Cardinals Autograph Fees versus the Rays $40 All-Inclusive

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More and more I am being assured that we, as Tampa Bay Rays fans have been spoiled by this organization. Here we are just a few days before the 2011 Rays Fan Fest and decided to look at the recent St. Louis Cardinals Winter Wind-Up event. Suddenly I see just how different and special the “Rays Way” of producing their Fan Fest far exceeds the norm in the MLB.

It is really wild how every single team in Major League Baseball does their own separate and unique versions of fan and player interaction events. I have mentioned in the past how some do exclusive Winter or pre-Spring Caravans or team whistle stops (Reds, Braves and Pirates) with players appearing and signing at one of their team’s top local sponsors or special “friend” locations of the franchise

Then there are the events held by teams like the White Sox or Brewers over multiple days that have their fan experience in convention centers with isolated rooms where if you have a purchase a pre-paid ticket or lucky pass to get a players signature and purchase an additional ticket for a possible photo opportunity with one of your favorite players.


ff64.JPGJust reading about idea of pre-paid tickets purchased in advance, with certain designated autograph times in isolated rooms, segmented away from the public just makes the whole Rays Fan Fest format extremely fan-friendly. We have surely been spoiled in the past years with FREE admission and FREE autographs, plus other opportunities for players to interact with fans at numerous other events during the day. Maybe that all is about to morph into a new animal or idea in the future.

 The Cardinals are not the only MLB team to put on a multiple day Fan experience, but from that point things go a bit…well off the charts. Their 2011 fan event was held from January 15-17th at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch. The pre-event details and autograph pricing list definitely had me twitching at the keyboard wanting to state my opinion.

The idea of paying $ 40 for the Rays autograph wristband is no biggie to me, but the pricing list for autographs at the Cardinals event left me a bit….hoping the Rays did not venture into these waters….yet.

I am definitely starting to feel that maybe we all have been extremely spoiled by the Rays generosity in the past by not pushing their autograph session to this kind of level, and keeping the players basically in front of the fans.


Thumbnail image for ff004.JPGYou get a special rush in you as you snake through the autograph line to finally get to walk towards the podium and get a signature and possibly chat for a moment with the player before embarking on maybe standing in another line for another signature before an hour time elapses and the next band of signers’ take their spots.

I still remember when the Rays Fan Fest was a 2-day event, and maybe the Rays have been giving all of us so much for literally nothing all these years that I forgot the true fan advantage that we, as Rays fans have over some other teams. We have some of the most accessible and personable players in the MLB, and that is a great gift. But maybe the era of something for nothing is about to close. It is part of the evolution, the process, the way thing eventually go or flow. Change happens.

Just like the Rays, the Cardinals asked their fans to purchase via a charitable donation, a limited amount of pre-priced autograph tickets prior to their event. The Cards gave you the option of buying your player’s autograph ticket online, or possibly with fingers, eyes and knees crossed, there would be a smattering of leftover tickets available the day of the event. As you can guess, that second option was as viable an option as the proverbial needle in the haystack.

From there the Cardinal autograph sessions further separated themselves from the Rays format of a one-time $ 40 donation for a Rays Fan Fest wristband (if you are over 14). At the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up event there was a rolling list of prices that ranged from 54 players from the Cardinals past and present signing for FREE including ex-Rays broadcaster Joe Magrane and local resident Danny Cox.

From there the Cardinals scale quickly went from $ 5 for an autograph from relievers Jason Motte, Trever Miller or Kyle McClellan all the way up to $ 100 for Matt Holiday, or $ 175 for Albert Pujols. A interesting side note, Pujols signature actually has stayed sort of “recession proof” at the same autograph pricing for the past three Winter Warm-Up events. Not sure of what price I would estimate or guess an Evan Longoria, Johnny Damon, David Price or Manny Ramirez would bring, but it would not be set in stone at $40 total price for all 4 signatures.

Cardinal Baseball Hall of Fame members Bob Gibson ($ 125), Bruce Sutter ($100) and Lou Brock ($100) also had autograph tickets available in the 3-digit range. You could also purchase tickets for autographs from former Cardinal greats Ray Lankford ($10), Vince Coleman ($10) Jack Clark ($5) if your autograph needs were dictated by a shoe string budget. By comparison, the Rays will have 30 MLB Alumni members including Mark Whiten, Von Hayes and former Rays closer and All-Star Roberto Hernandez signing for FREE during Fan Fest.

