What would you ask for in exchange for a historic home run ball?

New York Yankees Derek Jeter stands next to Christian Lopez, the man who caught hit number 3000, at a press conference after the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium in New York City on July 9, 2011. Jeter hits career hit number 3000 with a solo home run in the third inning. UPI/John Angelillo

How great is it that Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit was a home run? Not because a home run is one of the most exciting plays in baseball, but because it wound up being a nice metaphorical middle finger to those who have criticized him over the last couple of weeks for being a player who “just hits bloop singles.”

Of course, had he just hit a bloop single, then he wouldn’t have had to worry about whether or not he was ever going to get the ball back.

Since his historic 3,000th hit landed in the stands behind the left field wall, the ball theoretically belonged to Christian Lopez. He’s the 23-year-old Yankee fan who caught the ball and was immediately ushered into the bowels of Yankee Stadium to ask what he wanted in exchange for the piece of history. Instead of hanging onto the prized possession for a while, Lopez decided to hand deliver the ball to Jeter after meeting him in the clubhouse following the game.

Some have estimated that the ball would sell for $50,000 to $250,000 in the collectibles market. But instead of cashing in, Lopez swapped the ball for a couple of autographed bats, balls and jerseys, and the Yankees pitched in with four Champions Suite season tickets for every remaining home game this season, including the playoffs. On top of meeting Jeter and the rest of the team in the clubhouse, it was all Lopez wanted in exchange for No. 3,000.

Since Jeter hit his historic shot, I’ve had separate conversations with friends and family members regarding what they would have done with the ball. It’s been interesting to hear their responses.

Several people said they would have sold the ball to the highest bidder and wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Another said he would have done the same thing Lopez did, which was give the ball back for a chance to meet Jeter and some of the other Yankees. If they received tickets and autographs on top of that, great. But it wouldn’t have been anything they specifically asked for.

That got me thinking: What would I have done with Jeter’s 3,000th hit, or any historic home run ball that I caught for that matter? My answer is simple: I’d give it back. I wouldn’t give it back without the opportunity to visit the clubhouse, speak with the players and maybe take a handful of pictures with them, but I would give it back without trying to sell it. No question.

Ever since my father bought me my first glove and used to throw pop flys to me in the front yard, I have loved the sport of baseball. I have been a Giants fan ever since Will Clark blew me away with his smooth swing and no-nonsense attitude in the late 80s. Had I caught a historic home run that he hit, money would be the last thing on my mind. Having the opportunity to catch the ball and be a part of history, all while meeting the team and getting a few autographs, would have been enough for me. As a person who cherishes the game, just being a part of the moment would be worth its weight in gold. I would have a story and an experience that I would remember for the rest of my life.

But I’m also a diehard baseball fan. The people who I spoke with this weekend who said they would try to get as much in return for the ball as possible aren’t diehard fans, so cashing in makes sense to them. I can’t speak for him personally, but if I were to take a guess as to what fellow TSR writer John Paulsen would do, I think he would be looking to cash in as well. Baseball just doesn’t appeal to John as the NBA or NFL does, so meeting Jeter or Clark or anyone else wouldn’t carry the same weight as X amount of cash would.

And that’s not to say that anyone is right or wrong here, or that you’re a money-grubbing person because you would try and sell the piece of history. If I got my hands on a historic game-winning soccer ball, you better believe I would sell that piece of rubber and air for as much as I could. The same could be said for any NBA, golf, or NASCAR memorabilia that I caught/received/stole. Those sports just don’t have the same impact in my life as baseball does, so I certainly understand if people thought it was crazy for Lopez not to sell Jeter’s 3,000th hit. It’s all relative.

But in the wake of Jeter’s moment, let’s stick with baseball. What would you do with a historic home run ball? It doesn’t have to be Jeter’s 3,000 hit – it could be anything that you believe would be valuable to you in some way or another. Would you sell it to the highest bidder? Exchange it for autographs and a chance to meet the players? Keep it as part of your personal collection? Sell it for booze and women? There are no wrong answers here, so let them fly in the comments selection.

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