I’ve attended spring training games in Florida and Arizona ten times now over the past eighteen years. I think I’ve come to understand the importance the Dodger organization has placed on providing their fans with an unforgettable and positive experience each late February and into March. Allowing fans access to the players is an important part of that. It is a Dodger tradition. It is something the other organizations in baseball don’t allow. It is one of the reasons that baseball fans should be Dodger fans, because no other organization cares this much about their fans. I think it’s fantastic and something that sets the Dodgers apart from other organizations.
|Andre Ethier taking time to sign and chat with fans.|
|Yasiel Puig was a frequent signer last year, accommodating fans from the day he arrived.|
|Even Mike Piazza, an Italian team coach, stopped and signed last year. He came through during the Dodger game, so there weren't a lot of fans around.|
The Lasorda Table
And there's Tommy Lasorda. With Lasorda there's a recent development over the past few seasons that everyone seeking to interact with him needs to be aware of.
|My son getting the third degree for not saying "please," while Lasorda signs his ball. He made sure he said "thank you." (photo from 2013 Spring Training)|
The Lasorda table is set up daily, complete with a security person. A line forms each day for the Hall of Fame manager to sign for the fans. We joke now that it's becoming more and more like the "Soup Nazi" character scene from the Seinfeld show. Now I mention that in jest because we have all come to know and love Tommy, but as he has gotten older, he’s become insistent that fans requesting his autograph remain polite and use proper decorum. There is respect that he demands from everyone. Otherwise, "No autograph for you."
- Don’t ever call him Tommy. It is "Sir" or “Mr. Lasorda,” and it always will be. The man is 86 years old now. Give him some respect.
- You better say “please” when making a request. Failure to do so will result in an admonition from the man.
- Just one item for signature. You could push your luck with two items, but you’ll risk a tongue lashing, so I say, it’s not worth it.
- Keep you stories quick and to the point, the line is long and Tommy will remind you that he can barely remember what he had for breakfast, so don’t expect him to remember when you briefly met him 27 years ago.
- A “thank you, sir,” better be said after he obliges your autograph request, otherwise he’ll remind you of that. And that’s for little kids too. Little kids that are probably wondering why their parents have lined them up to have this chubby grumpy old man in a uniform sign a ball for them.
|My seats for this game were down the first base line in the front row. When Koufax walked in, a stampede ensued. All of these people moved in front of our seats to get autographs.|
|Sandy Koufax working on the back mounds with minor leaguers. (Spring Training 2013)|
|Dee Gordon, all smiles in 2013 Spring Training|