Change of heart: Fan plans to give baseball to Albert Pujols; wants no money

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Ely Hydes, center, with buddies Sterling Carter, left, and John Shina, right.

Detroit — Ely Hydes just wanted a moment to collect himself and give it some thought, and the Tigers' staff didn't give him that. And so, said Hydes, that is the reason why he walked out of Comerica Park on Thursday afternoon with the baseball representing Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols' 2,000th career RBI.

One day later, given some time to think it over, Hydes said he has changed his mind. He plans to give the ball to Pujols or the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

"I slept on it," Hydes told The Detroit News over the phone on Friday night. "All I ever wanted was to sleep on it. I slept on it and I woke up and I think (Pujols) is a class act.

"He's not my player, he's not my guy, I don't deserve the ball.

"I reconsidered. One-hundred percent, I'm either going to give it to Pujols or to the Hall of Fame."

And before you ask, no, this isn't a cash grab.

"I don't want any money," Hydes said.

Hydes, who attended Thursday's game with two buddies he met in the Peace Corps, caught Pujols' third-inning home run. He didn't immediately know the significance of the home run until the Tigers PA announcer made an announcement that Pujols had become the third official member of MLB's 2,000-RBI club, and also when ballpark security immediately began to swarm him.

The Tigers' security staff wanted the ball for Pujols, and made one offer after another — negotiations started with a Pujols signed ball and ended with a Pujols signed ball, jersey, meet-and-greet and some memorabilia from Tigers star Miguel Cabrera.

Hydes turned all that down, in large part, he said, because he felt the Tigers were pressuring him to turn the ball over. A "hard sell," Hydes said.

The Tigers disputed that Thursday, and again Friday in a statement from vice president of communications Ron Colangelo, who was not present for the interactions between Hydes and Tigers staff on Thursday.

"We spoke with members from the Comerica Park operations and security staffs that had contact with the guest, and we have no doubt that our staff conducted themselves in a professional manner when speaking with the guest," Colangelo said Friday. "After generous offers of both Angels and Tigers autographed memorabilia, including a meet-and-greet with Albert Pujols, our staff informed the guest that a decision needed to be reached as the Angels would be leaving the ballpark soon after the game ended.

"The guest decided he wanted to keep the ball, and our staff left the area."

Hydes originally thought he might give the ball to his brother, a lifelong fan of the St. Louis Cardinals (Pujols’ first team), or Ely's soon-to-be-born child.

He never did decide; he just knew he was going to hold on to the ball — the first ball he's ever caught at a major-league game — because, he felt, the Tigers' staff tried too hard to get him to give up the ball.

The Tigers staff, Hydes said, told him repeatedly they couldn't authenticate the ball — balls into the stands can't be officially authenticated because of chain-of-custody concerns — and therefore the ball was worthless on the open market. That pitch backfired, as Hydes felt insulted that they assumed it was all about the money to him.

Hydes, though, was impressed after the game — a 13-0 Angels win over the Tigers — when Pujols was very gracious, saying it was Hydes' right to keep the baseball.

And that seemed to sway Hydes' decision, and he's trying to reach out to Pujols to find a way to get him the ball.

Meanwhile, the whole ordeal has netted Hydes some impressive attention and also some swag, too. He made a comment in The Detroit News article Thursday about his love of Hebrew National hot dogs, and Hebrew National was so appreciative, it is sending him a summer's supply of dogs, plus other swag, including a company softball-team jersey.

"I was high on adrenaline," Hydes said Friday, looking back on the whole ordeal, which led to dozens of interview requests — local and national — and at least one Angels fan reaching out to offer him $25,000 for the ball. "I caught a baseball, and I walked out."

Twitter: @tonypaul1984