Last Saturday, the game of baseball was treated to a historic moment by a historic player on a historic team.
The 3000th hit by Derek Jeter was a great accomplishment regardless of what kind of hit it was. But what made it even more spectacular and historic was that it just happened to be a home run. This made the historic ball that Jeter smacked out of the ball park the official property of the person that recovered it. That is, until that person gave the ball back to Jeter without asking for any type of financial compensation in return.
By now, most of us know who Christian Lopez is and what his story is. He’s a 23-year-old cell phone salesman who recently graduated from St. Lawrence University. He also reportedly has over $100,000 in student loan debt. Yet, he gave the ball back to Derek Jeter, a multi-millionaire athlete, without asking for anything in return from the future Hall-of-Fame shortstop.
Opinions vary from the farthest points of each spectrum when it comes to Lopez. Some say he’s a gracious, selfless individual who represents high morals and is a true fan of the game. Others called him a moron who threw away a winning lottery ticket.
But while the moral debate rages on over what you would do if you were Christian Lopez, the man who has escaped the scrutiny and the questions about his morality is the hero himself.
Because of Lopez’s big-hearted gesture to Jeter, the New York Yankees organization voluntarily rewarded him with four luxury box seats for every game for the rest of the 2011 regular season and playoffs, plus a collection of signed bats, balls, and jerseys. However, Derek Jeter himself has personally offered Lopez nothing to date.
Am I the only one who gets a sick feeling in my stomach when I think about this? A young man who displayed the highest of moral fibre by voluntarily giving away a baseball that many believe could be worth up to $250,000 isn’t getting a dime from one of the richest athletes in the world. It doesn’t seem like Derek Jeter, a man who is universally praised for being a classy individual, is showing very much of that class right now.
But is Jeter really obligated to do anything for Christian Lopez? After all, he was the one who hit this ball along with the 2,999 balls before it that created this memorable moment in baseball history. He built his legacy of baseball excellence that is contributing to the ridiculously high value of this baseball. Why should he have to pay for his own achievement?
It’s a valid question and at the end of the day, Derek Jeter isn’t obligated to do anything.
But under the circumstances, he might want to do something for young Mr. Lopez. After all, Jeter is in the unique position where he can change the life of a young man by rewarding him for a selfless act with a sum of money that is fairly insignificant to Jeter.
Yes, Lopez didn’t ask for anything in return for the ball. He was too proud to ask. However, it’s safe to assume he’d gladly accept a financial reward from a man who just about every New York sports fan idolizes. It’s similar to when your friend gets to the fridge first when there’s only one beer left and offers you the beer. You decline because you want to be a nice guy, but you’re secretly hoping he insists and gives you the beer anyway. This is just a larger scale scenario of the day-to-day decisions that people make.
Perhaps Jeter could pay off Lopez’s student loan debt, or perhaps he could cover the taxes that Lopez may have to pay on the seats and memorabilia he received from the Yankees.
Then there’s the $500,000 bonus that Jeter is receiving for being voted as an All-Star starter by fans like Lopez, despite his stats not being at an All-Star level this season and the fact that he’s skipping the festivities to rest. Perhaps he’ll eventually feel compelled to give away at least part of that large sum of money that he doesn’t really deserve to a generous individual like Lopez.
Of course, there’s still plenty of time for Derek Jeter to make up his mind about how he wants to handle this unique situation. Unlike Christian Lopez, who was immediately hustled to the owners’ box and asked what he was going to do with the ball, Jeter can think about this for a while.
Does he have to give Lopez anything? No, because he is Derek Jeter. His reputation of being a class-act on and off the field is so great that no one in New York would think anything less of him if he didn’t. But part of being a class-act is about doing the right thing. It’s what many people believe Christian Lopez did in the first place. So in a world where high morals and doing the right thing is not always rewarded, what will Derek Jeter do?