Yankees: Fan who caught historic A-Rod home run selling ball as NFT
Don’t understand blockchain? You’re not alone.
In fact, the author of this piece still counts himself among the very confused, even after speaking to Mike Shuster, a Red Sox fan who garnered some familiarity in the Yankees Universe after snagging Alex Rodriguez’s Willie Mays-tying 660th home run ball at Fenway Park back in 2015.
At the time, the Yanks dragged their feet in response to Rodriguez’s camp, attempting to withhold the $6 million bonus they owed to the slugger for the historic moment on the basis that the milestone had been inauthentically attained.
While that monetary dispute continued, Shuster stayed put, holding on to the ball instead of relinquishing it for any offered sum.
A gift package of historic Red Sox items, like a David Ortiz signed bat? No thanks. A Yankees package featuring memorabilia? Hard pass; like we said, he’s a Sox fan.
Instead of auctioning off a devalued baseball (he’d spoken to Ken Goldin of Goldin Auctions a bit), Shuster was perfectly content to keep his hands on an objectively cool piece of baseball history until the tide turned a bit.
Six years later, with the NFT craze sweeping all marketplaces, his patience has paid off, and the baseball is about to become the first piece of iconic in-game sports memorabilia to be sold on the blockchain.
Take that, Gronk.
“I was sitting there pontificating about a month ago now, when NFTs were really starting to hit the media hard, and I’ve been a little bit into cryptocurrency, but…I only have some education. I’m not a genius or an expert,” Shuster told Adam Weinrib of Yanks Go Yard. “I want to be more exposed in crypto and I don’t necessarily want to pay the high price value, even though I think it’s going to appreciate. So I said, well, how can I make up for that? Somehow, NFT and this baseball that I had…the connection in my brain just happened, and I realized that I had this really unique opportunity.”
“This is before Gronk and Mahomes, and now those are proof of concept,” he added. “I have this awesome asset, and if we create this series of artwork and also auction off the ball, I think we have something really cool here.”
And so, in the clearest example yet that we’re living in the future no one envisioned back in 2015, Shuster is putting the ball up for auction (with a reserve price, of course) while supplementing it with unique digital artwork, featuring 1/1, 10/10 and 100/100 pieces.
A financial adviser by trade, the lucky holder of the ball never quite envisioned this when he made certain to hold onto the piece six years back. Though the entire digital landscape is a slippery slope of sorts, the rickety bridge that led us to this moment was typified by every piece of Shuster’s story, right down to his initial interaction with the baseball.
One hair different, and the ball nestles in someone else’s glove — or, worse, gets chucked back onto the field with impunity. After all, we’re at Fenway Park.
“There was another kid, when I caught it, who kind of had his hands on my hands,” Shuster recounted. “When I got back after I declined all the Yankees’ offers and sat back down, he says, ‘Thank God you caught that ball. I would’ve thrown it back and I would’ve felt like the biggest idiot.’ Meanwhile, I’d literally come prepared to catch the ball when I came to the game. I’d studied A-Rod’s patterns.”
From a stray Rodriguez pinch-hitting appearance in the eighth inning of an early May game to now, when Shuster is beating MLB to the punch in terms of jumping into the digital tornado kicked up by NBA Top Shot, the two have come a long way together.
And though the late-April launch of this auction likely won’t include a collaboration between the parties, don’t ultimately rule it out.
“Yes, we would love to link [Rodriguez] into the project,” Shuster assured. “Not only for marketing reasons, but…he probably doesn’t look at it this way, but he and I share a moment.”