Sign of the times: FanFest autograph prices are $125 for big names
UPDATE, 7:05: Here is a quote from Rays president Matt Silverman explaining the new format:
"Fan Fest is a great way for the Rays to reconnect with our fans and celebrate the beginning of the baseball season. Each year we look to add greater interactions between our players and fans, and this year we will be high-fiving kids as they run the bases, participating in coaches clinics, taking photos with fans, and even serving ice cream, all of which are free. The paid autograph signings benefit charity and a are minor component to the event. We are selling certain players' autographs in advance to ensure that fans can receive them without having to endure a prolonged wait.''
DEVELOPING: The price of fame has gone up.
Or at least the price of famous Rays players autographs.
At next month's FanFest, the cost of an autograph from the Rays three biggest names - Evan Longoria, Wil Myers and David Price - will be $125 each.
The prices - set by the team - for most of the other prominent players will be $25 each.
All proceeds from the autograph sessions do go to charity, and there will be a group of lesser known players signing for free for kids 14 and under as well as any fans who pay for any of the others. There also will be dozens of former big-league players signing for free. Plus, there are a number of other free activities that include interaction with players. And the whole event, and parking, is free.
But, still, $125 an autograph?
Last year, fans paid $50 for an armband that got them into the lines for as many autographs as they could get, but the Rays said many stood in line for hours and only got one or two players, or didn't get the player they most wanted.
So this year, the Rays changed the pricing structure and the format of the autograph session for the Feb. 22 event at Tropicand Field.
They said there are several reasons, starting with encouraging fans to spend more time with the other free activities rather than stand in autograph lines. To guarantee that the fans who really want an autograph (and are willing to pay) will get it, as a limited number of passes (60) will be sold for each player. And to raise more money for the Rays Baseball Foundation and the ALS Association.
The autograph ticket sales - available only at raysbaseball.com - started today for season ticket holders (some of whom got a discount and have to pay only $100 a player); general ticket sales start Friday. All must be done in advance, no passes will be sold the day of the event.
The players with the $25 price tag include Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, David DeJesus, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Yunel Escobar, James Loney, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Grant Balfour.
The Rays say select other players and coaches - aronund 20 - will be available to sign for free for kids 14 and under as well as anyone who buys any pass. So in theory a fan could get around 25 autographs of lesser known players for $25. Also, all apperances are subject to change.