If you sell it, they'll buy bats, balls, bases

* Name plates that used to hang on player's lockers, foul balls, home run balls, game-worn jerseys (Jose Bautista is No. 1 in sales), lineup cards and ... well you name it. The Blue Jays merchandising department will sell it ... including Derek Jeter's home run ball which went for $12,500. .... 2014 Canadians in the Minors … Canadians drafted … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent



By Bob Elliott

How much is a home run ball hit by Derek Jeter worth?

Well, the New York Yankees future Hall of Fame shortstop homered on a 1-1 pitch from Mark Buehrle leading off the sixth inning June 24 at Rogers Centre.

The ball landed in the Blue Jays bullpen.

Security guard Doug Kirkland was quick like a cat to pick up the ball ... and now as they say on Law and Order let’s follow the chain of custody.

Kirkland radioed security supervisor usher Steve Brooks that he had the ball.

It was then taken down the hall to Sam Plastis who maintains the Jays memorabilia base.

The ball was then authenticated by one of the four Major League Baseball appointed authenticators, all current or former members of the Toronto Police Force, who take turns watching from the third base camera bay. Stu Eley, previous winner of authenticator of the month, was on duty Friday night for the opener of the Blue Jays series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Then Darryl De Franco, manager of Jays warehouse distribution merchandising department, put Jeter’s home run ball on BlueJays.com ... and the auction was on ... with the ball selling for $12,500.

“A collector from Tennessee offered $8,000, I said $15,000, we met in between,” said De Franco. “We were lucky that the ball stayed in the bullpen. We thought it was going to bounce into the crowd.

“Once a home run reaches the seats MLB can’t authenticate it, only home run balls that bounce off the facing onto the field or land in the bullpen.”

Jeter’s ball -- from the Jays walk-off 7-6 win -- is the record fee for the Jays merchandising doubling Omar Vizquel’s No. 13 jersey in his final game which sold for $6,100.

A game worn Roy Halladay jersey from 2009 sold for $6,000.

The Jays got into this business late. MLB began the program in 2004, but the real-time selling did not begin in earnest until 2012 when the Jays took in between $85,000 and $250,000. This season revenue has already surpassed $250,000.

“It’s real-time selling,” said De Franco, who began working for the Jays in the Bullpen store in 2003. A customer in the Jays store asked if he could purchase Colby Rasmus memorabilia on Friday. De Franco told the fan to wait until after the game ... maybe Rasmus would hit a foul ball, or there would be a ball in the dirt. Rasmus was in the starting lineup with lefty Drew Smyly on the mound.

“I like it when the umps throw balls out of play, I collect balls, but none of this would be possible without all the work Jeff Ross and Kevin Malloy do in the clubhouse.”

You name the item, De Franco sells it: game-worn jerseys from Jose Bautista ($1,500) and Munenori Kawasaki ($1,000), lineup cards ($100-$200), the pitching rubber from Aaron Sanchez’s debut ($600), a busted Bautista bat ($400), the lineup card from Vizquel’s farewell ($3,000), name plates over lockers ... anything you can imagine.

“We sell everything,” De Franco said. “Probably the weirdest request was from someone who noticed on TV that they put new phones in the bullpen. He wanted to buy the old ones. We didn’t have them to sell.”

So you are guessing as I was, that the New York Yankees would lead the world in selling authentic merchandise. Nope.

“It’s the Detroit Tigers,” said De Franco. “Marc Himelstein is the Godfather of our business. They did a million dollars in sales. People from top to bottom are involved there. They do a wonderful job involving their alumni.”

Himelstein has a title: director of authentics.

How did that guy Dr. Evil say it Mike Meyers’ Austin Powers International Man of Mystery movie?

“One million dollars?”

It won’t be long before the Players Association asks for a slice of that pie.

One from the road: Rance Mulliniks was in town for an autograph session. The former Jays third baseman arrived from western Canada. At a clinic at beautiful Seaman Stadium in Okotoks, Alta. a youngster missed eight straight balls hitting off a tee.

“He was starting to get angry and said ‘I haven’t seen a strike yet,’” said Mulliniks. “I told him you can’t play this game making excuses.”

And the little guy said “that’s not what the guy in the outfield said, he said ‘we had to have an excuse every time we missed a ball ... the sun, the wind, the other outfielder, whatever.’”

And manning the outfield station for the Jays alumni was of course jokster Lloyd Moseby.

One from the chair: Had my hair cut other day at Iona barber shop in Mississauga.

“So Bob, what years did you play for the Blue Jays.”

“Ah, I didn’t. Haven’t played since the Pirates.”

“The Pirates?”

“Yep. Kingscourt Little League bantam Pirates ... in Kingston ... coached by Don Gilmour.