After Albert Pujols knocked in his 2,000th RBI on Thursday when the Los Angeles Angels played the Detroit Tigers in Detroit, it looked for a while like that baseball was never going to be seen by Pujols again.
But after the fan who caught it initially refused several offers from the Tigers to retrieve the ball in exchange for memorabilia, he had a change of heart the next day.
Ely Hydes, a Tigers fan, caught the 2,000th RBI — a home run — at Comerica Park. And according to the Detroit News, shortly after the ball landed in his hands, the Tigers started asking him what it would take for him to give up the ball so Pujols could have it.
Bartering with a fan for an important baseball is normal. In fact, that’s often how those balls make their way back to the players who hit them. The Detroit News spoke to several friends of Hydes’ who were with him at the game, and they revealed how the negotiations went down.
“According to Hydes’ friends, the first offer was a Pujols autographed baseball; the second an autographed ball and a meet-and-greet with Pujols; the third a Pujols autographed ball, a meet-and-greet and a Pujols jersey; and the fourth all that, plus some Miguel Cabrera memorabilia.”
Not too shabby! But Hydes declined all four of the offers. As for why, his friends said it was because the Tigers employees tasked with getting the ball back (including the team’s head of security) were giving Hydes the hard sell, “pressuring” him to take one of the deals they were offering.
The employees also may have assumed that Hydes was just in it for the money. According to Hydes’ friends, the Tigers employees told him that because the ball was hit into the stands, it couldn’t be authenticated. That means it would be worthless on the open market — but only if Hydes wanted to sell it. If he wanted to keep it, the authentication wouldn’t make a difference. And Hydes wanted to keep it.
The Tigers told the Detroit News that they don’t agree with the characterization that Hydes was pressured, but Hydes obviously felt like he was. Hydes said that these were the last words of the Tigers employee trying to barter with him: “This ends now when I walk away.”
He did walk away, and Hydes kept the ball. He plans to either give it to his brother (a St. Louis Cardinals fan) or keep it for his soon-to-be-born child, telling the Detroit News, “I don’t care about the money. It’s an heirloom.”
Pujols himself seems to be at peace with Hydes’ decision. Here’s what he told reporters after the game:
“I told the guys, ‘Just leave it. Just let him have it.’ I think he can have a great piece of history. We play this game for the fans, too, and if they want to keep it, I think they have the right. I just hope he can enjoy.”
Despite Pujols’ response, a number of fans on social media believe Hydes should have given the ball back. But balls hit into the stands belong to the fans who catch them, regardless of the significance of any particular ball. Pujols himself agrees with that, telling reporters Thursday night that “[Hydes] has the right to keep it. The ball went in the stands.”
Hydes didn’t want money in exchange for the ball. He didn’t want any autographs, tickets, meet-and-greets, or swag. He just wanted to keep the ball he caught — a ball that has an incredible baseball story attached to it — to give to someone he loves. Pujols said that he plays baseball for the fans, so it seems right that a fan will keep the ball.
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