Last Wednesday, Marlins' rookie Chris Coghlan hit his first career homerun. He didn't anticipate trouble getting the ball back. Then again, he also didn't anticipate it being caught by professional ballhawk "THE HAPPY YOUNGSTER"!
Unfortunately for Coghlan, his milestone ball was nabbed by Nick Yohanek, a.k.a. The Happy Youngster, a well-known Milwaukee Brewers fan who claims to have caught over 775 balls in his career. When Marlins' officials tried to get this particular ball back from him, they quickly realized they were dealing with a pro.
Yohanek has an extraordinarily detailed account of the whole thing on his website (did you know that every MLB team is supposed to have TWO authenticators on hand at each game? Nick does!). Suffice it to say, it doesn't appear that he's a stranger to bartering for the baseballs he's caught. Nick spoke to EIGHT Marlins' officials (including, for some reason, the team's psychologist), and even had his demands written out for posterity's sake (a Chris Coghlan game bat and signed ball, and a Hanley Ramirez game bat). Finally, Coghlan himself came out to speak with Yohanek. There are two different perspectives on what happened next. Here's Coghlan's:
Coghlan said he gave the fan a signed bat and took a photo with him after Wednesday's game. As Coghlan discovered, that only seemed like a starting point for further negotiations.
"Then he wanted other things that I didn't think (were) fair," Coghlan said.
Coghlan said the fan also asked for tickets to one of the Marlins' upcoming games against the Yankees, along with a ball and signed bat from Coghlan's more famous Marlins teammate, Hanley Ramirez.
"I was trying to be as nice and respectful as I could," Coghlan said. "But I told him he could only get one."
Yohanek said his negotiations for the ball began with several members of the Marlins' staff — and after his request for a Ramirez bat was turned down, he requested tickets not for the Yankees series, but for a Brewers-Marlins series at Florida in June.
"I had wanted to attend this series anyway," Yohanek said. "Considering (Marlins) attendance is barely over 15,000 nightly, I didn't feel like this was too much to ask."
At the end of the ordeal, Yohanek gave Coghlan his ball in exchange for a signed bat, a photo with Coghlan, and tickets to that Marlins-Brewers series. Nick defended his hardline stance as follows:
...some people choose to sell drugs to kids. Some people choose to abuse drugs, themselves. Some people choose to get all liquored up and drive their vehicles. Some people choose to be abusive to their wives and kids. Some people choose to rob, steal and cheat. Some people take the lives of others.
Some people choose to snag baseballs at the ballpark.
For Coghlan's part, he found the experience less than pleasant:
"He wasn't the most polite or respectful guy about the whole process," Coghlan said Thursday. "He told me he goes around a lot and catches these balls and holds them for ransom — even though he doesn't say that he does, it seems that way."
So was Yohanek asking too much? Too little? Who's right? Who's wrong? Can't we all just get along?
Let the debate rage on in the comments.
Marlins rookie blasts fan for holding 1st-homer ball 'ransom' [The Detroit News]
5/13/09 @ Miller Park [The Happy Youngster]