Yusei Kikuchi, a second-year pitcher with the Seattle Mariners

Yusei Kikuchi, a second-year pitcher with the Seattle Mariners, was one player signing autographs Friday in Peoria. Last week, Major League Baseball sent a caution to players about signing autographs. 

Last week, officials made several discomforting announcements regarding COVID-19.

According to the Center for Disease Control, “Older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness.”

As such, the CDC Friday advised older adults to “stay at home as much as possible” and “avoid crowds.”

 A few days before, ESPN broke a story about baseball autographs, stating Major League Baseball sent a memo advising “Players (should) avoid taking balls and pens directly from fans to sign autographs  and opt against handshakes.”

This hit home at places like Camelback Ranch-Glendale, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox, and the Peoria Sports Complex, where the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres play.

At these ballparks and practice fields, fans enjoy up-close encounters with players during Spring Training.

For many it includes having players sign baseball cards, hats, T-shirts, notebooks and other items.

Philip Scott said he heard one player gruffly reject an autograph request, saying, “I ain’t getting the virus.”

Scott was at the Peoria Sports Complex Friday afternoon. 

There and at Camelback Ranch Ballpark, as well as other Spring Training venues around the Valley, players practice for hours before games start. Historically, players have signed autographs throughout the day.

Scott said he was able to collect autographs from other players, generally younger.

“The minor league players are signing,” said Scott, visiting from Cincinnati. He said he was having a tougher time getting established players to sign.

Yusei Kikuchi, a second-year pitcher with the Seattle Mariners, was one player signing autographs Friday in Peoria.

Blake Englert of Peoria Sports Complex said there were “no changes to fans being able to seek autographs.

“There are typically opportunities on the practice fields - admission free to the public - in the morning and then in the ballpark, Autograph Alley has always been a popular location as well on game days,” Englert added.

Paul Jensen, a spokesman for Camelback Ranch Ballpark, also said there were no changes in the autograph policy.

The Major League Baseball site for Camelback Ranch Ballpark lists the following autograph policy:

“Player autographs may be sought on the grounds proximate to practice fields during pregame workouts, which are open to the public. Gates to practice field pathways typically open four hours prior to first pitch.”

The Dodgers and White Sox continue Spring Training games at Camelback Ranch through March 22.

At Goodyear Ballpark a few minutes before the start of Friday afternoon’s game, Christopher Plunkett of Peoria was one of about 20 fans asking players for autographs. Plunkett, 38, said he had better luck the previous week. “This was before the virus (notice),” he noted.

Slugger Bobby Bradley and pitcher James Karinchak of the Cleveland Indians seemed unconcerned as they signed autographs for kids and adults.

Karinchak even licked a pen not working before he wrote his autograph.

Eddie Gleine had a big smile on his face, as he accepted Karinchak’s signature.

“I feel happy,” said Eddie, in town from chilly Cleveland to celebrate his 10th birthday.

Eddie’s father, Chip Gleine, said he heard about the directive to players about autographs.

If it eventually leads to a no-autographs policy, Chip Gleine, for one, will be upset.

“I think it would be bad for the sport,” he said.

“Little kids getting autographs: It’s what baseball’s all about.”