The choice is the fan's
When Christian Lopez wrapped his meaty arms and defensive tackle's body around the ball struck for Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit, the ball and its historic significance became his — and his alone.
What that meant: It was for Lopez to decide what to do.
It boggles the mind that such a baseball would have six-figure value to anyone but the man who hit it, but it does. Lopez could have held out for the highest bid and there would have been nothing wrong with it.
He chose to give it back and ask for nothing. The rewards he has been given are significant.
For him, standing for something other than greed was its own reward.
Money isn't everything
Shannon J. Owens
I wouldn't blame a fan for keeping a milestone baseball like Derek Jeter's 3,000th career hit. It's pretty much a game of finders keepers once that ball lands in the stands.
A fan isn't required to return anything that flies into the stands, but it's honorable to return a milestone baseball back to its original owner.
That milestone has a far deeper value and impact on the person who accomplished the task than the recipient of another person's labor of love.
A lot of thoughts probably ran through Jeter's mind after getting his 3,000 hit. I'd bet money wasn't one of them. Fortunately, a very nice fan shared Jeter's sentiment.
Tough in this economy
In this economy, it is difficult to say that someone who could make a few thousand bucks — or tens of thousands of bucks — by selling a milestone baseball should simply give it up. Easy for me to say, right? I haven't caught one of those balls, and my kid isn't old enough for me to have college bills yet.
However, I would like to think that I would give the ball back. I would get something for my consideration — maybe a picture with the player, an autographed baseball, a jersey or cap or some other gear, or some free tickets.
I also would know that I did what I believed to be the right thing — which is, as they say in the MasterCard commercial, priceless.
It's finders keepers
Just like ballplayers aren't obligated to hit home runs, fans who catch the balls that are hit into the stands are not obligated to give them back.
Much was made of Tim Forneris returning Mark McGwire's 62nd home run ball, but Forneris was working as a groundskeeper and was in a part of Busch Stadium off limits to fans. His bosses probably could have made him give the ball back.
But when a ball goes into the seats or any other part of the park where fans are given access with their ticket, finders keepers rules apply. The reality is that players don't need artifacts to authenticate their achievements. They did it. They know it. Everyone knows it. And that should be enough.