It helps to have some baseball skills when you’re chasing one of the biggest pieces of game-used baseball memorabilia in 2021. It also helps to have a plan.
Ryan Hoefling of Ft. Myers, FL had both.
The 15-year-old baseball player and Tampa Bay Rays fan has been following Wander Franco’s rise from intriguing international talent to number one big league prospect. After learning of Franco’s promotion to the majors Tuesday, he checked with his grandparents to see if they’d drive to Tropicana Field. They declined so he hopped a ride with a small crew of older friends. They studied spray charts of where Franco’s minor league homers had landed and bought their tickets in the left field stands just 30 minutes before the first pitch.
In the fifth inning, Hoefling’s moment came and he was ready as Franco pounced on Eduardo Rodriguez’s pitch. Leaping across and in front of another fan, the high school sophomore-to-be snared the first of what will likely be many more Franco homers to come.
It would have paid for a nice chunk of his college education or a really nice first car–at least–but Hoefling decided to give the ball back to the Rays’ young star. Hoefling told a local TV station he was offered $4,000 by another fan.
This is Roan Hoefling. The 15 year old from Ft Meyers who caught Wander Franco’s 3 run HR ball, his first MLB hit.
He gave it back to the Rays so Wander could have it. I’m sure some goodies will be coming his way.
A huge Wander fan. Came for his debut. pic.twitter.com/lQatOueIpV
— Tricia Whitaker (@TriciaWhitaker) June 23, 2021
According to local media reports, the Rays gave the sophomore-to-be ten autographed balls, an autographed Franco bat, two hats, and the chance to meet Franco after the game.
So how much would it have brought on the open market? We checked with a few auction companies and estimates ranged from $25,000-$50,000 if it would come to market quickly.
“Certainly there is a good deal of hype surrounding his call up and so I would expect that the interest would have been pretty strong,” David Hunt of Hunt Auctions told us. “If the ball had gone to auction I could have seen it bringing $50,000 or more based largely on speculation as to what it could bring down the road.”
— Bally Sports Sun: Rays (@BallyRays) June 23, 2021
From @TriciaWhitaker: Roan Hoefling, the fan who caught Wander Franco’s first home run, hit & RBI in his MLB career, got a photo with Franco after tonight’s game.
Roan on the newest RTR pod? Stay tuned 👀👀pic.twitter.com/m0bmxjBHnr
— Rays The Roof Network (@RaysTheRoofTB) June 23, 2021
Just five years older than his number one fan, Franco already has a plan for the ball.
“At home, back in the Dominican, I have an area where I have a lot of things from the Major Leagues, like a memorabilia area,” Franco said. “So I plan on putting it there with all that stuff.”