Auction houses want them. Private collectors stand with checkbook in hand. Desirable home run balls can fetch a fair amount of money.
While some fans opt to cash in, others are more than happy to return them to the player’s own collection in exchange for a quick hello, a few photos and maybe some signed memorabilia.
On Tuesday night, a New York City college student came away from a left field bleachers scramble at Yankee Stadium holding Aaron Judge’s 60th of the season. Security led him to a postgame meeting with Judge who was glad to turn over a signed bat, a few signed baseballs and some pictures.
In June of last year, a young fan snared the first home run ball hit by highly regarded Tampa Bay Rays prospect Wander Franco. He agreed to give it back to the young shortstop for presumably a similar memorabilia haul.
Three years earlier, a hobby shop employee who had gone to see Ronald Acuna Jr.’s first big league appearance, wound up catching his first homer. That fan also opted to let the player have it.
That same month, a Cleveland fan latched onto Shohei Ohtani’s first homer on U.S. soil–and gave it to an Angels fan sitting nearby. Team personnel quickly learned what happened and convinced the new owner to return it to Ohtani. That’s one ball that would have likely fetched some potentially life changing money because of the international interest from collectors.
When Pete Alonso set the rookie home run record in 2019, the ball was grabbed by a family who gave it back, receiving a signed a bat, cleats and some baseballs.
Last week, Albert Pujols met the couple who had been ready to return his 697th, but then told them to keep it. That wasn’t the case with #600 in 2017. A 23-year-old avid Angels fan caught that one and presented it to Pujols during a live postgame TV interview.
Three key home run balls from the Atlanta Braves’ World Series victory last fall all reached the market. SCP Auctions secured important dingers hit by Freddie Freeman, Jorge Soler and Dansby Swanson that wound up being collected by fans. The trio sold for more than $100,000 combined. SCP’s David Kohler believes that if a fan catches Judge’s 61st it would be worth at least $250,000 while the ball that would break Roger Maris’ Yankee and American League record might bring a half million or more.
Sometimes, teams and players get lucky and the big blast lands in areas where there are no fans. Last year, Miguel Cabrera’s 500th landed in a batting cage area next to the Tigers’ bullpen where it was retrieved by Tigers coach Tim Remes, verified by MLB Authentication and eventually given to Cabrera.