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Fans who snag Aaron Judge home run balls face a choice: Cash in or take one for the team

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For the rest of the season, the outfield seat at a New York Yankees game is a lottery ticket.

If you were lucky enough to be in it, what would you do? This is a question every fan looking to catch Aaron Judge’s home run ball should think about before taking their seat. Once that home run is hit, decisions will be made quickly and under pressure.

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On Tuesday, Judge hit his 60th home run in his historic season. The tally tied him with Babe Ruth’s single-season career record and left him one behind fellow Yankee Roger Maris’ AL record. Judge’s next home run – provided he hits it – will tie Maris and make a small fortune in the collectors’ market. As is the record number 62. Every home run the umpire hits from there will also have collectible value, as his last longball of the season will officially set a new mark and probably fetch the highest price.

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Fans who secure these balls will face several options:

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1. Hold.
2. Sell it.
3. Give.
4. Return it to the Judge and the Yankees.
5. Negotiations with the judge and the Yankees.

The pressure is going to be strong right now and will lean heavily towards options #4 and #5 — especially for the Yankees fans at Yankee Stadium. Security will most likely be there to escort… how it was for Michael Kessler, the fan ranked 60th on Tuesday. At this point, it’s time to make a decision.

Kessler is a 20-year-old Yankees fan who wore a Yankees jersey on Tuesday. After meeting with security, he and his friends met with the referee after the game. They took pictures with Judge and all left with autographed baseballs. Kessler also took home an autographed bat.

But he didn’t leave with a number 60 baseball. Which he gave to the referee.

He explained his decision to reporters before meeting with the Yankees slugger.

“This is history,” Kessler explained to reporters. “However I can thank Judge, he has given so much to the organization – just do your part.”

It was a great evening for Kessler to tell stories about and he certainly exceeded all expectations he had for his Tuesday. Meanwhile, the ball he returned is valued at six figures by several industry experts. Ken Goldin of Goldin Auctions told Action Network’s Darren Rowell that he expected it to fetch $150,000 on the open market.. Bram Wachter of Sotheby’s valued it at $100,000. David Kohler of SCP Auctions valued the ball between $50,000 and $70,000..

Is this a fair deal? Is there a moral imperative for a fan in Kessler’s shoes to “just do your part”? The high appraisal value of the ball is money that changes the lives of many 20-year-olds. The low estimate of $50,000 is not something to sneeze at.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are not charity. They cost 6 billion dollars. Judge has over $36 million in career earnings and was able to turn down a $213 million contract offer from the Yankees last offseason. As a free agent, he will command significantly more after one of the best seasons in baseball history.

September 20, 2022;  Bronx, New York, USA;  Fans watch New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge, 99, bat against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
September 20, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; Fans watch New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge, 99, bat against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees and Judge are in a great position to offer fair market value for the ball – if they so desire. But that’s not how these scenarios play out. Teams tend to offer packages that include memorabilia and season tickets when it comes to high stakes balls. Tom Brady gave a fan who returned his 600th touchdown ball a bitcoin that was then valued at $63,000 and is now significantly less. He also acknowledged that the fan had to hold on to the ball.

“Byron realized that he lost all his leverage as soon as he gave the ball away,” Brady said during the Monday Night Football broadcast. “He had to keep it to get as much leverage as possible.”

This does not mean that the Yankees and Judge are required to offer fans fair market value. If they don’t want to, then fine. At the same time, fans don’t have to just give them the ball in exchange for autographed equipment and a meeting. Under no other circumstances can an American legally and lawfully stumble upon a six-figure sum simply refuse it. But it’s a dynamic that will play out in fan talk, on air, and on social media around Judge’s home runs.

Meanwhile, rates will only rise in the future. The same industry experts who rated number 60 estimated that balls 61 and 62, as well as Judge’s last ball of the season, would be worth between $150,000 and $1 million or more. If you happen to capture one, it’s best to have a plan already.


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