Obtaining autographs from baseball players was an allure of spring training, but coronavirus has put a halt to the annual ritual.

Stefani Vennel went to Walmart on Wednesday morning. She bought three baseballs for $12 and a six-pack of black Sharpies. She was ready for the hunt.

Vennel is from Pittsburgh, and this was her first trip to see the Pirates play in spring training. She enjoys baseball, and it was nice to see the park, but what she really wanted were some autographs to take home with her.

She stood alone near the right-field bleachers at LECOM Park in Bradenton. It was the perfect spot, as all of the Pirates have to walk past on their way to the clubhouse. Around the sixth inning Pittsburgh first baseman Josh Bell left the game. Bell was an All-Star last season who will make $4.8 million in 2020.

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The 24-year-old Vennel held out her ball.

"Bell," she yelled. "Please."

Bell looked at her and kept walking. She said it again. He looked again. Then a third time. He said something that was drowned out by music. A stadium security guard appeared.

"As soon as this is over you can get 1,000 autographs," he said. "I’m sorry to be the one to tell you."

People are being extremely cautious now that coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Florida, and the Pirates are no exception, especially considering a person from Manatee County is among those who have tested positive.

During an off day on Tuesday the Pirates used a sanitizing machine and cleaned the clubhouse, offices, press box, suites and concession stands at LECOM Park as a precaution. Signs were posted inside the restrooms that said "For your own health and the safety of our community, please wash your hands for more than 20 seconds with soap and water before leaving the restrooms."

Fans using the speed pitch machine in the concourse were encouraged to use a hand-wipe before gripping the ball and players were told not to sign autographs and take baseballs from fans.

One of the allures of spring training is the autograph, as small stadiums offer an accessibility to players that is not available during the regular season. At the least, an autograph is a memory. Sometimes it is more.

The late Jack Smith of Palmetto used to have a baseball signed by Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Gomez, Warren Spahn, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Bill Terry and Bob Feller. He obtained every signature during spring training in Bradenton.

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The lack of autographs is more than just a personal disappointment to fans. You could even equate autographs with tourism dollars.

"Some people come all this way just for autographs," Vennel said.

Tim Ault is one of those people. He was at the game Wednesday, coming to Bradenton from Pennsylvania. He’s a guy who likes the underdog, which is why, he said, he was there with the jersey of Pirates’ third-baseman Colin Moran.

Ault was in the same spot Vennel was, and when Moran walked past Ault asked if he would sign the jersey. Moran stopped to talk, but politely declined.

"Because of the whole flu thing we are not allowed to," he said. "Maybe in a week, when this thing passes."

Contact columnist Chris Anderson at chris.anderson@heraldtribune.com