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Fan who returned Jeter's 3,000th hit ball gets mixed reviews

Reaction to the fan returning Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit ball provides revealing commentary on the perspective of our increasingly cynical society.

While many applaud Christian Lopez as the embodiment of a true fan for not seeking to cash in, the All-About-the-Benjamins crowd on the Internet is trashing him as stupid or worse.

Blok-TV blogger Heaven Hollywood dubbed Lopez “Blok head of the day.” Rapper Jay-Z, who was at the game and captured the moment on video, said in a TV interview: "He's crazy, but OK, better man than me."

The ball Jeter drove into the left-field bleachers in Yankee Stadium for his milestone hit Saturday was estimated to be worth at least $100,000, perhaps considerably more on the memorabilia market.

The same week that a fan in Texas gave his life is pursuit of a souvenir ball, Lopez fought to get it and didn’t hesitate in giving it to Jeter. The Yankees rewarded the 23-year-old cellphone salesman with seats behind home plate Sunday and suite tickets for the rest of the season as well as bats, balls and jerseys signed by Jeter.

Lopez’s choice was life imitating the old MasterCard ad campaign. Having your picture taken with your sports idol: Priceless.

Opinions from the cheap seats range from, he lived up to the spirit of his first name, to idiotic move.

In recent years every milestone hit and home run has been viewed by fans as a winning lottery ticket. Barry Bonds’ record-breaking 756th home run ball sold for more than $750,000.

Lopez’s throwback gesture was a throwback to another era. Another Yankee fan, Sal Durante, had the same impulse after catching Roger Maris’ 61st home run in 1961. Maris wouldn’t accept the ball, told Durante to cash in, and even helped broker the sale for $5,000.

Should Jeter have offered more than a grip and grin?

Getting hit No. 3,000 on a home run while going 5-for-5 and driving in the winning run will endure as an iconic baseball moment like Reggie’s three-homer game in the World Series and Ripken passing Gehrig.

It cements Jeter’s legendary status and further boosts marketing appeal that needed no help. Jeter is already baseball’s endorsement leader at about $10 million a year. Earlier this year a Sienna College poll revealed him to be New York’s all-time favorite athlete. Jeter can push his earnings as high he wants.

Does it always have to be about the Benjamins? Seems that’s how we keep score now, while feel-good stories are fun but few.

Michael Vick’s new Nike deal is proof that redemption can be measured in endorsement dollars.

Rory McIlroy’s runaway win at the U.S. Open prompted estimates the Northern Ireland pro could match Tiger Woods’ $1 billion in career earnings. McIlroy has won one major, Woods 14, but a repeat performance this week in the British Open would only heighten McIlroy Madness.

Meanwhile, Dirk Nowitzki, the summer’s other sports marketing darling, has shunned the flood of offers that have followed his MVP performance in the NBA Finals, telling the German publication Spiegel, “I am satisfied with what I have.”

Good for Dirk, and good for Lopez.

The Yankee fan may yet cash in if he’s patient. Those items Jeter signed for him could eventually be worth more than the 3,000th hit ball. Meanwhile, he has secured his place in Yankee lore.

Categories: Endorsements (20), MLB (110)

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About the author
CRAIG DAVIS In more than 33 years at the Sun Sentinel, Craig Davis has written about a wide variety of sports topics from baseball to yachting, fishing to triathlons, and also worked as a copy editor and page designer. Recently he reported on local sports, including running, swimming, cycling, equestrian and beach volleyball. He enjoys sports as a participant as well as a spectator, is active in the South Florida running scene plays in the curling club at Saveology Iceplex. This blog offers a glimpse at the business side of sports in the interest of enhancing enjoyment of the games and sporting options as a spectator as well as a participant.
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