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Judging Cory: Inside Dallas Fan's Yankees Aaron Judge HR Ball Call

Cowboy Maven on FanNation 12/27/2022 Richie Whitt
© Provided by Cowboy Maven on FanNation

In the wake of catching – and selling – the most valuable baseball on Earth, Cory Youmans sets the record straight about his past, present and process of being at peace with only $1.5 million.

DALLAS – From its legendary state pride to the Dallas Cowboys' staggering popularity, everything is bigger in Texas.

After all, bigger is always ... better?

Not if you're Dallas-Fort Worth sports fan Cory Youmans, who turned down multiple higher offers to "settle" for a smaller, safer $1.5 million in exchange for the world's most valuable baseball.

Says Youmans, “I’m at peace with the process.”

Sorry to nuke your negative narrative but no, in fact, Youmans isn’t …





And, until he recently sold Aaron Judge's historic home run ball,  he wasn’t “already filthy rich.”

Youmans, the 35-year-old Dallas man who caught the New York Yankees’ slugger's 62nd home run at Arlington’s Globe Life Field on Oct. 4, isn’t some romantic baseball hero that voluntarily relinquished the ball out of his love of the game. But nor is he the rich-get-richer villain fittingly hoodwinked out of half his potential windfall, an image being portrayed by the media and amplified across uninformed social networks.

Instead, Youmans is the product of a vagabond childhood. A cancer survivor. A loving husband who fell for his wife, Bri, at an outdoor arts fair. The first in his family to graduate college. A financial services employee (not a C-Level executive of a large lending institution). An apartment-dweller and prospective home buyer. A baseball fan that roots for the Texas Rangers and loves Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

And, most endearing, he’s a pragmatist that meticulously researched the ramifications of his actions with one of baseball’s most important artifacts. Youmans’ decision to eschew sketchy offers – everything from Ferraris via DM to suitcases full of cash – and wind up netting only $1.5 million through auction gave critics a punchline … but him peace of mind.

“No matter what I did, not everyone would agree that it was the right strategy,” Youmans said this week. “If I gave it back I was stupid, and if I sold it I was greedy. I’m a private person that essentially won the lottery live on national TV. So, to say the least, it’s been an interesting experience.

"But at the end of the day, I feel lucky to have been in the stadium that night and lucky to have caught the ball."

While Internet trolls bemoan the fabrication that Youmans was a spoiled brat raised with a silver spoon, his reality tasted a tad more bitter.

Born to an 18-year-old mother, Youmans was forced to move frequently along the west coast as a child. At age 13, his grandparents took him into their home in southern California.

Said Youmans, “They saw the writing on the wall. What’s the saying, ‘It takes a village’? I was that kid.”

His grandfather, a blue-collar welder, delayed retirement to help pay for Youmans’ high-school education away from trouble at a private school. Youmans started working at age 14, eventually paying his way through Pepperdine and Washington State to become the family’s first college graduate.

“I’ve always been proud of being a kid from a tough neighborhood,” Youmans said. “Someone that could show other kids from tough environments that if you keep your head down and work hard and hold yourself accountable, you can make it out.”

He met Bri Amaranthus – a contestant on Season 22 of The Bachelor in Portland, Oregon in 2018, fell hard, and got engaged two years later. In 2020 they visited Dallas on a work trip, fell hard again, and moved soon thereafter.

(Full disclosure: Bri and I are both employed as reporters by Sports Illustrated’s FanNation.)

Even before snagging history, 2022 was a transcendent year for Youmans.

He was diagnosed with melanoma on his leg in May. The cancer was diagnosed early and his prognosis for a full recovery is good.

“When you are 35 and your doctor says you have cancer, it absolutely changes your life,” Youmans said. “I think about it every day and count my blessings. I go in every three months for check-ups and so far, so good. I’m very proud to have influenced many of my friends and family to get routine skin checks. It absolutely saved my life.”

The scare prompted the couple to re-assess their priorities. See the world.

Explore different cultures. To that end, after his treatment in June, they planned a trip to Italy. A trip that was later lambasted by TMZ and the New York Post as “lavish”, but was, in fact, merely a celebration of Youmans’ clean bill of health and attendance at a close friend’s wedding.

“Cancer changed everything, even the way I look at time,” he said. “I didn’t think at 35 I’d be re-reading my life insurance policy. I now want to live a life rich with experience and connections and good stories.”

During his cancer treatment, Youmans came across a quote he’s since hugged:

A healthy man wants a thousand things; A sick man only wants one thing.

And most baseball fans merely want a chance to catch a foul ball or a home run … especially one worth seven figures.

Before the night his glove enriched his life, Youmans had never snagged a ball at a Major League Baseball game.

He played baseball – a lefty first baseman and outfielder – through middle school, but it was muted by other passions.

“I was decent,” he admits, “but I liked basketball more.”

