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T.J. SIMERS

Another bad sign for Dodgers fans

Team prevents autograph seekers from getting close to the players.

April 24, 2012|T.J. Simers
  • Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier signs autographs for fans before a game against Atlanta in 2011. Some fans at Dodger Stadium have been denied the opportunity to get autographs.
Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier signs autographs for fans before a game… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Here is what I see, and I can't believe it.

Two ushers are stopping fans from lining up for autographs almost two hours before Tuesday night's Dodgers game.

The ushers tell the fans they must move to the right and sit down. The fans do so, thinking they will still have the opportunity to get autographs.

But the ushers are telling me the fans probably won't get that opportunity because they haven't been given clearance to allow the fans to enter the expensive seats and line up for autographs.

I tell the ushers that's crazy given the way the Dodgers have turned off fans. I don't get an argument.

I do not look at the badges of the ushers because I do not want their names and risk them getting fired.

I ask one of the Dodgers' PR guys for an explanation and he says he doesn't have one. He says later that PR guy Joe Jareck will get back to me.

He didn't say if it would be this year. I know it didn't happen Tuesday night.

I notice General Manager Ned Colletti on the field. I point out the fans who are corralled behind third base.

"What do you want me to do?" Colletti says.

"Put the fans first," I suggest, amazed a Dodgers executive would have to be told such a thing.

As turned off as fans have been with the Dodgers, I would think any employee advised of a fan issue would immediately try to do something about it.

"That's not my department," Colletti says, and he's angry about being asked to become involved.

It's not as if he's in the middle of trade talks; right now he's schmoozing with CBS' Jim Hill.

I tell Colletti he's probably the team's highest-ranking official at this time and I would expect him to walk over, tap the ushers on the shoulders and tell them to let the fans get their autographs.

"I can't do that," he says.

If I knew where Frank McCourt was hiding, I'd ask him to do the right thing for the fans. Why not give it a try before he leaves?

Colletti says he'll make a call and walks away. I wonder if he's calling Frank and just doesn't want me to know.

He returns to say, "How many GMs would have made a call?"

I cannot believe the blather I'm hearing.

The Dodgers have lost connection with their fans, and now those who are showing up are being stopped from fawning over the players. Most of these kids would be thrilled with a Justin Sellers autograph.

The Dodgers should have their players standing at the turnstiles personally welcoming every returning fan to Dodger Stadium. Or, at the very least, they should be lining up to provide youngsters with their autographs.

It was half-sleeve blanket night at Dodger Stadium, and the place was barely half-filled. How many fans would have come were they not getting something free?

How can this team afford to go out of its way to irritate fans?

When batting practice concludes, the players file off the field while the fans remain planted in their holding corral beyond the expensive seats.

In time it becomes obvious they won't be allowed to ask for autographs. So they leave.

Last year the fans did that a lot around here.

A few years ago the Dodgers shut down access to the expensive seats, keeping autograph seekers from standing behind the dugout or down the line.

After a media ruckus, the team relented and allowed fans to line up single-file. Often the line stretched from the concourse to the field, most fans never making it to the front of the line.

Now they've taken that away, and still no one has offered an explanation. Or an apology.

I never hear from Jareck, but I can't believe how blasé the Dodgers are about disappointing a number of their fans.

I call Steve Brener, former Dodgers PR guy under Peter O'Malley who has been hired as a consultant to help a failing PR department.

"We'll correct it," he says. "It's fans first."

tj.simers@latimes.com

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