Fan giving Aaron Judge’s 60th HR back to Yankees feels like an inside job


We live in a world where people are completely devoid of loyalty … or are loyal to a fault. But that’s human nature, isn’t it? Perhaps schools in the United States need to start introducing classes on “moderation” to the curriculum. Never did we think we’d have to discuss that when it came to New York Yankees star Aaron Judge’s 60th home run, but here we are.

On Tuesday night, Judge destroyed a solo shot to lead off the bottom of the ninth and begin an unforgettable Yankees rally, tying Babe Ruth’s historic mark. The 430-foot homer went deep into the left field seats and commenced a dogpile of fans in the bleachers to scramble for the piece of history.

In the end, a 20-year-old fan and a group of his buddies came forward with it. Let the bidding war begin!! Or … not? In what was a fairly stunning turn of events, the priceless souvenir was peacefully returned to the Yankees.

Michael Kessler, accompanied by his three friends, surrendered the ball under a few very reasonable conditions: he wanted photos and autographs (balls/bats) from Judge. That’s it!

Why? “Judge means so much to the organization,” Kessler said. “He’s just unbelievable. Just the way he is, he deserved to have the ball back. I have no second thoughts.”

Yankees fan returning Aaron Judge’s 60th home run feels like an inside job

Oh yeah, and then he pleaded for Judge to re-sign with the Yankees … something that isn’t even fully in Judge’s control! Couldn’t we have met in the middle here? Some sports memorabilia experts believe Judge’s potential record-tying and record-breaking homers could be worth in between $1-2 million! Kessler couldn’t have asked for a fat student loan payment? Maybe box seat season tickets for life? $500K straight from Hal’s checkbook? A plaque of himself snagging the ball in Memorial Park?

Though at first glance it seemed Kessler was mobbed at the bottom of the dogpile in the video above, he mentioned after the game that he managed to slide away before being eaten alive by the chaos. Whew. Had he gone through any extreme physical strain to fight off countless drunk fans and returned the ball without a standoff, that would’ve been viewed as bizarrely subservient.

OK, after watching that, it still is! Yankees fans understand Judge’s importance to the franchise, but this ball wasn’t necessarily for Judge. In the end, it might be, but usually this type of milestone memorabilia is reserved for the team/league. And even if it does go to Judge, the slugger wouldn’t be footing the bill to get the ball back! His employer would be doing just that. Make it hard on The Man, dammit!

In the end, snagging some autographed balls and bats from Judge isn’t the worst deal of all time … but it’s also nothing overly unique or grand when putting it side by side with the physical piece of history. Judge-autographed memorabilia will be aplenty for years to come. Sure, they’ll accrue value over time and Kessler’s “investment” will only appreciate, but it still feels misplaced to display this type of loyalty to the Yankees regardless if that was the intent or not.

Judge is a nice guy and Yankees fans love him, but most wouldn’t hesitate to rightfully take a few bucks/perks from a $7 billion organization that’s largely left fans depressed over the last two-plus decades because of ownership/decision-making ineptitude. It’s a literal once-in-a-lifetime occurrence that could be tastefully taken advantage of, and the grand prize of autographs could’ve been a secondary bargaining chip in the negotiations, with a reward much bigger on the horizon should even a minor holdout have taken place.

Next up at 11: Is Hal Steinbrenner placing obedient members/affiliates of the Yankees organization in the stands for Aaron Judge’s 60th-however many home runs so the balls are returned without absurd demands attached? Our news team has the latest.