The couple who returned Ohtani’s 100 million home run ball in a tough atmosphere… “Where is the fan love?” – Chosun Ilbo VRESP

It has been claimed that the process of recovering the home run ball that Shohei Ohtani (30), a Japanese baseball genius who doubles as a pitcher, hit for the first time after moving to the Los Angeles Dodgers was carried out in a hostile atmosphere. The Dodgers fan who caught this home run ball confessed that the team’s immature response turned a dreamlike moment into a nightmare.

Shohei Ohtani hitting his first home run after moving to the Dodgers. /AFP Yonhap News

On the 5th, The Athletic, an American sports media outlet, reported the story of Alexis Valenzuela (male) and Amba Roman (female), a couple who donated Ohtani’s home run ball to the Dodgers. Roman told The Athletic, “I couldn’t help but feel pressured during the process of retrieving the home run ball. The security guards separated me and my husband and virtually forced me to answer about donating the home run ball and receiving a gift in return.”

The story is like this. In the 2024 Major League Baseball (MLB) home game against the San Francisco Giants held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California on the previous day (the 4th), Ohtani crossed the right-center wall with no runners and two outs in the 7th inning with the team leading 4-3. He hit a large home run with a distance of 131 meters. It was the first home run of the 2024 season that Ohtani, who left the LA Angels in December of last year and signed a 10-year $700 million (approximately KRW 946 billion) contract with the Dodgers, the largest contract in world sports history, hit in the opening 9 games. The local U.S. media gave special attention to Ohtani’s first home run after transferring to the Dodgers.

Roman, who was in the stands, overcame fierce competition to catch Ohtani’s iconic home run ball, considered the most famous baseball player in the world. He said that he looked at his feet amidst great cheers and there was a ball right there. He, who said he is a long-time Dodgers fan, said, “Every time he comes to the ballpark, he always wants to catch the ball. “But I never imagined I would catch such a monumental ball.”

Dodger Stadium. /Reuters News1

But the dream-like moment immediately turned into a nightmare. According to the couple, shortly after catching the ball, more than a dozen security guards surrounded Roman and said they would “return the favor (for donating the ball)” before escorting her and her husband to a separate area. Other fans around him reportedly advised him to “negotiate well” and “don’t give in easily.” The two had to move separately. Roman claimed that during the negotiation process, the club said, “If you just take the baseball, the club will refuse to certify that the ball is Ohtani’s home run ball.”

Typically, a monumental home run ball is returned through a ‘negotiation’ between the club and the spectator who caught the ball. If a spectator refuses to return the ball, the club may have the option of not ‘authenticating’ the ball. If this happens, the value of the ball is bound to drop. The Athletic reported that Ohtani’s first home run ball after moving to the Dodgers was worth at least $100,000 (approximately 135 million won), but said, “If the club does not certify it, the value of the ball is bound to drop. “This is where Roman, who caught the Dodgers ball, can feel the pressure,” he explained.

The club initially offered two hats signed by Ohtani as ‘price’ for the donation. Afterwards, additional autograph bats and autograph balls were provided. The couple received this souvenir and gave the home run ball to the Dodgers.

Shohei Ohtani hit a home run. /AP Yonhap News

Regarding the situation in which she was separated from her husband, Roman said, “I think they didn’t want my husband to influence my decisions,” and her husband Valenzuela said, “My wife had to talk (with the club) under pressure and virtually cornered.” He said, “We are not in financial difficulty and we did not try to threaten anyone. I just wanted to be treated appropriately for catching a special ball. The ‘fan love’ emphasized by the Dodgers team was missing at the time. “The attitude towards us was very disappointing,” he pointed out. They say they never even met Otani.

As controversy spread over Ohtani’s first home run ball for the Dodgers, the Dodgers team tried to calm the situation, saying, “We can have other discussions later with the fan who donated the home run ball.”

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About Cyra caroline

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