Like all sports fans, he was captivated by Judge’s pursuit of the American League single-season home-record record. The mark of 61 was set by Yankees’ icon Roger Maris way back in 1961, making the chase – and the New York’s media coverage – even more intense.

A couple days before the Yankees arrived in Arlington for a season-ending four-game series against the Rangers, Youmans’ friend invited him to Game No. 161. Judge tied Maris’ record on Sept. 28 in Toronto, but then stalled. At Globe Life Field fans booed when Judge grounded out, struck out, singled, was issued a pitch out of the strike zone, or did anything other than hit historic homer No. 62.

The season’s penultimate game was the capper of day-night doubleheader.

“I was there to see Aaron Judge,” said Youmans, who sat beside his friend in Section 31, Row 1, Seat 12. “I was naïve to what might happen to someone if they caught the ball. Sure, I had hoped to, like everyone else. But how can you predict that you are actually the one to catch it?”

Just in case, he brought his trusty glove.

Leading off in the first inning, Judge smacked the third pitch he saw – an 88-mph slider from Rangers’ otherwise anonymous pitcher Jesus Tinoco. When Youmans saw shortstop Corey Seager snap his head toward left field, his antennae initiated.

“You hear a home run before you see it,” he said. “But when I saw Seager, I knew it was headed in our general direction. After that it was like slow-motion. Surreal.”

Perfectly tracking a baseball hit 391 feet at 100 mph, Youmans moved slightly to his left and made an outstretched, clean catch.

“Right in the pocket,” he said.

Before his life could change, first came his location.

As he received congratulatory high-fives and pats on the back from elated and likely envious strangers, a member of Globe Life Field’s security team quickly escorted him to a private room in the bowels of the stadium. On the way, a TV reporter asked what he was going to do with the ball.

Said Youmans, “That’s a good question. I haven’t thought about it.”

He remembers the 2-3 minutes immediately after the catch as “pure joy … the best thing about sports.” But, in an instant, baseball euphoria deteriorated into big – nasty – business.

“Had I known then what I know now, I would’ve reacted differently,” he said. “But at the time, ignorance was bliss.”

In the holding room, Yankees executive director of security Eddie Fastook arrived and offered Youmans the chance to meet Judge and exchange the ball for memorabilia, photographs and tickets. He politely declined. An authenticator then checked the ball for special markings affixed by MLB. With the ball verified, Youmans hopped in a golf cart and met Rangers owner Ray Davis, before two security guards took him to his car via covert route.

On social media, things were also accelerating.

On his drive home, Youmans received a text from Bri asking if he was near their apartment in Dallas. Someone had already shared their address on the Internet. The couple packed their dog and detoured to a friend’s house for several days.

Worse, veteran USA Today baseball writer Bob Nightengale did only cursory digging and sent out misinformation to his almost 400,000 followers on Twitter. Posted Nightengale:

The man who caught the historic Aaron Judge baseball, Corey Youmans, doesn't exactly need the money. He is a vice president at Fisher Investments, which manages $197 billion worldwide.

The erroneous, presumptive, misleading tweet received 13,000 likes, 1,300 re-tweets and one telling initial comment:

Why is it the ones who don't need it....wind up with it?

Ignorant as to his options and committed to not becoming a distraction to Judge and the Yankees during their postseason, Youmans safely secured the ball in a bank vault in Dallas and proceeded to lay low, remain quiet.

“That first week was pretty chaotic,” he said. “Catching that ball was so random … it’s not like we could plan for something like that. Before we could think about what to do with the ball, there was real-life logistics to figure out. ”

Said Bri of the hectic post-catch haze, “It’s a funny feeling to become the story, when you are used to telling the story. I look back and am still very proud of how poised Cory remained under immense attention. That first hug when he walked in the door with the ball in his hand is something I will never forget.”

Youmans began sleuthing.

On the supposed $2 million “sight unseen” bounty that smelled more publicity stunt than real offer. On estimates that the ball’s ultimate price could top the previous record – $3.05 million for the No. 70 home-run ball hit by the St. Louis Cardinals’ Mark McGwire in 1998. On the pitfalls of people who previously caught coveted balls, or won the lottery.

“There is no playbook,” Youmans said. “I spent a tremendous amount of time researching what people in the past have done. I’ve read all of their stories and studied the outcomes. I thought it would also make sense to keep an open mind and see what all of the options were. We thought we would try to identify the best private offer, and the best auction house.

“The offers are more challenging to sort through than people realize.”

Six weeks after his catch, Youmans hired Goldin House to auction the ball.

“We’ve already had an offer for $3 million,” Youmans’ attorney, Dave Baron, announced at the time. “Talking to the auction people, they don't really commit to a number, but they said it just could be significantly higher based on New York, the New York fan base and how crazy it could get at an auction.”

