I was recently forced to consider this conundrum in more focus when I learned that Christian Lopez, the fan who caught Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit, a home run, gladly returned the ball only to be compensated with merchandise and suite tickets for the season's remaining Yankees home games.
Mr. Lopez, a twenty-three year old recent collage graduate has over 100,000 dollars in student debt and could easily have sold the ball, which has been valued at a quarter of a million dollars. He indubitably did the honorable in unassumingly presenting Jeter with the ball -- but I can't help wonder why Jeter could not reciprocate the gesture by offering to alleviate Mr. Lopez's debt or, even better, transcending superficiality by allowing Mr. Lopez to keep the ball.
Jeter could have followed the lead of another Yankee Legend. In 1961, Sal Durante caught Roger Maris's 61st home run and offered to return the ball. Maris refused it. Rather, he insisted that Mr. Durante keep the ball and sell it for its worth.
Athletes owe their livelihood to the fans that watch and cheer for them. Whenever a player fresh off winning the World Series is asked how they feel, they invariably cite their happiness for the fans. It was the fans, they say, who guided them through the grind of the long season and they couldn't thank them enough. Derek Jeter had an opportunity to embody this sentiment, but he didn't.
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