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April 27, 2012

BP Unfiltered

When to Give Away a Baseball

by Sam Miller

I doubt the world needs another piece on whether to give a foul ball to a nearby kid, but I happen to be sitting next to a nearby kid and she would like me to keep earning money for her college fund, so here the heck goes. 

There are nine ways to get a baseball: 

  • Home run that you catch
  • Home run that you pick up
  • Foul ball that you catch
  • Foul ball that you pick up
  • Ball tossed into the stands that you catch
  • Ball tossed into the stands that you pick up
  • Ball handed into the stands by a ball boy
  • Ball hit in batting practice that you catch
  • Ball hit in batting practice that you pick up

Generally, it's nice to put other people first. But there's no real obligation to give somebody something just because they also want that thing, and that goes for grownups, children, etc. However, if that thing is worth considerably more to the other person than it is to you—if it is, for instance, an asthma inhaler, and you don't have ashtma, and the other person is gasping for air—then it does become an ethical obligation. Increasing the amount of happiness in the world. Efficient use of happy-making products. 

So let's go over those nine ways to get a baseball, by the value that they have to you, as an adult: 

  • Home run that you catch: 10
  • Home run that you pick up: 7 or 8, maybe 9
  • Foul ball that you catch: 9
  • Foul ball that you pick up: 3
  • Ball tossed into the stands that you catch: 1
  • Ball tossed into the stands that you pick up: 1
  • Ball handed into the stands by a ball boy: 1
  • Ball hit in batting practice that you catch: 3
  • Ball hit in batting practice that you pick up: 1

And let's go over those nine ways to get a baseball, by the value that they have to a child: 

  • Home run that you catch: 9
  • Home run that you pick up: 9
  • Foul ball that you catch: 9
  • Foul ball that you pick up: 9
  • Ball tossed into the stands that you catch:9
  • Ball tossed into the stands that you pick up: 9
  • Ball handed into the stands by a ball boy: 9
  • Ball hit in batting practice that you catch: 9
  • Ball hit in batting practice that you pick up: 9

This is totally just an opinion, one unimportant man's opinion, and I won't judge you and I'm not judging that couple. I'm sure my mind would go blank and it wouldn't occur to me to give a ball away until four hours later. And there are all sorts of other circumstances where maybe the number you would place on a ball goes way up. If the difference was, say, 7 to you and 9 to the child, I'd say keep it. But it's usually not. Other than a home run, or a batted ball that you actually catch, there is very little reason to value or feel pride in that baseball. You didn't do anything to get the ball, you can't do anything with the ball. So it seems a bit wasteful to pass up the chance to make that kid's day. 

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

Related Content:  Foul Balls

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