By Kirk McEwen

Just recently the Tampa Bay Rays announced a new system they’d be implementing at this year’s Fan Fest. A lucky 60 fans will be given the opportunity to get autographs from the top three Rays [Longo, Myers, and Price] while Rays of lesser appeal [Zobrist, Loney, Balfour, etc] will cost a mere $25. The money is actually going to charity, but something in me thinks this a bad idea for a few reasons:

1) I get that the Rays don’t want people standing around in lines all day for autographs that they ultimately don’t get, but there’s got to be a better way. How about selling some sort of ticket package for that $125 and include an autograph session with the “chosen” Rays? Getting butts in seats has always been the problem for the Rays, why not think outside the box?

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2) What message does it send the other players? That three players are not only more important to the team but they’re more popular to the fans than the other men on the roster. They’re $100 more popular with each and every signature. Now, that’s cold. I guess the Rays need better players. Imagine if they were the 1927 Yankees, oh the money they’d make for charity!

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3) What does it say to the kids? If you want your favorite players autograph you have to shell out a buck and a quarter, that’s what it says! Even if your Mom and Dad love you to pieces but have trouble putting food on the table. No autograph for you this Fan Fest, Billy. I’m being a bit extreme but it’s one of the first scenarios that came to mind when I heard this scheme. The kid who’s a huge Wil Myers fan but can’t cough up the dough gets shutout, so to speak.

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I could go on, but you get the point. There’s something inherently wrong with this plan but it’s the way things are going these days, like personal seat licenses (don’t get me started) and the toothpaste is not going back into that tube. Get used to it because it’ll be the norm moving forward unless the fans push back. This is 2014 and we’re talking about $125 for autographs? Just doesn’t seem right.