Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez finally slugged home run number six hundred yesterday, after an agonizingly long wait. For the last several weeks, specially marked baseballs would have to be put in play whenever he came to the plate in order to verify the identity of the special number six hundred, which ARod would of course want to keep.
There was much speculation about how much the six hundred home run ball could fetch on the open market, but the general consensus was $100,000. Not bad scratch. Some lucky fan could be sitting in the bleachers one minute and potentially be a hundred grand richer the next.
That's not how it turned out. Arod blasted number six hundred straight into Monument Park, and the first person to get to the ball was security guard Frankie Babilonia. Babilonia wasn't even supposed to be in Monument Park at the time, but was giving a fellow guard his break. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the bank. Mr. Babilonia immediately turned the ball over to his supervisor, explaining that those were his instructions in the event Rodriguez was to hit his historic home run.
For his honesty and dedication, Mr. Babilonia got to meet Arod and present him with the ball. He also got an autographed bat.
This scenario got me thinking. What would I do?
There is a part of me that would like to think I would do the exact same thing. Follow the rules. Make everyone happy. Be a part of a 'feel good' moment.
But it wouldn't happen. Here's why.
There are those that would argue that returning the ball would be the right thing to do on several different levels. Yes, the integrity factor of doing one's job is a strong argument for turning in the ball. But I'm referring to a scenario where you're a fan who paid for his seat and happened to catch the magic number 600.
Then there is what I like to call the "Feel Good Factor." Those making this argument would say something along the lines of "c'mon, after all Arod has done for the Yankees! If you're a Yankee fan, you would owe it to him! You would owe it to the organization!" Nonsense. It's just business.
When the players went out on strike in 1994, ruining the season and crippling the game, we heard "baseball is a business." When we had the steroid/PED scandal that has plagued the game and tarnished records and reputations, we heard "baseball is big business. There's big money at stake." When a free agent leaves one team for more money somewhere else, we hear "it's just business." When new stadiums (such as the new Yankee stadium) are built so extravagantly that they completely price out the average guy who wants to bring his son to a game, we hear about the "economics of the game."
I don't owe baseball or its players anything, just as they don't feel they owe me. I have several autographed balls on display in my office. I didn't get these balls by ambushing the player as he was leaving the stadium or some other public place. I paid to have every one of them signed. Why shouldn't I? Their signatures are worth money. I don't expect to get them for free. Since the Yankees made their groundbreaking deal with MSG, I've had to pay to watch them on TV. No problem.
Baseball's powers that be never hesitate to remind us that it is indeed just a business when it's convenient for them, and that's exactly what Arod and the Yankees would have heard from me had I caught that ball.