You never know what’s going to become of that kid you used to run around with.
For some youngsters growing up in southern California in the late 1960’s, it was a brush with fame they probably wouldn’t have guessed. One of their teammates on the 1968 Ventura Babe Ruth National League All-Stars couldn’t carve out a pro baseball career but eventually Kevin Costner showed up on a much bigger stage.
Now a unique item associated with that time is being offered to baseball and movie buffs: Costner’s first autograph.
The award-winning actor/director grew up in southern California and in ‘68, he was a 13-year-old member of a team that won a district championship. After the celebration, one team member put the year and an inscription on the ball and then passed it around for signatures as a keepsake.
“It was just a kid getting a ball signed by his teammates,” said David Espinoza of Sacramento, a collector who is now trying to sell the one-of-a-kind ball on eBay with an asking price of $1,699 and a starting bid of $849. The autographs were acquired by the father of Espinoza’s girlfriend and he’s hoping to share the proceeds with him if the ball can be sold.
The ball is in excellent condition, having been put away and stored in a box and later, a holder. Espinoza says he was hoping publicity over Costner’s appearance in the new movie, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, would help bring attention to it.
“I kind of picked the price out of the air by comparing what some of the other balls online sold for and I asked a couple of autograph dealers what they thought it would be worth,” Espinoza told Sports Collectors Daily. “No one really could say because nothing like this has ever come up for auction before. I am worried though about what a fair price would be. I’ve had a few people ask me some questions about the ball, and only one offer for $500. I really don’t think that many people even know that this ball exists. Outside of this auction, I’ve probably actually told less than 10 people.”
Espinoza says the original owner was approached by another member of that 1968 team many years ago, hoping to buy it and give it to Costner for his birthday but was turned down.
While the ball is part movie memorabilia and part baseball collectible, Espinoza believes he knows what field any likely buyer will prefer. “Hands down, I think a baseball memorabilia collector would be the person to jump on this,” he stated. “I can take or leave Kevin the actor, but this is actually a great item in my opinion. I’ve enjoyed having it in my collection, but I don’t think that I’m doing it any justice.”
In addition to Costner’s youthful scribble, the ball was signed by Leo Wilkes, the younger brother of Basketball Hall of Famer Jamaal Wilkes.
Espinoza says the funny part of the story is that his girlfriend’s father Ron and Costner, a year apart, didn’t really care for each other.
“The only other memorabilia that he has are a couple of team photos, which I haven’t seen yet, because they are mixed in with his storage items. One of the pictures I really want to see shows the team smiling with the exception of two players, Ron and Kevin. It turns out they had gotten into an argument right before the pictures were to be taken and were disciplined by their coach. Ron says they both look pretty dejected in the team picture.”
You can see the listing for the ball here.