annoy people. their game is fairly transparent if you’ve seen them in action. They’re older guys, usually, with giant backpacks full of baseballs and binders full of baseball cards they obviously plan to sell. Players like signing for kids. They hate signing for these guys. I can’t really blame them.
That said, it’s kids and common fans who are, again, being pushed farther and farther away. Following on the heels of Yankees’ COO Lonn Trost’s unfortunate comments yesterday and the increasing way the rich and privileged are favored at the ballpark over ordinary fans, it’s the latest datapoint which bolsters my belief that baseball is losing connection with people — almost exclusively the non-rich — in important ways. I mean, in the very same article we learn this:
The ballpark has gotten rid of the popular grass berm in right field where fans could pay $15 to $20 to sit on the grass. It has been replaced with a 136-seat capacity Bullpen Club section, where tickets range from $52 to $60.
Last night, inspired by these kinds of stories I wrote a longish thing over at my personal site about how, in many important ways, we’re seeing the end of equality in civil society and how the same thing is happening in baseball. It’s a shame, and it’s something about which Major League Baseball should be very concerned.