The Baltimore Ravens just announced a policy that every pro sports team and American parent should implement: Autographs are for kids only.

When training camp opens in two weeks in Westminster, the team will make players available to spectators after practice, but only fans between 6 and 15 years old will be allowed into the autograph area, and the team will be issuing bracelets to identify those who are of proper autograph age. A one-item-per-person limit will be in place.

I hope this becomes a trend. I’m a sap for celebrity, and I’ve gotten on airplanes to stalk my rock and roll heroes when I was old enough to know better, but I never caught the autograph bug. I’ll never forget the hordes of sweaty fat middle agers yelling at Mark McGwire during a 1999 exhibition at RFK Stadium because he didn’t have time to sign every baseball card in the pile they’d brought with them. You got the sense everything McGwire signed was destined for eBay. It was appalling.

Full disclosure: I got stiffed by Paul Newman when I asked him to sign for me at Watkins Glen, a racetrack in upstate New York, when I was 10 years old.

“Cool Hand Luke” is still an awesome movie, but I never forgave the motherfucker.

Press release after the jump…

The Ravens will institute a new autograph policy at training camp, which begins at McDaniel College on July 27. by

Jul 13, 2010, 4:11PM
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The Ravens will institute a new autograph policy at training camp, which begins at McDaniel College on July 27, the first day practices are open to the public.

(Rookies and selected veterans report to “Ravens Training Camp, Connected by Verizon” on Monday, July 26, and this group practices twice each on July 27 and 28. Veterans report on July 28, and the first full-team practices open to the public will take place on July 30. There is an “Administrative Day” on July 29 that is not open to the public or media.)

Players will sign autographs for children only after all morning practices. Autographs will not be available following afternoon practices.

Safety is the key factor for the change. “We have considered changing the way we do autograph signings for a few years,” team president Dick Cass said. “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. Often times, children would be put in difficult positions with the rush for autographs, especially from our most popular players.”

Many NFL teams select a few players each day to sign a limited number of autographs in a designated area. “We want to keep the spontaneity and closeness we have with our fans who come to training camp,” Cass added. “The connectivity we have with our fans at camp is important to us and a Ravens’ tradition. 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.”

Children ages 6 through 15 will be allowed on the field after each morning practice. Children must wear a Ravens-issued wristband to enter the autograph area. There will be a tent adjacent to the fields where wristbands will be issued. Children can bring one item to be autographed, and adults will not be allowed to enter the autograph area.

Please note that two-thirds of the team has a post-practice football activity after every morning session. One-third of the team is required to lift weights. Another third is required to attend “Back School,” which is a core workout usually done outside. The other third is available to sign autographs. Team schedules are subject to change, and not every child is guaranteed an autograph.