 

ff30.JPGBefore all of you Rays supporters get all upset and rant and rave about this pricing structure, remember it is all going to Cardinal Care, the St. Louis charity that mirrors perfectly with the Rays Baseball Foundation. Cardinal Care is the primary charitable arm of the Cardinals organization that provides financial help in the surrounding communities. This Winter Warm-Up event is one of their biggest donation events of the year.

But if the sticker shock of seeing $ 175 get to you, there are a few other possible options if you happened to sleep in and missed the Pujol’s online ticket auction. You could be one of the top bidders in an exclusive 10 bid online auction that will position you as one of the first 10 spots in line for Pujol’s autograph, plus you will received 2 Winter Warm-Up passes, and the added bonus of two future tickets to the all-inclusive Champions Club for a game during the Cardinals 2011 season.

If that is still way out of your economical range, you could purchase a $ 1 scratch-off ticket that will get you an instant opportunity for a Pujols autograph. Oh, and Pujol’s will only be signing baseball and bats. No jerseys, photos or posters at this event. $ 40 is starting to look real cheap right now to those people over 14.

For some reason I am starting to get the sneaking feeling that the Rays exclusive $ 40 offer, or that the present format of tables set on a podium in plain sight of the public right on the NEW AstroTurf of Tropicana Field might go the way of the dinosaur at some future point. The Rays Fan Fest has always been a free day of family and baseball related fun and frolic from the player’s autographs, to kid’s hitting wiffle balls, to the Metro PCS Call-A-Friend promo, to the roundtable discussions with some of those in the MLB trenches.

Sure the Cardinals have a larger two hour total window for player signings, but if you miss your “window of opportunity”, you are left totally holding the ball (literally). You also might not get that air of personal interaction with the player that has been one of the things I have come to love about Fan Fest.



Thumbnail image for ff34.JPGPlus there is a extremely affordable advantage that Rays Fan fest as always, has FREE admission. If you wanted to attend the 3-day Cardinals event, you had to purchase a $40 Entry Pass and have it displayed you at all times. At Fan Fest, you just park your car, walk into the Rotunda towards the field and enjoy the festivities.

More and more that $ 40 for fans over 14 for a Rays autograph wristband feels like a sure fire MLB bargain. But if you are a kid under 14, the autograph event is still totally free, which feels amazing especially after you get that much wanted David Price and Evan Longoria autograph…without a single ticket.

 

 

18 Comments

I wish I could offer an intelligent comment on this subject, but I’ve never paid for an autograph in my life. Just not my thing and I can’t imagine doing it. Well, let me amend that. When Mickey Mantle was dying, I bought a signed baseball online. But that was it.

http://www.janeheller.com/confessionsblog

Jane,
that comment was just right.
It is just that the climate has shifted regarding autographs and fan events throughout MLB. With money tight and some former charity avenues dried updue to recession and atight wallet, charities and their teams need to find a viable solution.
I can see both side of the coin here and empathize with the Cards. But I also truly feel the Rays Republic at time sexpects things to stay the same and not transform or be molded into their future shells.
Either way, kids will still get autographs and collectors will have to line the fences at Spring Training or before games…unless they pay the $40…

Rays Renegade

I don’t mind paying to a charity for an event that gives back, my problem is autographs should be free, then and all year when fans, mostly of the young variety lean over the walls or gather at the exit to catch a glimpse of their favorite in the hopes of an autograph, the money should be for a photograph or some other interaction with a player.
Having spent a number of hours waiting in the wings with young kids to ask for that famed signature, only to be disheartened cause the rich and shameless don’t give them away anymore.

-peter

Phillies Outside

Peter,
I can not talk for the new memebers of the Rays roster, but the team has always had an open relationship with their fans in the past. Still think that will be the case, but with the addition of Damon and Ramirez, people will hound for autographs, possibly at the cost of a young fan getting a signature.
But the kid’s under 14 are still FREE. They are the future of the sport both on and off the field. They Rays have always had a good harmonious balance with their fans.

