Commentary

Christian Lopez: 'I feel a little different'

Fan who gave back Jeter's 3,000-hit ball gets star treatment at ballpark on Sunday

Updated: July 10, 2011, 5:56 PM ET
By Mike Mazzeo | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- ESPNNewYork.com was trying to interview Christian Lopez -- until a horde of fans surrounded him on the concourse at Yankee Stadium on Sunday afternoon, clamoring for autographs and pictures.

"I feel a little different," Lopez, the 23-year-old cellphone salesman from Highland Mills, N.Y., who drew the respect and admiration of New York Yankees fans across the country after he returned Derek Jeter's 3,000th-hit baseball to the Yankees captain instead of putting it up for bid on the open market. "I mean, I'm just a normal guy and have a crowd of people [around me] right now."

[+] EnlargeChristian Lopez
AP Photo/Bill KostrounChristian Lopez took in Sunday's game from a prime seat, courtesy of the Yankees.

A lot has changed for Lopez since 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, when he managed to scoop up Jeter's 3,000th hit -- a home run into the first row of left-field bleachers in Section 236. The Yankees asked Lopez what he wanted in exchange, and he stunned them and everyone else by giving it back and saying he wanted nothing in return.

"I'd do the same thing a hundred times over," said Lopez, who received Champions suite season tickets to every home game for the rest of the season and through the playoffs along with eight pieces of signed memorabilia from Jeter. "I heard it could've been worth up to $1 million. Yet I would give it back to him a hundred times over."

Lopez returned home after Saturday afternoon's game to dozens of calls from friends, family -- even former classmates from St. Lawrence University that Lopez didn't know.

"This random guy even called the house a couple times and said I was the man and I deserved it," Lopez said.

Lopez wanted to go out and celebrate with his friends, but decided instead to stay in, eat dinner and then go to sleep -- and watch a few replays, of course.

"It's been crazy," said Lopez, who was recognized on his way to the ballpark on Sunday morning. "I've been all over the news, and everyone's like 'You're that guy! You're that guy!'"

Lopez, who did a phone interview on "SportsCenter" on Sunday morning, is supposed to head to ESPN's studios in Bristol, Conn., on Monday morning. But he has a potential conflict because he is scheduled to work at the Verizon Wireless store in Middletown, N.Y.

"I want to," Lopez said. "My boss let me have off [Sunday], but I have to go into work at some point."

Lopez joked during his news conference after Jeter capped a 5-for-5 afternoon with a go-ahead RBI single in the eighth inning to give the Yankees a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays that his boss was going to fire him because he didn't try to sell the ball.

"I don't think she is," Lopez joked. "Because I told her I was going to bring her to a game."

Lopez was asked how he thinks his life is going to change now that he's become somewhat of a celebrity.

"I have no idea," Lopez said. "I just hope good things come out of this situation, but I'm not banking on it. I'm a working man. I just gotta keep working."

At that point, the fans started to swarm Lopez, who smiled for pictures and even signed a woman's napkin.

There was no stopping them. And that's when the interview came to an abrupt end.

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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