At the end of August, Chipper Jones hit his 450th home run. 450 isn't 500. Beyond Atlanta, there wasn't much of a countdown. Heck, even a lot of Braves fans didn't realize he was one home run away when he came to bat against the Houston Astros August 31.
Ashantenay Cotton and members of her church group who were sitting in the bleachers that night apparently didn't know it when the ball flew into their section. A parishioner grabbed it and gave it to Ashantenay, who was celebrating her birthday.
A nice souvenir from a nice night at the ballpark.
The team 'encouraged her' to trade it back to them for a plain ol' Chipper signed baseball and a Braves cap. Later, she found out it was likely worth quite a bit more.
Five minutes on the internet and you can buy a Chipper Jones autographed baseball and a Braves hat for $50. Any Chipper Jones home run ball is worth more than that at this stage of his career. While it's not hallowed ground, 450 is another milestone that will more than likely help earn him a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame. What the Braves collector in the story would offer for the baseball is probably less than it would go for if it were to find its way to a major sports memorabilia auction, but it's not a bad estimate.
What the Braves offered the girl is along the lines of what teams have been presenting to fans who catch milestone balls. An autograph here. A bat there. Tickets to a game. Maybe all three if it was a really important home run.
Gee, how generous.
While you can't blame clubs for not wanting to be held hostage, it's time they stepped up and offered something close to fair market value for milestone items that wind up in the hands of fans. Many, like Ashantenay, don't know what they've got, and those who don't usually get taken.
To make a deal with a teenage girl from a church group, knowing the ball has significant value and not doing it with an adult present makes the franchise look opportunistic, deceptive...and cheap.
Determining potential market value isn't that hard. Coming up with a list of items to offer lucky fans isn't that hard. I'm guessing the church group would have been thrilled with a $500 donation.
To continue to pretend that they're not obligated or interested enough to offer something better than fans can find at the now ubiquitous team stores full of overpriced foul balls is disingenuous.
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