Rays Renegade

The thing that most amazes me most is not that the Cards charge $175 for Pujols autograph, but that there are that many people willing to pay it. I realize the proceeds go to charity, but still, that’s a lot of money for something that’s probably illegible.
Sue
Rants, Raves, and Random Thoughts

Sue,
It is the same reasoning that so many people are now trying to get David Price and Evan Longoria’s autographs while they are young.
In a few years they might get gun-shy of the public after a bad autogrpah deal or someone selling so much of their wares in E-Bay and such.
I really expect the crowd to be moaning and groaning in the Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon lines this weekend.
When someone has that future HOF label attached to them…..collectors and people are attracted like moths to the flame….Guess that is human nautre.

Rays Renegade

I am not one to ask for many autographs. Nor have I ever paid for one. My favorite autograph is of Lee Smith. He signed my glove, when he was a Cardinal, and I told him I wish he was still with the Cubs. He smiled and thanked me. Great man!

Ron

http://strictlycubsbaseball.mlblogs.com/

Ron,
That is a cool story. It is sometimes amazing the people we meet in our baseball lives that touch a part of us, or give of themselves to us that we remember later.
I remember in 2009 when Big & Rich cam to the Trop to do a Sat night concert. They gave a young Rays fan a chance to come on stage and sing with them….Bet that kid is telling that story still today.

Rays Renegade

I myself am another who refuses to pay for an autograph. I’ve always been of the school that if I can’t have it out of the goodness of your heart or them just being agreeable, I don’t want it. I get my share just being opportunistic and I’m happy with that. As far as the Fan Fests…we haven’t had one here in almost 15 or 20 years that I know of. This town is the worst when it comes to that.
Mike

Rays,
I prefer a picture and a chance to say something to the player. An event like today helping cleaning up the LA river was just perfect. See pictures I posted about it. Tomorrow to Santa Monica!
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com

Mike,
I can see why the New York area might not do Fan Fests. Nothing personal to the fans, but with almost 10 million people in that small region…imagine if a third of them showed up to a Fan Fest….Dogs and Cats living together…mass hysteria.
Still, there should be something…anything for the fans in that special sports region.

Rays Renegade

Cardinals FanFest is a glorified fee party. They charge you for looking at a baseball player from across the room. It’s a bit triflin’ actually, which is why I never go.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Emma,
The wild thing is that the Cardinals event did not have a photo opportunity. I know the Chicago White Sox event had an option to purchase a “time” with a ticket to get a photo with a player.
I am with you. I ask more for photos than for autographs. It is not like I always throw up them up on my blog…..(cough, cough).
Still, I love the Dodger idea of community service alongside their fans…That is the event that keeps on giving.

Rays Renegade

I’ve never paid for an autograph. Nothing wrong with doing it, I just haven’t. But I will say that the Rays $40 deal sounds great and I would take advantage of it.

My wife did buy me an autograph G Maddux ball for my BD a couple years ago. I’ve always been a huge Maddux fan, I don’t know how much she spent on the ball, but to me it was free :)
http://wrigleyregular.mlblogs.com/

Jeff,
Wasn’t trying to focus on your Cards, but that Fan Fest had me worried that is the path the Rays will take in the future. I like that the Rays have their players out in the center of the Trop open to cheers, waves and even a few hugs from female admirers…I need to find some female Rays Renegade admirers….Hmmmm?

Rays Renegade

Wrigley,
I have gotten the opinion on here with the recent comments thatmost would not/have not purchased an autographed ball. That is perfectly fine.
But our kid’s kids will. It is just the evolution of the collectible racket. My sister has 6 Cabbage Patch kiods still with their adoption paper and the packaging…Wonder how much they would grab on the CPK adoption market?
People collect now. Over thepast 20 years we have become a nation of collecting what might one day be worth more than we paid for it…..Heck I still got a box of 12 signed Johnny Unitas footballs in my closet….wonder if they are worth more than the Cabbage Patch?

Rays Renegade

Renegade, there must be a story behind why you have a dozen Unitas footballs stashed away. I should imagine they are worth more than Cabbage Patch Kids.
Sue
Rants, Raves, and Random Thoughts

Sue,
I did a charity signing with Johnny Unitas when I was playing ball, and he gave me the box of signed NFL balls.
I put them in the back closet of an old condo I had in Indianapolis and moved them down to FL after my medical discharge.
I was doing some cleaning my old house and found them in the attic. Forgot I even had them.
Simple story….not too exciting this time.

Rays Renegade

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