October 28, 2011
ST. LOUIS — Though the mad scramble for David Freese's(notes) home run ball looked like a spontaneous mess on Thursday night, the truth is that Dave Huyette (center) and his friend Jeremy Reiland had already played the scenario through their minds several times.
The two were sitting in a pair of outfield bleacher seats they had purchased on StubHub and knew that each batter in the St. Louis Cardinals' wild 10-9 win over Texas Rangers in Game 6 of the World Series could be the one to make history. Every time someone came up to bat, Busch Stadium's large batter's eye to the right of their seats provided a constant reminder that a valuable piece of Cardinals' lore could land just a few feet away.
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"Every time there was a chance there could be a walkoff home run, Jeremy reminded me that there was a grassy knoll right next to us," said Huyette, a 39-year-old radiologist from Maryville, Ill. "We're out there and I just assumed the position to get ready each time. At one point Albert [Pujols] had the chance to win the game and we thought that was going to be the time that it happened. But it didn't, he was intentionally walked.
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"Then Freese came up in the 11th and I heard the crack of the bat and everybody cheered and it was kind of in slow motion. I jumped over the fence and [the ball] kind of landed right there. I just tumbled around it, expecting to getting pummeled and beaten to death."
"No, because what I did was shove it down my pants right away. I don't think anyone realized I had it."
That is, everyone but his buddy. Reiland slid on the ground behind Huyette and told him to stay put. Mike Reis, an off-duty St. Louis police officer working ballpark security, later approached the pair and said that Freese or the Hall of Fame might be interested in the baseball. Reis said that Huyette was free to make his own decision, but the fan immediately agreed and was taken to a spot outside the Cardinals clubhouse where he offered the ball to Freese. A quick negotiation ensued and Huyette agreed to trade the ball for a signed bat from Freese as well as a ball signed by the entire Cardinals team. Simple and fast.
"Maybe if I had been wanting for money, it'd be different," Huyette said. "But I make a good living. I wasn't going to hold the country hostage for the ball.
"I told them I didn't need any money, but it'd be nice to meet some of the players."
And so what ended up happening is that Huyette ended up living every Cardinals fan's dream, gaining access to the clubhouse with the team having just forced a World Series Game 7 on Friday night. Reiland, meanwhile, lived out every Chicago Cubs fans' nightmare with surprising good humor, posing for pictures alongside Freese while wearing enemy colors. The pair had missed their shuttle back to the casino where they had parked their car, but they were having the time of their lives. They'd just catch a cab.
"He didn't tell me he was going to wear that shirt before we came," Huyette cracked. "This is ridiculous."
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