Cory Youmans was sitting in the front row in right field on Tuesday night for a matchup between the Yankees and the Texas Rangers when he snagged quite the souvenir.
He stretched out his arm with the baseball glove he’d brought to the game and made a clean catch of a home run ball in the first at-bat of the contest.
But this wasn’t just any ball — this was a piece of history.
That ball came off the bat of Aaron Judge, who had just hit his 62nd home run of the season and passed Roger Maris for the American League record, capping a once-in-a-generation year for the pinstriped slugger.
Youmans, who works as a vice president of Fisher Investments, a financial advising firm, was now holding a baseball that could be worth millions of dollars.
“Good question. I haven’t thought about it,” he said, when asked what he planned to do with the ball.
“I don’t know where it’s at,” Judge said of the ball. “We’ll see what happens with that. It would be great to get it back, but that’s a souvenir for a fan. He made a great catch out there, and they’ve got every right to it.”
So what are Youmans’ options, and how much could the ball be worth if he decided to sell?
“It’s a $2 or $2.5 million dollar ball,” said Brandon Steiner, the founder of Steiner Sports, which is now owned by Fanatics.
That seems to be correct, as Youmans has reportedly already been offered $2 million by JP Cohen, the president of Memory Lane Inc. in California.
Steiner has dealt with some of the most valuable sports memorabilia items over the years, and has recently launched a new venture, CollectibleXchange — and he made no secret that this would likely be the most valuable baseball ever sold, should Youmans go that route.
Barry Bonds, who holds the MLB career record with 756 home runs, saw that ball sold in 2007 for $752,000. When Bonds set the single-season record with 73 homers in 2001 that ball sold for $518,000.
Steiner believes that the Judge ball, due to the anticipation, and his doing it while a member of the Yankees, would make Youmans’ newfound souvenir the most valuable ever.
“If it happened on another team, it would not be as big of a deal. But it’s the Yankees,” he said.
“The fact that a private equity guy got it is pretty slick,” he said. “He work’s for a pretty good private equity [firm], which means that he’s probably got some rich friends that will gladly take that ball and pay a premium, while getting the notoriety and everything else that comes with it.”
The obvious way to sell the Judge ball, Steiner said, would be to bring the item to an auction house and let potential buyers bid.
There are other options to capitalize on it, though, according to the memorabilia expert — including creating a non fungible token (NFT) of the ball, which would allow Youmans to split the object into several digital assets, and allow people to own a virtual piece of the ball.
“I think the big play here is: you take the ball, and do some kind of NFT with the ball,” he said. “You do a very inexpensive $61 NFT, for maybe 6,000 people — and that’s a nice chunk of change.”
“And then you can still auction off the real one.”
While the NFT market has slowed after a brief explosion during the pandemic, Steiner said the idea works best when there is a physical object that can be turned into such a digital token.
“It’s a chain of custody. You take that ball, put it on a blockchain, and after a few years it gets passed down and goes up in value — I think there’s certain collectables that could work in an NFT environment.”
Another idea Steiner suggested was a raffle, where the Judge ball’s owner could sell tickets for the chance to win the historic souvenir.
“One of my big ideas also was taking the ball, and getting another 1,000 balls that are autographed by a bunch of Yankees, and one of those 1,000 balls is the Judge ball,” he said. “If you do a couple thousand dollars for a raffle — there’s your $2 million right there.”
Whatever Youmans chooses to do with it, Steiner says that Youmans should be looking to move quickly.
“Do not wait. If the Yankees, God forbid, lose in the first round, it would take a lot of air out of the room.”
No matter what he does, Youmans must be feeling pretty good right about now.