October 5, 2009
Welcome to Beyond The Fences, the first column for Mygameballs.com by Major League Ballhawk, John Witt. While I have many ideas for future months I was struggling on what I would start off with. Then just the other day the story fell right into my lap. Let's talk about the catch of a milestone home run.
A few months ago after Vlad Guerrero hit his 400th home run I saw absolutely nothing in local papers about who caught the ball. I wrote in my MLBlog about it and how I would have had no shot at all to catch it because of where it went. I also wondered who caught it and then just this past week I got an email from Walter Whitsell. It was his son who had grabbed Vlad's 400th after it hit the foul pole and went through the hands of several adults.
Shortly after he had possession of the ball a security guard came down and said to the Whetsells, "Mr. Guerrero would like to meet you!" They were then taken off to the press box which is customary in Anaheim if you catch a milestone HR. The disturbing thing to me was the line that was fed to the kid by the MLB rep, "Then the MLB representative mentioned that the ball's value was in the memory of catching it, not in what Guerrero was willing to pay for it."
The Whitsells had no intentions, in fact, they didn't even know they might be able to negotiate for a deal for Vlad to get the ball. This is where the story becomes very different from others who have caught milestone HR's both this year and in the past. We all know the story of the Marlins who accused our fellow Ball hawk "The Happy Youngster" of holding Chris Coghlins 1st ML homer for ransom. He asked for 2 bats and a ball that is definitely not too much. We also heard about someone catching a milestone HR in New York and the bullpen guys just tossing the guy a different ball to him when he was dumb enough to throw it down to them.
The Angels on the other hand, are a very classy organization and handled the situation perfectly. Trace was totally excited to meet Vladimir Guerrero and that along with being the one to give him the ball back along with an autographed ball in return might have been enough. However the Angels and Vlad not only offered up the meeting of a lifetime for the kid along with the ball but Vlad also handed him a game used bat along with a handful of autographs!
When the ball goes into the stands it is yours to keep. If you want to negotiate you have that right and if you want to keep the ball you have that right as well. Just as the fan can say no to giving up the ball the players can say no to ridiculous requests. However what makes a request ridiculous?
Isn't it ridiculous that an adult male playing a kids game for millions of dollars can't give up half a dozen memorabilia items, tickets or whatever for a milestone home run!
John Witt is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.