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Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.

Christian Lopez did the right thing

Christian Lopez of Highland Mills, N.Y., talks about how exciting it was to get Derek's Jeter's 3,000th hit, which was a home run into the leftfield stands Saturday at Yankee Stadium. Lopez played football at St. Lawrence University and said holding on to the ball after it came into the stands was akin to covering a fumble. Videojournalists: Mario Gonzalez and Jim McIsaac (July 9, 2011)

Two days after Derek Jeter produced an indelible Yankee Stadium moment, the talk of the town was not Player No. 2 but Fan No. 1, a 23-year-old named Christian Lopez whose story dominated New York sports talk radio Monday.

And why not? None of us personally can relate to what Jeter did in hitting a home run for his 3,000th career hit, then driving in the winning run for the Yankees with his fifth hit of the game.

Every one of us can relate to Lopez, and imagine what we would do upon finding ourselves in possession of a baseball worth anywhere from $150,000 to $250,000, perhaps more. 

Most fans, even those who laud Lopez’s good intentions in returning the ball to the Yankees without asking to be paid, seem to consider the young man’s act naïve and short-sighted.

What about his college loans? What about his future? What about the fact Jeter didn’t hesitate to hold up the Yankees for an overly generous contract, and that the Yankees don’t hesitate to hold up fans for over-priced tickets, soda and hot dogs?

All legitimate points. But sorry, New York, Lopez was right. And you never can go wrong by doing the right thing.

Here’s a prediction: Lopez will be happier 10 or 20 years from now than the many lottery winners who find themselves more miserable than ever in the wake of their windfalls.

That’s because once basic survival needs are met, there is precious little relationship between money and happiness. Lopez’s seemingly healthy outlook on life will serve him far better than any amount of dough from a wealthy collector would have. 

There is no price tag on a good reputation and positive karma, and Lopez has both going for him. I have a feeling his noble act will benefit him in the end, in ways both intangible and practical.

Imagine a job interviewer sitting across from him, glancing at his resume and remembering that name: Aren’t you the guy who gave Jeter his ball back?

Sure, it’s possible the person across the desk will consider him a well-meaning dope. It’s much more likely the person will say, “You’re hired.” 

Would it be nice if Jeter or the Yankees slipped the guy some cash to help with his loans? Or if Ford, one of Jeter’s sponsors, gave him a shiny new vehicle and put him in a TV commercial with the Captain? Sure, and there would be no reason for Lopez to turn that sort of thing down, much as he rightly accepted the free tickets and souvenirs the Yankees already have sent his way.

But if nothing more comes of this other than Lopez enjoying some sweet seats at the Stadium with his pals come late October – and a weekend he never will forget – so be it. He’ll be just fine. But thank you for your input, everyone.

Tags: yankees , derek jeter , christian lopez

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