During the bottom of the second inning of June 17's game between the Hillsboro Hops and visiting Eugene Emeralds, Hops third baseman Jordan Parr strolled to the plate with one out and a runner on first. Moments later, a memorable milestone ensued.
"I got a fastball inside and turned on it. I knew I hit it pretty well," said Parr, when asked to describe this at-bat some six weeks later. "I was pumped about it, pumped that I got a quality at-bat."
But this was more than just a quality at-bat. Parr hit Jeffrey Enloe's offering over the left field fence, thereby creating an occasion that was doubly momentous: not only was this Parr's first professional home run, it was also the first home run ever hit at brand-new Hillsboro Ballpark (the Hops, Class A Short-Season affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, relocated from Yakima following the 2012 season).
"Obviously, the first home run ball in franchise history is pretty neat, but I don't know what we'd do with it long term," said Hops general manager K.L. Wombacher. "We were going to give it to Jordan Parr. ... I'm always big on that -- we have a lot of first-year players and we love getting them their first professional home run balls, because it's a lot more special to them than it would ever be for us."
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. In order to give the ball to Parr, the Hops first had to get it from the 15-year-old fan who had retrieved it on the left field berm. Acting on the advice of his father, this young fan turned down an offer of a team-signed ball in exchange for Parr's home run ball. The Hops upped the ante to include a team-signed ball, hat and bat, but this offer was also rejected.
That's when Wombacher, who had previously been relaying his negotiation instructions to a co-worker via walkie-talkie, got directly involved. He walked to the left field berm area, introduced himself to the young fan, and upped the ante even further: a pair of season tickets, in addition to everything else that had already been offered.
"The kid was pretty impressed, I think," said Wombacher. "His mom was there and the people around him were like, 'Hey, that's pretty cool!' But just about that time the dad walked back from wherever he was, walked back into the situation, and had me repeat the offer. He said, 'Oh, that's still not good enough. We want to have four club season tickets for the rest of the season, so that our whole family can come to every game.'"
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"I said, 'You know, that's a little too rich for our blood. We're just giving this ball to Jordan Parr. It's his first professional home run, but we can't give up the farm for it.'"
"It's that or nothing," was the father's reply, and Wombacher chose the latter option.
"I said, 'Okay, congratulations on getting the ball. I hope it means a lot to you guys.' And then I walked away."
Parr eventually found out about the turmoil surrounding his first home run, but in a roundabout way. John Canzano, a sportswriter for The Oregonian, recapped the saga as part of his article on the Hops' home opener, and Canzano's write-up soon caught the attention of Yahoo!'s widely-read "Big League Stew" blog.
"No one from the Hops even told me what happened," said Parr. "But I had a bunch of friends from home and friends from school tweeting at me about how it was on the Yahoo! Sports' front page or something… I just thought it was really funny that the kid had those kinds of bargaining skills, but it turns out that they weren't so good because I don't think he got anything."
Indeed, he didn't.
"Once the game was over we pretty much called it a done deal because at this point there's no way for us to prove that it's the right ball," said Wombacher. "It's too bad because we had an MLB authenticator there that day. ... If he'd have been able to authenticate it, that would have been neat.
"We had tried to explain throughout the negotiating process that this wasn't Barry Bonds' 700th home run," he continued. "It's not like this ball has a worth to it -- it's more of a sentimental thing."
But Parr, for his part, doesn't seem to mind that his souvenir shelf will forever be lacking that first home run ball.
"It's funny, a quirky story, something that I can joke about later on in my life," he said. "But I'll never look back and regret not getting that ball, or be resentful of that kid. I'm happy for him, glad that he had a good time and got some press. But at the end of the day, I'm just grateful to be here."
Going forward, then, this story should serve as a cautionary tale for souvenir-scooping Minor League fans who may be inclined to drive a hard bargain.
"I think a team-signed ball is more than adequate," said Wombacher, regarding what he considers to be a proper first home run ball exchange rate. "I think it's cool for kids to get home run balls; that's the reason we have outfield concourses. But at the end of the day, it's not worth much more than the cost of a baseball."