Year after son's death, Tigers fan who caught Pujols baseball keeps things in perspective
Detroit — A lot of folks simply don't get it.
They just can't grasp how Ely Hydes could turn down a treasure trove of man-cave greatness — an autographed Albert Pujols baseball, a Pujols jersey, a Mike Trout jersey and a Miguel Cabrera jersey, everything but the Comerica Park ferris wheel, practically, not to mention a meet-and-greet with Pujols, the future Hall-of-Famer — in exchange for a historic baseball he never had any plans to sell, despite a first offer, on the spot, of $5,000, and another a day later for $25,000.
So let's put this in perspective.
"I value experiences," said Hydes, the 33-year-old Wayne State law student who lucked into Pujols' 2,000th RBI at Comerica Park last Thursday. "And memories."
Hydes always has been that way, though, truth be told, memories have never meant more to him than they do today — not even one year after the death of Hydes' only child, Cy Maloney, who was 21 months old when he died suddenly last June 11.
While visiting family in New Jersey, Cy developed an infection that essentially stopped his body from producing white blood cells. Within 48 hours of first noticing something was wrong, Cy was gone.
Hydes called it a "freak accident," though now has no problem opening up about it.
Cy was Ely's baseball buddy. The two attended about 25 games in his short life; ushers at Comerica Park last Thursday instantly recognized the fan who caught the Pujols ball as that Tigers fan who always was walking around the park with his young son, chatting with ballpark staff about this and that.
One usher even came up to him last week and, not knowing, asked how Cy was doing.
"This was one of the first games I've been to since he died," Ely said Wednesday in a sitdown interview with The News. "It's just emotional. Me and my wife went to a White Sox game like a month after he died, and we stayed for about six pitches.
"And we were like, 'Let's get out of here. Screw it.'"
Hydes and two of his Peace Corps pals made a return to Comerica Park for last week's series finale between the Los Angeles Angels and Tigers, and they had barely arrived at their seats in the left-field grandstands before Pujols hit the home run that would go into the history books.
Amazingly, as Hydes was heading to his seats, he noticed the name of his usher.
"I've never met another Cy before," Hydes said. "It's just a really cool coincidence."
Young Cy's life was short, but his love for baseball was plenty evident — even as an infant, and into his young toddler stage.
"It sounds stupid, because he wasn't even 2, but Cy loved baseball. He would play it, he would watch it, he would light up around it," Hydes said. "I took him to all those games, and never had to leave a game early.
"How many 6-month-olds would never leave a game early? And a few were night games, and he'd be awake the entire time.
"He really loved it."
Ely grew up in a baseball family — his dad owned a card shop — and traveled to ballparks across the country with his family, but he never was as into it as his dad and brothers. He said it felt forced. But in his 20s, he finally got the itch, and he became an avid fan of the game, so much that, yes, Cy is named after legendary pitcher Cy Young.
OK, Cy Young's first name actually was Denton, Ely points out, but he and wife Lauren Maloney much preferred Cyrus — who had his mother's last name because, said Hydes, "I'm a big, weird hippie that does (expletive) like that."
Ely and Lauren are expecting their second child "any day now," and plan to adopt a third down the road. There'll be more experiences, which can't hold a candle to things.
Now, maybe you get it — you get why Hydes doesn't want autographs or jerseys or money, but rather memories. He'll always know he caught that baseball. And years from now, he might just get to have the memory of driving to Cooperstown and seeing on display the baseball he caught, the first he ever caught at a ballgame.
In fact, Wednesday, the National Baseball Hall of Fame called and said they would love to have the ball; and while the ball isn't officially authenticated, you can be sure it's the real ball, because of the greenish-blueish smudge from where it crashed into the seats.
Hydes originally thought of giving the ball to his brother, a big fan of Pujols' first team, the St. Louis Cardinals, or maybe his new child, but he felt like that would be selfish. He wants others to see the ball, and so he plans to possibly hand-deliver the ball to the Hall of Fame on a road trip to Cooperstown with some family (Pujols, gracious in reacting to Hydes' original decision, has said he no longer wants it).
There's one other possibility: Hydes might consider giving the ball to a charity, perhaps even Kirk Gibson's Parkinson's foundation, which could auction it off at its annual fundraiser in October.
Gibson invited Hydes to meet with him in a letter last week in which Gibson said, in part, "Thank you for standing up for yourself, being your own man and doing what you feel is the right (thing) to do. You caught it. You keep it. That's the rule in my ballpark."
Hydes originally kept the ball, in large part, because he felt like he was overly pressured by Tigers' staff to quickly give it up to Pujols. A "soft sell," Hydes said, and he probably gives it up on the spot. (The Tigers have disputed his account.)
Instead, Hydes left the ballpark with his buddies and his baseball, slept on it — while the story went viral, media outlets from coast to coast, plus Hebrew National hot dogs, trying to track him down — and within 24 hours he ultimately decided it wasn't for him nor was it his to profit from.
It's an admirable disposition, if one you simply can't wrap your head around.
"I'm comfortable, I'm in a place in my life to not give a (expletive)," he said. "I'm not a hero."
Just a dad, looking to make some more memories.