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Inside the Auction for Aaron Judge’s 62nd Home Run Ball

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Photo by Daiji Umemoto on Unsplash
Hear from lucky ball-catcher Cory Youmans and collectibles mogul Ken Goldin about the story behind the story of Judge’s record-setting No. 62 ball — and the millions it will command at auction.

On a mild, gray, damp Wednesday morning, New York City’s most exclusive enclave was at Madison Square Garden.

Through a side entrance, down a red carpet-lined hallway, through a metal detector, and up an escalator, MSG’s JP Morgan Club hosted media members, select high net worth individuals, and one of the most prized collectibles of the last several years. Inside a tall glass case was the ball New York Yankees superstar Aaron Judge knocked out of Texas’ Globe Life Field on Oct. 4 for his 62nd home run of the 2022 season, breaking Roger Maris’ 61-year-old American League record.

As Judge agreed to a nine-year, $360 million contract to stay a Yankee this week, breaking another record, the famous ball on display hit the auction block, where it will stay through Dec. 17.

Cory Youmans, the man who caught Judge’s historic blast, entered the club at about noon with his wife, Bri Amaranthus, to chat with collectibles and memorabilia mogul Ken Goldin — whose eponymous company is tasked with overseeing the bidding — select media members, and assorted high rollers who will soon make the Dallas-based couple millionaires.

On Oct. 4, Youmans left work a few minutes early from his job as a vice president at Fisher Investments to drive to Arlington for the second game of a doubleheader between the Rangers and Yankees. He arrived 20-30 minutes before the 6:07 local time first pitch and grabbed a beer and a cheeseburger at the ballpark for dinner.

More importantly, he decided to bring a baseball glove to the game.

“I’m a little bit embarrassed to be glove-to-the-park guy. I’d never caught a ball at a game,” Youmans told Boardroom. “My buddies were like, ‘dude, if you’re going to take your glove to the park for one day, this is the game.’ I remember walking in and looking over my shoulder a little bit embarrassed, but I’m glad I did.”

It had been five games since Judge went deep against Toronto for No. 61, an eternity when the tides of history can turn on any pitch. With Texas eliminated and New York firmly in the playoffs, the game was meaningless — other than to watch Judge lead off the first inning against Jesus Tinoco.

“It’d been a while since I’ve been at a baseball game with that much energy,” Youmans said. “Every single pitch, there was this excitement knowing that at any second, it could be the moment.”

Youmans heard the booming crack of the bat on Tinoco’s 1-1 pitch, but didn’t see where it was headed until he noticed it sailed way over Rangers shortstop Corey Seager’s head. As the ball rocketed toward the left field seats as a no-doubt dinger, Youmans knew he had just two choices: catch the ball or get out of the way.

“I brought my glove. Here I am. Let’s go make a play on it,” he said. “I have this fear already of being on the SportsCenter ‘Not Top 10.’ So if I’m close to this thing and it bounces out of my glove and it falls or I get close to it and some other guys catches it, I’m gonna have to explain that to all my buddies. They would never let me live it down. So, once you go for it, you gotta catch that sucker and bring it home.”

After a few minutes of pats on the back and well-wishes from fans on catching the record-setting ball, Youmans was whisked away by Rangers security through the bowels of the stadium, making sure he was safe and away from danger. His first call was to Amaranthus, who told him to come home.

On his way out, he told media members his name in the excitement of the moment. In nearly no time at all, the world found his phone number; he started receiving interview requests from as far away as South Korea.

“After the game got over, it did get a little scary,” Youmans said. “Our address started floating online and I just wanted to be home with my wife.”

The couple lives in a Dallas apartment building and people were hanging around outside, making it difficult to tell who was supposed to be there and who was lurking.

“I remember my heart was pounding,” Youmans said. “I had adrenaline flowing through my body and there was a period where the excitement of the moment transitioned to making sure that we’re safe.”

