Gary Sheffield didn't have to bid in an auction or beg to get his 500th home run ball back. But the fan who caught it did get some memorabilia in return.
"I was thinking, 'Just don't drop it,'" said 22 year-old Mets fan Chris Matcovich as Gary Sheffield's 500th home run ball sailed toward him in the left field seats at Citi Field.
"That's basically what went through my mind. If I dropped it, I would have been so disappointed in myself for the rest of my life."
Wearing a Keith Hernandez jersey, the Suffern, New York college student snared the ball that put Sheffield into the exclusive club, becoming the 25th player to reach 500 homers in a career.
The ball likely would have fetched thousands of dollars at auction but Matcovich didn't hesitate when the time came to decide what to do with it.
"I wanted nothing but to just give it back to Gary," said Matcovich, who caught it on the fly. "It was his ball, not mine."
Sheffield's teammates thought he'd have to buy it back if he wanted it for his own collection, but the well-travelled outfielder was glad that wasn't the case. Matcovich traded it to Sheffield in exchange for a few signed jerseys he planned to share with friends. He also got a photo with Sheffield.
Sheffield’s 500th home run came exactly eight years after Barry Bonds reached the milestone.
Sheffield said he was still deliberating what to send to the Baseball Hall of Fame, which also asked for an artifact or two. “It’s a tough decision,” Sheffield said. His uniform or the bat were possibilities, but the ball belonged to Sheffield who was fortunate to have the ball land in the hands of a fan who wasn't interested in bringing it to the memorabilia market.
"I mean, that was ... special for him to do that. ... He didn't have to do that."
More on the homer from the Associated Press: