Red Sox fan Michael Shuster said he had visualized catching the ball that Alex Rodriguez hit for his 660th career home run Friday night at Fenway Park to tie Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list. And now that the 25-year-old MetLife representative from Rhode Island has the ball, he's contemplating what to do with it.
"It's a historically significant ball,'' said Shuster, who caught Rodriguez's pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning as it soared over the Green Monster in leftfield. "There's question marks on it, too, obviously. Asterisks, or however you want to put it. Being a Red Sox fan, I come from a totally different perspective than somebody in New York might come from. Having said that, I think my best bet is to sit on it, sleep on it and then make a decision in the weeks and months to come.''
Asked about the financial possibilities, Shuster said: "Are we talking about the highest bidder? Like I said, I'm really going to sleep on it. At this point, I don't know. But obviously, the value of the ball -- I'm not going to tell you that the number is not meaningless. It's definitely some meaningful number.''
Rodriguez's notoriety over suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs could affect the value of the home run, said Leila Dunbar, a longtime sports memorabilia appraiser based in Washington, D.C., and former executive of Sotheby's Collectibles.
"In 2010, Alex Rodriguez's 500th career home run ball sold at auction for $103,579.20,'' she said in an email. "While the 660 and 661 home runs are more significant milestones, A-Rod's 2014 suspension for steroids has created a degree of uncertainty in the sports memorabilia market. It's hard to predict how much of an effect it will have on value. Therefore, in my opinion, I would place an auction estimate of $25,000-$50,000 on the 660-home run ball and $50,000- $100,000 on the 661-home run ball. Both estimates would be much higher if not for the suspension and admission of steroids use in his career.''
The highest price paid for a baseball was a reported $3 million for Mark McGwire's 70th home run, then a single-season record, in 1998. Todd McFarlane, a wealthy comic book and action figure mogul, bought the ball and paid an extra $300,000 for McGwire's three home runs leading up to 70. In 2003, McFarlane paid $517,500 for Barry Bonds' 73rd home run ball.
Bonds' 756th home run ball, which broke Hank Aaron's career home run record, was bought by fashion designer Marc Ecko for $752,467. He affixed a laser-engraved asterisk and gave the ball to the Hall of Fame, where it is on display.
Shuster said he went to Friday night's game after waking up that morning with "this whole envisionment of me catching the ball. I get out of work late and bought the last ticket that I could to the Green Monster. I get there and he's not even playing. I went to the bathroom the batter before him and when I heard all the boos and saw A-Rod was coming up, I ran back to my seat. I caught it clean.''
Shuster said security ushered him away from his seat.
"Red Sox and Yankees officials were offering me a signed bat," he said. "They said they offered me an autographed jersey, which I don't remember them offering. But the way I thought about it, I've collected sports memorabilia my entire life. I have things that are more valuable than what they had offered me. The moment was worth well more to me than anything they had put on the table.''
Shuster left with the ball but said "there is no concern for the authenticity of the ball. I have taken steps to safeguard it. There should be no question and there will be no question.''
Shuster said he has no ill will toward Rodriguez. "I learned from my older cousins, my grandfather, to appreciate some of the old-timers that I never even saw play, one of them being Willie Mays. I have a Willie Mays card. I don't have animosity toward him in terms of the steroid thing. It was in the game for so many years. He's no different from so many other players, so I'm not going to judge him on that.''