Derek Jeter and Christian Lopez, the fan who caught his 3,000th hit ball. Derek Jeter got lucky. The New York Yankees captain could have watched his 3,000th hit -- a rare homer -- go into the stands, only to be scooped up by a fan who was in it for the cash. For the estimated $250,000 the historic ball was expected to fetch.
But Christian Lopez, a 23-year-old guy from Middletown, New York, had already gotten free tickets to the Yankees game from his girlfriend. He decided he didn't need the ball, but Jeter did. He decided to hand it over flabbergasted Yankees management, and he's been taking a licking from the fans who want to know what kind of guy can bid $250,000 goodbye just ... like ... that. I'll tell you what kind of guy he is.
A guy who knows loving baseball isn't about the money. It's about the game. Yeah, yeah, it's corny as all get out, but when I opened up my daily paper to read that a local guy had handed the ball over to my favorite player, something swelled up inside me. I blamed it on the heat and the sunburn, but you heard it here first ... I was a tad verklempt.
It's symbolized my love/hate relationship with the game perfectly. That Jeter's dirty sock from the game will likely sell for $1,000 disgusts the part of me that values the beauty of watching a player share their talents with the world. And yet, I'll admit to placing value in individual players over the game as a whole. I was a fan who shook her head at the Yankees contract negotiations with Jeter earlier this year -- as the captain threw a hissy in his bid for more money -- but I was still shuddering at the thought of watching the shortstop play in anything but pinstripes. I love baseball because my favorites are people who do what I can't. They can play this game. That's why I watch. To see them do it.
When Christian Lopez handed that ball over to Jeter, he reminded me that people go to baseball games simply because they love to see players who can do the unthinkable. They can throw a ball at dizzying speeds. They can snatch a speeding ball from mid-air, then whip their bodies around, sending it sailing back into the infield. They can take a wooden stick and smack a small round object into the stands.
Sure, that money would have been nice. But instead Lopez got tickets for the rest of the season, premium parking, and a chance to meet Derek Jeter himself. For a "real" fan, that's worth a lot more than money.
Do you think Lopez did the right thing? Would you have been able to say "no" to the money?
Image via YouTube