Dodgers couldn’t avoid drama even with Shohei Ohtani’s 1st HR ball

There is a very established process when a fan catches a milestone home run, such as Shohei Ohtani’s first homer with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The ball legally belongs to the fan, who is quickly escorted from their seat so team officials can speak with them and work out what it will take for the fan to part with the ball. Sometimes, all it takes is a little signed memorabilia; other times, cold hard cash. Crucially, it is within the fan’s rights to take the ball and go home.

This practice goes back decades, but the Dodgers couldn’t avoid unnecessary drama when it happened with Ohtani’s homer on Thursday.

The fan who caught Ohtani’s home run ball is a married, lifelong Dodgers fan named Ambar Roman, and she and her husband didn’t sound very happy while speaking with The Athletic about how they were treated by the Dodgers after the home run ball ended up in her hands.

As Roman tells the story, she was escorted from the stands, separated from her husband and pressured into giving up the ball for next-to-nothing. She ultimately exchanged the ball for two signed hats, a signed ball and a signed bat. An auction house told The Athletic that the ball would be worth at least $100,000.

As Roman’s husband, Alexis Valenzuela, put it:

“They really took advantage of her,” Valenzuela said. “There were a bunch of (security) guys around her. They wouldn’t let me talk to her or give her any advice. There was no way for us to leave. They had her pretty much cornered in the back.”

The Dodgers allegedly threatened to refuse to authenticate the ball if Roman decided to take it home, which would’ve made the ball effectively worthless and taken away her ability to sell it later. Of course, it also would’ve meant the Dodgers having to explain to their $700 million player that he wasn’t getting his first Dodgers home run ball because they didn’t want to part with, say, a few thousand dollars.

How did Shohei Ohtani’s first home run become a bad story for the Dodgers? (Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This process usually ends with the fan meeting the player, but even that wound up being a point of contention. Roman and Valenzuela told The Athletic that they never met Ohtani, despite his claims to the contrary after the game:

“I was able to talk to the fan, and was able to get it back,” Ohtani said through interpreter Will Ireton. “Obviously it’s a very special ball, a lot of feelings toward it, I’m very grateful that it’s back.”

The Dodgers reportedly declined to address Roman’s and Valenzuela’s grievances beyond a statement saying they were “open to a further conversation.”

Given that Ohtani’s willingness to tell the truth is already a central part of one of the biggest stories of the season, his getting caught in an apparent lie over something as trivial as meeting a fan can’t be ignored.

In total, this was a bizarre and completely avoidable story for the Dodgers in a year when they already had enough bizarre and completely avoidable stories. It’s also an important reminder for fans to know their rights if they ever catch a meaningful ball. Teams might threaten to not authenticate the ball, but you have to remember that’s going to cost them, too.

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