Diamondbacks officials have finally found an autograph policy they, their players and fans can live with and enjoy.
The team announced Friday changes to the policy managing general partner Jerry Colangelo announced at the start of spring training.
Instead of having the entire team, with the exception of the starting pitcher, sign autographs for 10 minutes after batting practice at night games at Bank One Ballpark, eight players will be sent out each of the 56 nights on which games are scheduled for 6 p.m. or later. The policy will begin before Tuesday night's game against the Dodgers.
Fans can line up in the front rows of all areas, except one near home plate and around the visitors' dugout, when gates open two hours before scheduled start times. There won't be lines or tickets given to fans. It will be first-come, first-served if a player comes to a section. Players will be encouraged to move around the park.
Names of participating players/coaches will be posted on the ballpark’s matrix board inside the stadium. Players will choose a group, which can include manager Bob Brenly and his coaches.
"I think the best thing is that the players and management shared ideas with each other," said Craig Counsell. "The idea was to make it work better and, hopefully, it will work better as it goes along. It’s great that it’s all worked out. It’s going to be a nice thing for the fans. I don’t know if any other team in baseball, I’m pretty sure, is going to do it, so it should be great."
Diamondbacks president Rich Dozer, who had the idea for autograph sessions, is happy with the compromise reached after players voiced their concerns when Colangelo made his initial announcement. Dozer said there will be few restrictions, except one autograph per player per person.
"They will sign anything," Dozer said. "We discussed handing out cards, but decided that people would want to get their own things signed."
Dozer said the center field scoreboard will have a countdown clock, so security personnel assigned to each player can cut off the session when time is up.
"Players hate to sign and then not be able to get two or three people and those people get angry," Dozer said. "This way, security guards will tell them that time's up. We're trying to do this as safe and easy as can be."
The Diamondbacks also announced a new Sunday event for children ages 5 through 15. For each of the 13 Sunday home games, 50 children will be selected at random and be brought to a room near the Diamondbacks clubhouse. There, for 25 minutes, they will be able to ask questions of Luis Gonzalez and two or three other players. Each child will get an autographed card from the attending players after the session ends.
Dozer said the popular Gonzalez insisted on being the moderator and will be the lone player to attend all of the sessions.
"Omar Vizquel (of the Cleveland Indians) has done something similar," Gonzalez said. "I thought it would be a neat thing to involve some kids, get some of my teammates and let kids ask some questions and talk to some of their favorite players. I’ll just kind of be the host. I think a lot of guys will want to do it. There’s no limit to things a kid can ask, so it should be a lot of fun."
Dozer agrees. "The players wanted to do something special for kids," he said. "We think this is a great way for them to interact."
So is the autograph policy, according to Gonzalez.
"It’s a good fit for everybody," he said. "The fans are happy, and the players . . . our guys are some of the most accommodating in baseball when it comes to charities and things like that. We understand the importance of interacting with the fans."