SPORTS WATCH
Being a Nice Guy in the Right Place at the Right Time Can Cost You
by Gus Jarvis
Jul 14, 2011 | 1870 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Even being a good guy is expensive these days. Such is the case for 23-year-old New York Yankees fan Christian Lopez who made a really nice gesture (some call it absolutely crazy) and returned Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit to the Yankees in exchange for a few signed bats, jerseys and baseballs.

Of course, the IRS wants its part in the exchange as well, but we will get to that later. Even for non-Yankee fans like myself, Jeter’s 3,000th hit was an exciting moment in sports. Everyone one knew he was going to reach the milestone at some point this year, if he stayed healthy. So last Saturday, an admittedly nervous Jeter took the field in what seemed to be a perfect day to hit the milestone only 28 other players have reached, the first Yankee to do so. It was a sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium. Jeter’s stars were aligned perfectly.

He was able to hit his 2,999 hit – a leadoff single – against Rays pitcher David Price. Once he got that hit out of the way, it seemed the hard work was done for Jeter to reach 3,000. Price left a 3-2 curveball hanging in the third inning against Jeter, who turned on the ball and drove it over the fence for a homerun. This wasn’t some hot shot single to center field or even a blooper to right field. This was a hard-hit ball that cleared the fence with emphasis, and it came at a perfect time. What a way to hit 3,000. As it turns out, it was certainly Jeter’s perfect day, as he went five for five for the second time in his career as well.

As Yankee Stadium ignited with praise and cheers for Jeter for reaching his 3,000 hit in such a dramatic way, Christian Lopez’s life took a turn for the better as well. Like I said, nobody was expecting Jeter to hit this ball over the fence – while it’s not unheard of, it’s certainly not expected. So when Lopez saw Jeter’s ball bounce off his dad’s hand and roll onto the floor in front of him, he must have been surprised at the moving gold mine that was his for the taking. With good instincts, Lopez grabbed it, probably not knowing in that quick moment but that ball was worth its weight in gold, and maybe even more.

When Barry Bonds hit his record-breaking homerun in 2006 (with an asterisks, of course), the ball was sold for $220,000 on eBay. Mark McGwire’s 70th homerun, according to The New York Times, sold for nearly $3,000 in 1998. So when Lopez secured Jeter’s ball in his hand on Saturday, it was probably no surprise that he was whisked away by stadium security guards to the office of Yankee President Randy Levine, where, according to the Times, he was asked what he intended to do with the piece of baseball history.

“He goes, ‘What do you want?’ ” Lopez said, recalling the visit to Levine’s office. “I was like, ‘How about a couple signed balls, some jerseys and bats.’ He said, ‘O.K., I can definitely do that.’”

I would say its obvious that Lopez is just a damn nice guy to give it back in exchange for a few signed pieces of memorabilia. Others would say he’s just crazy to give up the ball, which would more than pay for his $100,000 in student loans. Call him crazy, call him whatever you want, he told reporters he felt the ball rightfully belonged to Jeter. His generosity is almost unbelievable. In so many cases, that kind of generosity isn’t shared between two people of equal pay scale, let alone a broke fan and a rich, very rich sports superstar. I must say, I commend him, but I’m not sure I would have done the same thing.

Well, the Yankees thought the gesture was so nice that they gave Lopez four Champions Suite tickets for the remainder of the season at Yankee Stadium as well as any postseason games. For Sunday’s game, the Yankees gave Lopez four front-row seats.

According to the Yankees tickets website, those suite tickets are worth upwards of $70,000, and even more if the team makes it into the post season. Add that figure onto the estimated value of the memorabilia and Lopez could owe the IRS somewhere around $14,000 in taxes, Steven Bandini, of the accounting firm Zapken & Loeb, told The Times.

Talk about a bum deal here. Here the guy is, enjoying a day at the ball park; he gets hold of a homerun ball, and now will more than likely get hit by the taxman for Uncle Sam’s share of the loot – all for being a nice guy.

I know many of you are licking your chops here, waiting for me to go on some anti-tax, tea-bagger rant against big government and taxes, but this isn’t a political column.

I simply hope the Yankees will be taxed comparably, for Jeter’s baseball, to what Lopez will be taxed for his Yankee gifts.

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