Mike Hogan was well aware that the 70th home run ball that Mark McGwire hit last September sold at auction for $3.2 million.
But when Hogan one-handed Wade Boggs's 3,000th hit--a home run--in the right field grandstands at Tropicana Field on Saturday night, he never gave a thought to putting it up for bid, instead trading it for an autographed bat and a signed jersey from Boggs.
"People will say I'm crazy, but he's had a Hall of Fame career and it's his baseball," said Hogan, 32, who moved to Tampa a month ago from New York to begin a job as assistant sports information director at the University of South Florida. "I have my ticket stub, a jersey and a photo. That's good enough for me."
Boggs had hit just one home run all season--and 117 in his career--when he smashed a 2-2 pitch from Cleveland Indians reliever Chris Haney for a two-run homer, but Tampa Bay Devil Rays officials were nonetheless prepared. Baseballs used in the game were marked with infrared coating, a practice that began last year when the collectibles market soared for the historic home run balls hit by McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
Boggs said that when he saw the ball clear the wall, he figured he would never see it again.
"I thought, 'I hope that fan enjoys it,' " Boggs said. "I guess now I'm going to be known as a home run hitter."
Hogan purchased a ticket earlier in the day at a ticket outlet near his campus office and came to the game alone, since his wife and 10-month-old son were still in the process of moving to Tampa from New York, where Hogan worked in the sports information department of Siena College.
When Boggs came to the plate in the sixth inning, having hit two singles in the game, Hogan noticed people elsewhere in his row inching toward the vacant aisles. Hogan stood in front of his seat and caught the ball with his right hand--without having to compete with surrounding fans.
Rob Katz, the Devil Rays' director of merchandising, was two sections over organizing a postgame commemorative card giveaway. He found Hogan and whisked him through the tunnel toward the Devil Rays' clubhouse, where Hogan was given a souvenir T-shirt and allowed to wait for the conclusion of the game and a meeting with Boggs.
"I've been a Yankee fan and I followed his career there, so this is really special," Hogan said. "I know I could have sold it, but I remember watching the guy catch the McGwire ball and wondering how anyone could sell a piece of history."
Today Boggs got hit No. 3,001, a double, before taking the rest of the game off. The 41-year-old said he has no plans to retire, even after passing the milestone.
"I've always said 3,000 hits is not a termination point in my career," he said, adding that he hasn't given a lot of thought to how much longer he'd like to play.
"You're going to have to rip the shirt off of me. If I'm hitting .300 and still performing, and the game's still fun, I'll continue to play if they'll have me."