So, it looks like Christian Lopez, the starry-eyed Yankee fan who caught Derek Jeter's 3000th hit, is going to get bailed out of the whole mess the Yanks put him in by giving him $50,000 or so worth of "free" tickets and memorabilia. (And by the way, given that players and coaches have to pay taxes on the complimentary tickets the team lets them have, the team should have known in the first place that this was going to be an issue for Lopez. Just saying.)
Anyhow, Miller High Life has offered to pay his taxes, saying "you should be rewarded for doing the right thing, not penalized." Modell Sporting Goods and Steiner Sports are giving him a minimum of $25,000 each, and he also is getting a 2009 World Series ring out of it, among other things. Topps is putting him on a baseball card, saying that "We thought what he did captures the essence of what baseball and the Topps company is about." (Is that what baseball is all about -- giving away an item worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for free to an millionaire MLB player? Just saying!)
How much the fan will end up with is unclear; some say he won't have to pay taxes on the money, but Ed Behrens, a CPA who lives near Lopez, told the Times Herald-Record Lopez would likely have to pay 28 percent federal tax, and 7 percent city tax, on the money and merchandise the companies gave him. But he did say that the fan "can enjoy his fame and maybe break even in this."
You know, I'm glad Lopez is getting some help for the financial mess he is in, and I hope he does enjoy his 15 minutes of fame. And this damage control on the part of Yankee/MLB sponsors will make his life better. (That's what it is -- damage control. I kinda doubt Lopez would have gotten anything from them if it weren't for 1) the tax stories, and 2) the news about his crazy-expensive student loans!)But I will never believe that giving away a ball worth many hundreds of thousands of dollars for free to a guy worth hundreds of millions is somehow a moral obligation, or the right thing to do. I will never think that a guy still living at home with his parents, who has over $100K in student loans, owed the baseball he rightfully caught to somebody who just built a house the square footage of a supermarket. It's not "classy" to do that -- it's ridiculous. It's the equivalent of scratching off a winning lottery ticket and giving it away to Jeter, just because.
"Doing the right thing" would be returning Jeter's wallet to him if you stumbled upon it without expecting a thing in return. But this ain't it.
Is this what our celebrity-crazed society has become? That Derek Jeter is entitled to a ball for free that his estate could eventually sell for $1 million just because he's famous and people admire him? Puh-lease. Guess what? The 3,000 hit achievement stands, with or without the baseball. I accept that baseball is a business, and everything that goes with it. But don't tell me it's a business, then, that when a fan catches a ball fair and square, he should somehow be expected to to turn it over for free, without expecting a thing in return. There would have been nothing greedy or wrong whatsoever about Lopez selling what he caught, or in giving the captain right of first refusal to pay for the ball.
Oh, and by the way, all Derek Jeter himself has so far personally given to Lopez is a "grip and grin" photo op and a hat with the Captain's picture on it, although he is supposed to sign some memorabilia for him. He certainly didn't help with the tax mess. That's gratitude for you. Will moths will fly out of No. 2's wallet the next time he opens it?
What do you think? Tell us about it!