A 17-year-old caught James Wood’s first HR ball; His story about what happened next!

When you sit in an outfield seat close to the field, your chance of catching a home run ball is like winning on a lotto ticket. Your odds are between slim and none in catching one. But when you do, it can be a special moment. Most fans though don’t see it in terms of monetary value. We all know the stories of Mark McGwire‘s home run ball that sold for $3 million. That is at an extreme. So was Aaron Judge‘s 62nd home run hit in 2022 that sold recently for $1.5 million. The Yankees tried to get Judge’s ball back, but the man that caught it was not as easy to deal with as the teenager who caught James Wood‘s first home run ball.

Home run balls go into bullpens, bounce back onto the field, and a few land into the hands of fans. Cason and his friend Jackson purchased tickets in Section 104 at Nationals Park on Saturday, they did not think that their lives would change when Cason, 17, grabbed Wood’s first home run ball. Before they knew it, Cason told us that a member of the Washington Nationals security team approached them and took them to the top of the section on the concourse where they were met by Greg Monahan, the team’s Director of Public Safety and Security.

All of this was happening so quick, and according to Cason, Monahan asked what he wanted for the ball. The teenager said he asked for an autographed Wood jersey, bat, ball and some tickets. Monahan gave Cason his phone number and told him to call him after the game, and Monahan took the home run baseball according to Cason, without signing an agreement or even asking his age.

Much of this happened so fast. Cason’s first thought was of course that Wood should get the baseball back. Cason just finished his junior year at Loudoun County High School. He is not a professional negotiator. He’s a student. A teenager who is barely old enough to drive a car. People told him he should ask for season tickets and a bunch of memorabilia. They spent the rest of the game wondering what would happen after the final out was recorded.

What happened after the game led to no further negotiation for the baseball per Cason. They called Monahan and were told to go to Section 119 and walk down to the field. They went on the field and took some photos then went into a private room off of the clubhouse. There was zero negotiation for Cason’s ball from what he told me. He was given a signed bat and ball and posed for photos with Wood. While the experience was surreal, the teenager said that he did not get what he asked for when he handed the ball to Monahan.

“Fans should get something from the game that could be photomatched like the cleats or batting gloves from the game. Right now, maybe the home run ball is worth $5,000. If he is a Hall of Famer one day, maybe it’s worth $150,000.”

— Darren Rovell of @cllctmedia told us

Rovell’s thoughts seem very reasonable to trade the ball for a piece from the game. Cason wasn’t even asking for that much. Some would ask for much more and have. There is the long story of Shohei Ohtani‘s home run ball this year with the Dodgers and what that fan received. After the public relations blowback from the Ohtani ball handling, the Dodgers said they would work on a policy on how to interact with fans who secure milestone baseballs. After the fact, they seemed to make it right with the fan. That Ohtani baseball was valued at $100,000 by the way.

Cason sat back down in his seat with Jackson in Section 104 to watch the rest of the game after his initial meeting with Monahan. They were already Google searching the HR ball hawk, Zack Hample, who has been in some contentious negotiations over significant baseballs. The teenagers were talking with friends on what they should get for the ball. You would have to think that Hample would have received much more than an autographed ball and a bat — or maybe not.

“I didn’t ask for anything when I caught Mike Trout’s first home run in 2011 because I was too scared of getting bad publicity for being greedy. I did get to meet him, though, and I later learned that the ‘going rate’ for a player’s first homer is usually a signed bat, so if I’d caught the Wood’s ball, I would’ve politely requested [a bat] along with the opportunity to meet him — and hand over the prized spheroid. I think that’s totally reasonable for everyone involved, but when there’s a bigger milestone for a more established player, then the requests can go much bigger.”

— Zack Hample with his thoughts to us

When Trout hit his first home run, it was his 12th career game, and he was struggling with the bat at a .176 batting average. Trout was ranked as the №2 prospect in baseball, and that is because Bryce Harper was ranked ahead of Trout. Right now, Wood is Baseball America‘s №1 prospect. Wood’s home run came in his 6th career game. This is not to say that Wood will have a better career — just giving some facts.

Photo by Cason for TalkNats

The bat that Cason received, appears to be a game used bat from Wood’s minor league days — obviously valuable in the hundreds of dollars to maybe a thousand or two — depending on the history of that bat. But he has no idea as to the provenance of the bat because nobody told him.

Did the Nationals negotiator take advantage of a 17-year-old minor? They took his baseball, and in the end what the teenager received is not what he asked for. If anything, you would think the team would go beyond what he asked for. Monahan didn’t even ask him how old he was or have him sign anything per Cason. When Monahan took the ball from him when they met on the concourse, that was probably a rookie mistake by the teenager. Once the team had the ball, it was kind of over.

Of course a day later there is some seller’s remorse. Cason and Jackson have talked to people and have done more research. Why wouldn’t the team give him the tickets to a future home game and a signed jersey like he asked for? That doesn’t seem excessive for a ball that could be worth thousands of dollars.

Tonight, Cason, Jackson, and their friend Ethan are eating at an Olive Garden in Sterling, Virginia to talk about the wild day yesterday. While Ethan wasn’t with them at the game, he contacted us on Twitter/X to tell us his friend, Cason, caught the baseball — and gave us some of the particulars. Jackson sent us a DM, and that led to this article as Cason called us after the dinner.

After thinking it over, Cason does want Wood to have the baseball — but he does want what he originally told Monahan when he handed over the ball:

  1. A signed Wood jersey
  2. A signed bat
  3. A signed baseball
  4. Tickets to a game

Since Cason got the bat and the ball, does he deserve the tickets and the jersey that he asked for when he turned the baseball over to Monahan? That doesn’t seem to be a big ask for that Wood home run baseball. Feeling bad for Cason, I offered him one of my front row seats in the Red Porch for the Yankees/Nationals game on August 26 — however, he doesn’t think he can go as he is back in school at that time.

Hopefully the Nats see this, and take care of this young man. Invite him back to a game with passes to watch batting practice on the field, and give him a signed Wood 29 jersey. Turn this into the positive that it should be. Of course, this is Cason and his friend Jackson’s account of what happened. Maybe Monahan and the Nats have a different side to this. We forwarded this article to the Nationals for comment. We will update the article if the Nationals want to go on record.

UPDATED July 8, 2024 at 10:30 am EDT : The Nationals just contacted Cason and have offered him tickets to any home game.

UPDATED July 8, 2024 at 11:17 am EDT : The Washington Nationals never responded to our requests by email and voicemail. I personally spoke with Greg Monahan. At the end of the conversation, he referred me to call Valerie Krebs, VP of Communications, for the Washington Nationals. Krebs was emailed, and I called her, and she never responded back.

UPDATED July 8, 2024 at 1:21 pm EDT : Cason informed us that the Washington Nationals will meet him at the game of his choice and present him with a signed James Wood jersey.

This entry was posted in Feature and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.