The Marlins, Reds, Major League Baseball and the Miami police agree on one thing. There is no dispute about who is the rightful owner of Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th home run ball.
"Joe" is about to win the baseball fan lottery.
The mystery fan who snared Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th home run ball Monday night still isn’t talking, but seems to be organizing a plan to profit from his stroke of good fortune. He also seems to have had a plan in mind from the very beginning.
Miami police and officials from the Florida Marlins organization spent part of Tuesday reviewing videotape of the flight of the historic homer and kept coming to the same conclusion. It was indeed the 40-something Marlins’ fan who caught the ball on the fly.
That tape watching session was prompted by claims of 25 year-old Justin Kimball who insisted he was the one who caught the potentially valuable souvenir, but had it wrestled from the ‘wool cap’ he had placed around it. It’s possible Kimball was one of the handful of fans duped by "Joe" who caught the ball, then dropped another in the vicinity to distract the others while he made a safe getaway with the real ball.
“The video was reviewed numerous times with the same conclusion,” read a statement issued Tuesday by the Miami-Dade police. “The claim of Mr. Kimball is in direct conflict with the video replays and observations of officers on the scene.”
Marlins president David Samson said there was no question the fan in the Sergio Mitre jersey was indeed the owner. "The ball he caught was authenticated by Major League Baseball, and anybody who has any information to the contrary is misinformed and dishonest. … He caught the ball on a fly. It never left his glove."
Samson spoke with Joe on Tuesday, reviewing possible options and learning more about the fan who wound up with a ball that could be worth $50,000 or more.
Samson told reporters Joe would speak with the media once a determination had been made on the ball’s fate. "He’s not trying to be famous. He’s just trying to help himself, his family and the game of baseball all at once, and I’m trying to see if that’s possible."
"In the free market, things are worth what people will pay for it," Samson said. "But as far as Joe is concerned, his desire would be to do what’s best for him, his family and for the game. He has a huge respect for the game, he’s a huge Marlins fan, he respects Ken Griffey, and he respects what I’m doing in this process, and he’s been amazing to talk to."
Peter Siegel, owner of Gotta Have It! Collectibles in New York, which also runs auctions, told the Palm Beach Post he’d rather have Griffey’s 600th than Barry Bonds’ 700th home run ball, which was sold at auction for $804,129.
"Griffey is held as being one of the true ball players with no asterisks next to his name,” Siegel said. "I think the ball has a lot more importance than a lot of people think.”
Marlins players had differing views on Joe’s likely decision to sell. "The fan has every right to keep it and do whatever he wants,” first baseman Mike Jacobs said. "Why wouldn’t you want to keep it and see what you can get?”
Marlins outfielder Cody Ross, who got Griffey’s autograph during the series against the Reds, may be a little out of touch with the level of financial security fans have compared to players.
"Just give it to the Hall of Fame, get to meet him, get an autograph, whatever," Ross said. "But people get greedy. They want to make some money."
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