MILWAUKEE -- The joy Florida Marlins rookie Chris Coghlan felt after hitting his first major league home run was tempered slightly by the hardball negotiations he went through to reclaim the souvenir.
Coghlan's home run was caught Wednesday night by a Milwaukee Brewers fan who refers to himself as "The Happy Youngster" and claims on his blog to have caught nearly 50 homers.
And while Coghlan said the fan was willing to give the ball back, the man's original asking price was a lot higher than the Marlins rookie outfielder anticipated.
"He wasn't the most polite or respectful guy about the whole process," Coghlan said Thursday. "He told me he goes around a lot and catches these balls and holds them for ransom -- even though he doesn't say that he does, it seems that way."
But the fan, Nick Yohanek, insisted Coghlan could have been more respectful to him.
"I explained that ballhawking is my hobby and that what I was asking in return was fair," Yohanek said Thursday, in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "I told him I make $50,000 a year working in law enforcement and that I didn't feel like I was asking for too much. He responded, 'Good for you.' Real classy. Way to respect law enforcement. Way to respect a fan."
Players who achieve personal milestones often want to keep the ball as a souvenir, and in all but the most high-profile cases -- such as a record-setting home run ball that might fetch big money at an auction -- it has become standard practice for the player to give the fan who caught it a souvenir such as a signed bat in return.
Coghlan said he gave the fan a signed bat and took a photo with him after Wednesday's game. As Coghlan discovered, that only seemed like a starting point for further negotiations.
"Then he wanted other things that I didn't think [were] fair," Coghlan said.
Coghlan said the fan also asked for tickets to one of the Marlins' upcoming games against the New York Yankees, along with a ball and signed bat from Coghlan's more famous Marlins teammate, Hanley Ramirez.
"I was trying to be as nice and respectful as I could," Coghlan said. "But I told him he could only get one."
Yohanek, who says he has caught a total of 49 home runs, offered a significantly different version of the episode.
Yohanek said his negotiations for the ball began with several members of the Marlins' staff -- and after his request for a Ramirez bat was turned down, he requested tickets not for the Yankees series, but for a Brewers-Marlins series at Florida in June.
"I had wanted to attend this series anyway," Yohanek said. "Considering [Marlins] attendance is barely over 15,000 nightly, I didn't feel like this was too much to ask."
Yohanek said he eventually handed over the ball for the promise of tickets to the Brewers-Marlins series, a bat with the inscription "To Nick, thanks for catching my 1st home run," and a photo with Coghlan.
"While posing for the photo, he said, 'You gonna give me the ball, man, or what?" Yohanek said. "After he was given the home run ball, he stormed off without a word. Only to return and say, 'Why y'all gotta hold my ball for ransom?' I hold balls for ransom? Those are Chris Coghlan's words, not mine."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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