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Only the elite get to meet and greet Dodgers players

There’s a new rule in Dodger Stadium that allows only the rich kids to get autographs, while keeping the unwashed away from box-seat holders.

I’ll let e-mailer Russell Wise explain.

“My friends tell me I bleed Dodger blue. My faith, though, in the Dodger family, has been shaken. I was lucky enough to get tickets to last Wednesday’s game. My seat was on field level section 33, row C, the closest I have ever been to Major League action.

“Wednesday morning I told my group of 5th grade students that I was going to the game. As a teacher’s assistant at the Blythe Street School in the San Fernando Valley, I enjoy getting kids excited about school and physical education.

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“I have talked to my students at length about the math behind baseball and the heart and competitive drive you must have in life, school and in sports. One child in particular, Keanne, has been talking to me nonstop about the Dodgers. We often talked about who would win the last outfield spot, Ethier or Pierre.

“Keanne asked me if I could get a ball signed for him. He even tried to give me money to pay for a ball. I told him not to worry about the ball and that the autograph would be all his.

“I showed up at the game two hours before the opening pitch and found my seats. Three rows from those new box seats -- I figured it would be a snap to get an autograph. When I made my way toward the stretching players, ball and pen in hand, I was rebuffed. ‘New rules,’ the attendant said.

“I have been going to Dodger games since I was 9. I remember waiting in line, with dozens of other kids, for Brett Butler to sign my ball. I begged and pleaded with the attendant to get an autograph. I tried to tell him about Keanne.

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“Then I saw kids turned back from that magic line between regular seat and box seat. I couldn’t believe it, their parents couldn’t believe it, and the whole time the privileged few, in the new box seats, got as many autographs and pictures as they liked. At that moment I actually questioned my Dodger loyalty.

“The Dodgers to me have always been about family and tradition. I never thought I’d see the day where a regular kid couldn’t get an autograph at a ball game.

“I told Keanne about the incident and he assured me it was ‘OK.’ He said, ‘I’ll try, if I go this year.’ However, something tells me his single mother will not be able to afford the seat just to get an autograph.”

I CALLED Dodgers customer service, got “Joe,” and he confirmed the new rule. He said he wasn’t quite sure now how youngsters were supposed to get autographs.

“I don’t have any information on that,” he said.

He mentioned an area in center field where fans are allowed to come on the field before games.

“I’m pretty sure you can get autographs out there,” Joe said, and I’d like the name of the major league baseball player who turns his back on batting practice, fly balls landing all around him, just so he can give someone an autograph.

When I asked if I could discuss the situation with someone else, he said he was the guy, and took down my name and number.

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I didn’t hear from Joe again, so I called the Dentist, the Dodgers’ new PR guy, who doubled as PR guy and dentist for the Red Sox.

He said the biggest complaint from Dodgers field box-seat holders “was the crowded conditions pregame at their seats and on the concourse from fans trying to get close to the players.”

I always thought the rich were the last to arrive, batting practice over and fans returning to their seats before the boxes filled up. The McCourts never take their seats until after the national anthem.

But then I blame the McCourts, who supposedly are big on tradition, just not the tradition of kids getting autographs before games.

The McCourts have taken a snooty approach to the unwashed for some time now. They have a guard standing at the entrance to their field box seats almost four hours before every game. They also have it roped off, so no one will dare plop their butt into their seats before they do.

The Dentist, meanwhile, thinks everything is just fine. He called it “Solomon-like wisdom,” the team coming up with an area in center where the unwashed are allowed to congregate during batting practice and maybe get plunked on the head.

“This alleviates hot dog wrappers that might already be in your seat when you arrive to sit in the field boxes,” the Dentist said, Solomon seeming more interested in helping out the rich. “It’s early, but so far we’ve found kids catching balls in center, and families excited about being out there on the warning track.”

I’d like to meet the 8-year-old who catches a fly ball while sandwiched between a competing pair of $2 Tuesday night graduates in center.

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“We’ve invited our players to interact with the fans out there,” the Dentist said, although most of the players stayed clear of the fans during the first three games.

“I was there twice and none of the players were signing autographs,” Wise said.

The Dentist, meanwhile, referred to the new area in center as “autograph alley.” Obviously, he’s also a Comedian.

“It’s the area on the other side of the wall,” he said, which means no current Dodger will ever be there. “We have one former Dodger signing autographs before every game. We had Lee Lacy there Monday, Rudy Law Tuesday and Jim Gott on Wednesday.”

This allows parents to get an autograph for their kid and then spend the next 20 minutes trying to explain to the crying youngster who the old-timer is, and why it’s better to have his signature than Rafael Furcal’s or Andruw Jones’.

And if Lacy, Law and Gott were the best the Dodgers could do the first three days of the season, there’s a good chance F.P. Santangelo will be signing in August.

Oh boy, kids, better start lining up.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.


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