Cardinals Autograph Fees versus the Rays $40 All-Inclusive
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.
Just 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.
You 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.
Before 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.
Plus 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.