Criticism commenced about the “greedy” guy in Texas who turned his back on $3 million. As he accepted his AL Most Valuable Player award in November, even Judge addressed Youmans’ decision.

“That’s a lot of money,” he said. “But I guess he’s got a better plan or thinks he can get some more. He caught the ball, he’s the one that made the play out there in left field, so it’s his right to do what he wants with it. Hopefully he’s making the right decision for him and his family.”

During the auction – which ran Nov. 29-Dec. 17 – Goldin treated the ball like a Hollywood blockbuster movie junket. Major media hits. A billboard in Times Square. Even a private viewing for celebrities and potential suitors at Madison Square Garden.

“You can never guarantee a specific price,” said Ken Goldin during the auction’s final hours. “But we can guarantee that anybody in the world that wanted to bid on this ball has been given the opportunity to do so.”

The bidding started at $1 million on the first afternoon and increased five times, climaxing at $1.5 million less than an hour before the auction closed.

While fans and critics immediately began jeering Youmans for “losing” $1.5 million by not taking the $3 million offer, he walked away satisfied with his proceeds.

His logic: Better safe than sorry.

“It was a legitimate offer, but without a lot of transparency,” Youmans explained of the $3 million. “I was just uncomfortable selling the ball behind closed doors. So we went with the safe, open, fair route at auction.”

He’s also content with the winning bidder – identified as only “Joe” from Wisconsin. A sports collector who has several items on consignment at the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, he indicated he has no immediate plans for the Judge ball but hopes to find a path for others to enjoy it.

Said Joe, “Obviously this is American baseball history.”

Youmans spoke via phone with Joe for an hour after the auction.

“He’s a super likable man,” he said. “We got to know each other, and he asked about my experience with the ball. He went out of his way to thank us for auctioning the ball so that someone ‘like him’ had a seat at the table. He hopes to find a way for others to enjoy it. That was music to my ears. A special piece of MLB history ended up in great hands with Joe.”

Because of his steroid-tarnished legacy and the fact that his record was broken, McGwire’s ball has plummeted in value to between $300,000-$400,000, according to Goldin. Barry Bonds’ record 73rd homer from 2001 sold in 2003 for $517,000, but only after years of litigation between two men who both claimed ownership after briefly possessing it during a scrum at San Francisco’s then-Pac Bell Park.

As for Judge’s 60th home-run ball? The 20-year-old who caught it simply returned it to the Yankee for a meet-and-greet, four signed baseballs and an autographed bat. No. 61 landed in the Blue Jays’ bullpen in Toronto and was returned to Judge, who awarded it to his mother, Patty.

“I am honored to be a small footnote in baseball history,” Youmans said. “At some point there will be another baseball in another city and another fan in the outfield with the next lucky catch. That fan will have a fan in me.”

Youmans admits he could have potentially squeezed more money out of the ball. In addition to the $3 million, there were also bizarre offers in exchange for exotic cars via Instagram direct messages, and over email through third-party intermediaries such as law firms and art dealers purporting to represent clients.

Buyer beware. But in Youmans’ case, seller beware.

“There was a lot of excitement but it’s hard to tell who is legitimate and how serious they are,” he said. “You think you have an offer and then people ghost. You can’t determine what their motives are. The lack of transparency was a major factor for me. If they were serious, they could bid at the auction.

“I’m thankful for the $1.5 million."

Bottom line: Comfort mattered, as much as cash.

Reasoned Youmans, “How the ball was sold was more important than what it sold for. The money is important, but there are other factors than to just squeak out another dollar. What if I unknowingly sold a piece of Yankees’ history directly to a Red Sox fan? Could I live with that? With the auction I couldn’t prevent that, but I could at least make sure it was fair and everyone had a chance.”

As the Rangers prepare for a 2023 season they hope breaks a streak of six losing campaigns, they’re creating another buzz with more offseason spending. Last winter it was half-a-billion dollars for Seager and Marcus Semien. This year they signed a bona-fide pitching ace in New York Mets’ former two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom.

By the time they host their first ever Sunday Night Baseball game at Globe Life Field on April 2, the gnashing of teeth over Youmans’ perceived error in selling strategy will be long gone. His profit, however, will still be hard at work.

His plans include using some of the money for he and Bri’s first home together and re-paying his grandfather, who’s about to move from Missouri to Oregon. Youmans wants him to have a garage built for his passion: working on classic cars.

“I want part of this money to allow him to do what he loves for as long as he wants to do it,” he said. “To pay him back for what he did for me.”

Youmans moves forward gladly keeping the fortune. But he’s had his fill of the fame.

“One minute you’re standing in line for a cheeseburger and the next everyone is trying uncover every wrinkle of your life,” Youmans said. “If a Google search says this is my No. 1 accomplishment, I’m fine with that. I don’t expect to go on and do something else that gets me on Good Morning America.

“This was enough for me.”

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