Baltimore Ravens autograph fiends will be disappointed when training camp opens at McDaniel College on July 27. Well, unless they’re under 15. The Ravens have changed their autograph policy from anyone willing to wait around in the crowds to only children between ages six and 15.
Ravens President Dick Cass explained the new policy was made because of safety issues. “Our crowds for the morning practices have become so large that we’ve had safety situations with people pushing each other to try and get closer to the players,” he said. “Often times, children would be put in difficult positions with the rush for autographs, especially from our most popular players.”
That’s bogus. If the Ravens were concerned about children they would have a free section for kids to get autographs, rather than taking the privilege away from all fans. I attended training camp on several occasions last season, the most crowded Ravens camp of all time, and I understand Dick Cass’ concern, but I think the Ravens answer is a little extreme. They have a lot of attendees who watch guys stretch for three hours for the chance to wish Joe Flacco and Ray Rice a good year and to get their autographs for free as opposed to the two hundred bucks they’d pay any where else.
“The connectivity we have with our fans at camp is important to us and a Ravens’ tradition,” Cass went on to say. “We know that every person who comes to camp and wants an autograph cannot get one because of the players’ schedules. Under our new system, more children will have the opportunity, and that’s important to us.”
‘Important tradition,’ huh? Most not be too important. The Ravens are shutting down a number of die hard fans. I can’t say that I’m an autograph hound personally. But my fondest memories at McDaniel College included chatting with Brian Billick while he autographed my Ravens hat and squeezing through to get Ray Lewis’ autograph after a morning practice. All of which came after age 15.
Now the Ravens have chosen to eliminate those opportunities from fans. The only way to truly get close to your favorite players is to pay the hefty prices your local sports memorabilia shop charges when they come around a select couple days a year.