There was something I saw during my time at the Spring home of the St. Louis Cardinals that I thought was rant-worthy. So listen up.
I recently checked an item off of my personal bucket list. I took in a game at the St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training home, Roger Dean Stadium. As a 20-year-old in college on Spring Break, this was not something that any of my friends were interested in. That being said, my own predisposition toward my hometown team and lust for adventure compelled me to try out an Airbnb and catch Monday’s game against the Washington Nationals.
After messaging a couple of people about how to make the most of the experience, the biggest thing that was recommended was to show up early for the best chance to interact with players. So I followed the advice and showed up about two hours before the start of the game. While the gates to the back fields were closed, I was still able to take in the beautiful surrounding area as my girlfriend and I walked around the stadium.
Around the side of the stadium, there was a spot where I realized players were coming out of the complex and there was a couple of people waiting there. I walked up, and a group of about three players walked out. I didn’t recognize any of them but they were obviously Cardinals Minor Leaguers. What happened next surprised me.
There were two older people standing on the sidewalk that just started screeching, “Autograph!!” at these players while waving their ball and pen at them. The first player walked by then the next couple obliged the screeching elderly and gave a couple of signatures then walked off.
I had never been in a situation where I was this close to a professional baseball player without there being a barrier or wall in between us, so I basically stood there awestruck and smiling like a child. It didn’t matter whether I knew the players or not.
When the players were gone, I asked the couple if they knew who the players were. “Nope, but you never know, they may be famous one day,” they replied. I was so surprised that I just walked away.
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These people didn’t say thank you. They didn’t ask the players for their names, they only wanted their signature. If the players had become famous, how could they tell who’s signature they had? It just made me mad that this couple had not shown these players any respect.
Later on inside the stadium, Paul Dejong (who wasn’t in the lineup) signed no less than 40 autographs along the barrier between the field and the crowd. I had been in a rush and didn’t bring anything to sign, so I was just sitting there soaking it all in. I got within about an arm’s length of DeJong but didn’t say anything.
I watched as he gave all these autographs that he had no requirement to give, and what I heard back was about three “Thank you” responses. So once again, fans just wanted an autograph. They didn’t show any respect to a player who deserves it. The fans outside the ballpark could have been special kinds of people, and not the norm, but inside the stadium just made me feel bad.
It makes a lot of sense why players sometimes don’t love interacting with the fans. They don’t have to, and if nobody makes their actions feel appreciated and they just think that people are doing it to have a ball to sell in a few years, I see how easy it would be to get bitter.
We, as Cardinals fans, are supposed to be the best in the baseball world. So I challenge each and every one of you who reads this article to be better than the people I saw down in Jupiter. I am sure that there are many fans that do show appreciation, but the sheer mass of fans who didn’t disgusted me. That is not the fan base that I want to be a part of.
I am not attacking anyone in specific, I am just ranting about something I saw that I felt like was an injustice to these players that people like me idolize. Sure, they get paid more than some people think they are worth, but they are the best in the world at what they do. Live up to our reputation and show some respect people.