The ball’s hologram number was JB044155.
And perhaps only a Royals fan could have known its significance based on a rather vanilla description.
Days after the 2015 World Series ended, Major League Baseball had identified the baseballs used during the postseason that it would put up for auction on its website. This is big business for the league, which saw a top bid of $19,200 for Alcides Escobar’s home run ball in Game 1.
Hundreds of postseason baseballs that didn’t end up on the league site were sold through The Highland Mint, which among other things distributes collectibles from the major professional sports leagues.
Royals fan Rick Lucas of Overland Park is not a big memorabilia collector. But having received an email from The Highland Mint, he decided to peruse the list of balls available for purchase.
“I’m guessing there were between 150 and 200 baseballs on the spreadsheet, and you really got nothing in the way of the description,” Lucas recalled. “You got the inning, here’s who pitched, who the batter was and the ball was in the dirt or whatever it may be.”
Then Lucas saw JB044155 and this description:
Session Name: 2015 WORLD SERIES GAME 5 KC@NYM
Session Date: November 1, 2015
Additional Information: BATTER — SALVADOR PEREZ, PITCHER — JEURYS FAMILIA, TOP OF 9, GROUND OUT
Lucas did a double-take. Wasn’t that the ball Mets first baseman Lucas Duda threw away as Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer dashed home to tie Game 5 of the 2015 World Series?
“That’s all it said,” Lucas said. “They don’t have any pricing for the ball, but I asked Highland Mint for prices of that ball and four or five others as a decoy.”
The asking price: $1,500.
“As soon as I saw the price, I knew they didn’t know what they had,” he said. “A minute later I’m on the phone with The Highland Mint.”
The transaction was processed, and Lucas’ credit card was charged.
Funny thing, though, is he didn’t receive the ball or even a notice of shipping confirmation for a week. Lucas then checked his credit card statement, and the transaction had been canceled 24 hours after his purchase.
Lucas emailed The Highland Mint and received this response: “MLB has said that ball was no longer for sale to anyone.”
“Well, I knew what was going on,” Lucas said. “I looked at the database again and it has been appended. Now it reads everything from before plus: ‘Eric Hosmer scores tying run on errant throw by Lucas Duda.’ ”
He pressed The Highland Mint to fulfill its part of the deal.
“Honestly, I thought there was no chance of getting the ball at that point,” Lucas said. “But two or three days later, I heard from them, and they did honor the original transaction.”
After receiving the prized possession, Lucas emailed Curt Nelson, director of the Royals Hall of Fame, and asked if he could loan the ball to the exhibit. Nelson quickly agreed.
The ball is on display next to third base, from which Hosmer made his memorable dash.
“Rick Lucas and his family have loaned that particular baseball to the Royals Hall of Fame for the 2016 season to be part of our World Series exhibit,” Nelson wrote in an email. “We are very grateful they are sharing that little piece of Royals history with us and their fellow Royals fans this year.”
Lucas said having the ball on display in the Hall of Fame was a no-brainer.
“I don’t collect. I’m a history buff and obviously a huge Royals fan,” Lucas said. “To me, that was the sweet spot. The ball represented a piece of Royals history and in a larger context, it’s a piece of Major League Baseball history.
“I’m happy that it’s in a place it can be seen. Who knows where it’s going to end up? It’s too early to know if that will stay with us in the family. Ultimately, I would love to see it in some permanent capacity with the Royals. That’s where I think it belongs. My personal feeling is I don’t own the ball. I’m a curator, as it were. I’m a temporary caretaker of the ball that ultimately belongs to the fans of Kansas City.”