Cory and Bri packed up their dog and crashed with friends for a couple of days before the buzz died down. While Youmans said he regrets giving the media his name, Amaranthus was sure people would’ve found out eventually. The next major question in their lives was obviously what they were going to do with the ball. Youmans said he didn’t want to be a distraction to Judge’s season, and waited until his playoff run ended before really going through the decision-making process.

There were so many options on the table, from selling the ball privately to keeping it, donating it, giving it to Judge, or auctioning it.

“This was the single most sought-after item of 2022,” Ken Goldin, Goldin’s founder, told Boardroom. “I was competing against five or six individual private buyers and every major auction house — not just sports auction houses, but companies like Sotheby’s and Christie’s also were interested in auctioning the ball.”

Ultimately, Youmans wanted to do something with this instantly iconic Aaron Judge 62nd home run ball that was fair and transparent.

“I had to come to grips with the fact there was not going to be a decision that I could make that was going to make everybody happy,” he said, “so I tried to account for as many factors and people as I could and ultimately do what we thought was right.”

Auctioning the ball felt like the most transparent route while additionally helping the young couple save up to buy their first home.

“Anybody that has the means and is interested in buying the ball with an auction can do that,” Youmans said. “Of course, the money is a factor, so we talked about that as well and we tried to do what we thought was fair for baseball fans, fair for our family. This felt the most right.”

The couple’s attorney fielded pitches from all the major auction houses. Goldin won out based on its marketing plan and industry reputation.

So, how much is Aaron Judge’s 62nd home run ball worth in real, not-just-hypothetical terms?

“I can never guarantee a specific price,” Goldin said, “but what I can guarantee through the media and promotion that we do for our network of high net worth bidders is that anybody on the face of the planet who wishes to place a bid on this ball will know it is up for auction.”

Notably, Judge re-signing with the Yankees increases the value of the ball, Goldin said, because the home run is a Yankee record and the American League MVP is now under contract with the team through age 40.

“And I now have another bidder,” Goldin added, “because if you remember, he said that the ball was out of his price range.”

For context, Goldin shared the story of the auction for the Michael Jordan wore during Game 1 of the 1998 NBA Finals — he said he knew the seller, who was expecting $2-3 million. All told, the jersey sold in September for $10.1 million, a record for any MJ collectible memorabilia item. Meanwhile, the ball Mark McGwire hit in 1998 for his 70th home run sold later that year for $3 million, still a record number for a game-used baseball.

“We are certainly hopeful that this will break that record,” Goldin said. “If we get the right people bidding and they want bragging rights, you never know if we’re going to see $5 million-plus.”

Goldin said he’d never had a seven-figure opening bid for an item other than a T-206 Honus Wagner, generally acknowledged as the holy grail of baseball cards; as of Wednesday morning, the Judge ball already had five bidders and Goldin is hoping for 20-plus suitors. One interested party already has a collection Goldin values at well over $100 million. Other diehard collectors, investors, speculators, or even individuals acting in concert with Judge himself or the Baseball Hall of Fame are very much considered in the hunt as well.

Youmans was raised by his grandfather, a blue-collar welder, who delayed his retirement so he would be able to pay for a private high school education. That helped Youmans become the first member of his family to attend college. Part of the proceeds from the ball, he said, will go to his grandfather to make sure that if he decided to move from Missouri to Oregon, he’ll be able to keep his shop and continue his passion for working on classic cars.

As for himself, even after the hammer falls and the ball sells, Youmans wants to find the security guards at Globe Life Field and buy them a round of beers for keeping him safe on that warm Tuesday evening.

And the next time Judge is in Arlington, he’d like the opportunity to shake his hand and congratulate him on such a tremendous accomplishment.

“Just to be a footnote on that one day in Arlington, Texas is really cool feeling,” Amaranthus said. “It’s something we’ll always look back on and think, ‘what are the odds? How did that happen?’ We’ll always really cherish that day.”

Inside the Auction for Aaron Judge’s 62nd Home Run Ball

 

 

 

 

 

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