What happens after you catch a 500th home run ball?


(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Albert Pujols hit his 499th and 500th home runs at Nationals Park last night and both valuable mementos were returned to him by fans after the game.

California native Tom Sherrill, who is in town for Air Force training, grabbed Pujols’s 500th home run after another fan dropped it in front of the Red Porch. While Sherrill could’ve kept the ball and sold it for a pretty penny, the 29-year-old staff sergeant and Angels fan didn’t think twice about returning the ball to Pujols.

Via James Wagner:

“I said I wanted to give the ball to Albert,” Sherrill recalled. “It’s his ball.”

Sherrill did, and in exchange the Angels gave him a team baseball cap, a chance to meet Pujols in the clubhouse and an autographed ball. Sherrill said an Angels representative took down his contact information presumably, he said, to get more gear from the team for giving up Pujols’s milestone ball.

“If they do, cool,” he said. “If they don’t, I don’t care. You’ve heard the guy speak. He’s such a good guy. I’m just happy he got the ball back.”

The reaction was split in the comments of Wagner’s post as to whether Sherrill made a mistake by returning the ball to Pujols. It was a nice thing to do, sure, but how much money was he throwing away? Alex Rodriguez’s 500th home run ball sold for more than $100,000 in 2010.

I’d like to think I’d give a milestone home run ball back to the player who hit it in exchange for some memorabilia, unless it was hit by Pete Kozma. What would you do?

If you’re curious, here’s a look at what happened to the last four 500th home run balls:

April 17, 2009 – Gary Sheffield
Mets fan Chris Matcovich returned the ball to Sheffield in exchange for a few signed jerseys and bats.

“I wanted nothing but to just give it back to Gary,” Matcovich said. “It was his ball. It’s not mine.”

May 31, 2008 – Manny Ramirez
Red Sox fan Damon Woo returned the ball to Ramirez.

“You hear about the big money that some of these baseballs go for, but this was Manny’s accomplishment,” Woo told the New York Post. “Being a big baseball fan, this just felt like the right thing to do.”

September 16, 2007 – Jim Thome
Fan Will Stewart returned the ball to Thome in exchange for a few pieces of signed memorabilia and two season tickets for 2008.

“I feel it is a part of Chicago baseball history,” said Stewart, who was visiting from Texas.

Because he wouldn’t be able to use the season tickets, Stewart donated them to the charity of Thome’s choice.

 August 4, 2007 – Alex Rodriguez
Yankees fan Walter “Sonny” Kowalcyk caught Rodriguez’s 500th home run at Yankee Stadium. Three years later, SCP Auctions sold it on Kowalcyk’s behalf for $103,579.

“The Yankees offered him a signed jersey, and he said no,” Kowalcyk’s older brother, Brian, told the New York Daily News. “The negotiations at Yankee Stadium were p–s-poor. If A-Rod would have approached him, things would have been different.”

Scott Allen writes about all things DC sports. Follow him on Twitter @ScottSAllen or e-mail him if you’ve got a tip to share.
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