Kansas City Royals

Royals fan does his homework and finds an inexpensive piece of history

The ball that Royals catcher Salvador Perez hit for a groundout that allowed Eric Hosmer to score the tying run in Game 5 of the World Series is on display at the team’s Hall of Fame at Kauffman Stadium.
The ball that Royals catcher Salvador Perez hit for a groundout that allowed Eric Hosmer to score the tying run in Game 5 of the World Series is on display at the team’s Hall of Fame at Kauffman Stadium. jledford@kcstar.com

The ball’s hologram number was JB044155.

And perhaps only a Royals fan could have known its significance based on a rather vanilla description.

Days after the 2015 World Series ended, Major League Baseball had identified the baseballs used during the postseason that it would put up for auction on its website. This is big business for the league, which saw a top bid of $19,200 for Alcides Escobar’s home-run ball in Game 1.

Hundreds of postseason baseballs that didn’t end up on the league site were sold through The Highland Mint, which among other things distributes collectibles from the major professional sports leagues.

Royals fan Rick Lucas of Overland Park is not a big memorabilia collector. But having received an email from The Highland Mint, he decided to peruse the list of balls available for purchase.

“I’m guessing there were between 150 and 200 baseballs on the spreadsheet, and you really got nothing in the way of the description,” Lucas recalled. “You got the inning, here’s who pitched, who the batter was and the ball was in the dirt or whatever it may be.”

Then Lucas saw JB044155 and this description:

Session Name: 2015 WORLD SERIES GAME 5 KC@NYM

Session Date: November 1, 2015

Additional Information: BATTER — SALVADOR PEREZ, PITCHER — JEURYS FAMILIA, TOP OF 9, GROUND OUT

Lucas did a double-take. Wasn’t that the ball Mets first baseman Lucas Duda threw away as Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer dashed home to tie Game 5 of the 2015 World Series?

“That’s all it said,” Lucas said. “They don’t have any pricing for the ball, but I asked Highland Mint for prices of that ball and four or five others as a decoy.”

The asking price: $1,500.

“As soon as I saw the price, I knew they didn’t know what they had,” he said. “A minute later I’m on the phone with The Highland Mint.”

The transaction was processed, and Lucas’ credit card was charged.

Funny thing, though, is he didn’t receive the ball or even a notice of shipping confirmation for a week. Lucas then checked his credit card statement, and the transaction had been canceled 24 hours after his purchase.

Lucas emailed The Highland Mint and received this response: “MLB has said that ball was no longer for sale to anyone.”

“Well, I knew what was going on,” Lucas said. “I looked at the database again and it has been appended. Now it reads everything from before plus: ‘Eric Hosmer scores tying run on errant throw by Lucas Duda.’”

He pressed The Highland Mint to fulfill its part of the deal.

“Honestly, I thought there was no chance of getting the ball at that point,” Lucas said. “But two or three days later, I heard from them, and they did honor the original transaction.”

After receiving the prized possession, Lucas emailed Curt Nelson, director of the Royals Hall of Fame, and asked if he could loan the ball to the exhibit. Nelson quickly agreed.

The ball is on display next to the third-base bag from which Hosmer made his memorable dash.

“Rick Lucas and his family have loaned that particular baseball to the Royals Hall of Fame for the 2016 season to be part of our World Series exhibit,” Nelson wrote in an email. “We are very grateful they are sharing that little piece of Royals history with us and their fellow Royals fans this year.”

Lucas said having the ball on display in the Hall of Fame was a no-brainer.

“I don’t collect. I’m a history buff and obviously a huge Royals fan,” Lucas said. “To me, that was the sweet spot. The ball represented a piece of Royals history and in a larger context, it’s a piece of Major League Baseball history.

“I’m happy that it’s in a place it can be seen. Who knows where it’s going to end up? It’s too early to know if that will stay with us in the family. Ultimately, I would love to see it in some permanent capacity with the Royals. That’s where I think it belongs. My personal feeling is I don’t own the ball. I’m a curator, as it were. I’m a temporary caretaker of the ball that ultimately belongs to the fans of Kansas City.”

Dyson begins assignment – Jarrod Dyson cleared another hurdle Wednesday in his recovery from a strained oblique muscle, hitting live batting practice for the second straight day during an off-day workout at Kauffman Stadium. He reported no issues from either session.

“We’ll just see how it goes the next few days,” Dyson said of his impending rehab assignment, likely at Triple-A Omaha. “I’m looking forward to getting out of here in the next few days.”

Dyson strained his right oblique in the Royals’ spring training opener on March 2. He was diagnosed with a grade-2 strain and was expected to miss at least six weeks. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list earlier this week, retroactive to March 25. He is eligible to return Saturday.

“It’s about that time,” Dyson said. “Vacation is over for me.”

Dyson said he did not know how long he would stay on the rehab assignment. The duration will be dictated by his health, he said, but he may also require extra reps at the plate after missing nearly the entire spring training schedule.

“When you’ve been around for a little while, it don’t take as long,” Dyson said. “I’ve been around the game for a while, it don’t take much for me.”

Dyson was expected to begin the season as the Royals’ starter in right field, where he would share time with Paulo Orlando. His injury opened a spot for Reymond Fuentes, who started the Royals’ first two games, and pinch-runner Terrance Gore. When Dyson returns, he will likely replace Gore on the 25-man roster.

Zimmer stays in Surprise – Top pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer remains in extended spring training after experiencing some “arm fatigue,” assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said.

Zimmer is expected to continue throwing side sessions in a controlled environment as club officials inspect his progress. Picollo said there was no specific timetable for his departure from the Royals’ complex in Surprise, Ariz.

“He’s truly day to day,” Picollo said in a text message. “As long as he’s comfortable, we will move him forward. but it’s tough to put a time frame on it.”

The source of the issue is Zimmer’s shoulder, which caused some fatigue and resulted in his pace being “slowed up,” Picollo said. Zimmer allowed one earned run in six innings over three appearances at big-league spring training. He was optioned to Omaha on March 14 as part of a flurry of other roster moves, and he finished the spring in minor-league camp.

The Royals were hopeful that Zimmer could begin the season in the starting rotation at Omaha. For now, that plan is on hold. For Zimmer, 24, it is a minor setback but also a vexing one. Since being drafted with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Zimmer has been beset by injuries. He underwent an elbow cleanout after the 2012 season. He strained his latissimus dorsi muscle in May 2014 and pitched only 42/3 innings that season. After the 2014 season, he underwent a minor shoulder operation to remove damaged tissue from his rotator cuff.

But Zimmer finished the 2015 season with a clean bill of health and arrived at spring training in an optimistic mood. Club officials hoped Zimmer would position himself for an arrival in Kansas City at some point in 2016. His ceiling remains among the highest of all pitchers in the Royals’ organization.

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