08/04/07 8:00 PM ET
Rutgers student emerges with No. 500
Rodriguez in negotiations with fan to procure historic ball
By Lauren Kobylarz / MLB.com
In a press conference after the game, Rodriguez had not yet met the fan who grabbed the marked No. 500 ball -- a male Rutgers University student who did not want to be identified -- but that doesn't mean that negotiations hadn't already been started. Rodriguez said he hopes to work out a deal with the student so he can save the ball for his two-year-old daughter, Natasha, to appreciate when she gets older.
"It's his ball and I'm happy for him," Rodriguez said. "We've been negotiating something so that I can get the ball back, but if not, I congratulate him for catching it. Nice catch."
If only getting A-Rod's 500th home run ball was that simple. The student didn't catch the ball at all, but grabbed it in the midst of a violent battle in the aisle behind the first rows bordering the left-field fence.
"I really was nervous for that kid," said Phyllis Malgieri from Staten Island, N.Y., who was four rows directly behind the scrum with her daughter and husband. "I thought he was going to get hurt with all those people in there fighting. I was surprised he wasn't full of blood when he got up."
Unlike an unexpected, hard-hit foul ball, Rodriguez's lofty shot hung in the air before landing -- enough time that people knew what was coming.
"You sort of felt sorry for the people that were going to be wrestling for that ball, because you knew for a long time that it was going to fall in there," manager Joe Torre said.
As it did fall, though, there wasn't much that the fans could do but stare as they witnessed history being made. No one was prepared at first to catch the ball, which hit the front-section seats before bouncing into the aisle.
Snapping back to reality, they pounced.
"No one really moved, everyone just kind of looked at it," said 15-year-old Kevin Willinson from Nanuet, N.Y. "But once it hit, it was a brawl; everyone just sort of went for it."
The Rutgers student was on the ground clamoring with the rest of the fans. Somehow, he got hold of the ball and was promptly whisked away by security guards -- physically removed from the fray, spectators said -- pumping his arm while holding the ball in the air.
"The security guards finally got him -- they literally lifted him right up," said 15-year-old Jimmy Kelly, also from Nanuet, N.Y. "They got him out of there right away."
He doesn't have the ball yet, but Rodriguez is already holding onto the milestone-hitting bat, which hit the first pitch of his first at-bat against Kyle Davies in the Yankees' 16-8 win against the Royals. The helmet A-Rod wore as he rounded the bases is being sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
"I definitely want that ball," Rodriguez said. "I got the bat, and those are things I'm definitely going to keep for a long time."
To get the ball from the Rutgers student, Rodriguez said Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo is negotiating with him to see what A-Rod will need to give him to acquire the ball.
"I'm not a good negotiator -- I usually hire a good attorney for that," Rodriguez said. "Hopefully we come up with something."
In the past, players have been known to sign autographs and collectibles in exchange for balls from career-defining moments. For some, though, no amount of collateral would be enough to have endured the scuffle it took to get Rodriguez's 500th home run ball.
"I don't care how much the ball is worth, I wouldn't have wanted to be in the middle of that," Malgieri said. "People just came out of nowhere, like birds fighting for a crumb off the ground. It was scary."
Lauren Kobylarz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.