After a 8-6 win in game one of the NLCS last night, the defending World Series Champions, the Philadelphia Phillies, haven’t had to deal with many defeats this season…until last week. They were defeated by a 12 year old girl for possession of Ryan Howard’s 200th home run ball.
If you haven’t heard about the scuffle, here is a semi-brief recap:
Around three months ago, when the Phillies played the Florida Marlins in Miami, Ryan Howard hit his 200th homerun, making him the fastest player to ever reach that milestone in MLB history. Twelve year-old Miami resident, Jennifer Valdivia, was fortunate enough to beat her older brother and everyone else to the homerun ball hit into the stands. This was Jennifer’s first ever MLB game. She attended the game with her 17 year old brother and grandmother- who does not speak any English. Shortly after gathering the ball, the Phillies sent someone from management to seek out Jennifer in order to procure the ball for Howard. Individuals from the Phillies ended up taking only twelve year old Jennifer and her seventeen year old brother to the clubhouse to “talk” about a trade for the homerun ball (emphasis added). After some tough negotiating, the Phillies made an agreement with Jennifer that had her receiving a signed Ryan Howard ball after the game, in exchange for the ball she had caught in the stands. Once Jennifer had returned home and told her mother about the deal with the Phillies, the family sought out attorney and memorabilia enthusiast Norm Kent. Only days later, Kent filed a complaint and within hours, the Phillies called Jennifer and returned the ball the same day.
After first hearing this story, I had the same initial thought as Mark Conrad from Sports Law Blog. The foremost thing on my mind was the first couple of weeks of Contracts class where we discussed contracting with minors or infants. I remembered the duel edged sword that minors can have when forming a contract. The rules of “infancy” state when a minor forms a contract, he/she can rescind that contract at any time without approval by the other side. That is why contracting with a minor can be a very silly thing, like in this situation.
My response to this situation is one of disbelief. Who in the Phillies organization would make a deal with a twelve year old girl regarding a supposed piece of MLB history (if you categorize “the fastest to” as a legitimate baseball record) without her parents or someone who is NOT a minor present? If the Phillies brought the grandmother into the clubhouse with the girl, they probably would have the ball now.
How could this individual not feel like he was doing something wrong, or taking advantage of this child by making such a deal? Although there are two sides to every story, the Phillies quickly recognized the ramifications and bad press that keeping the baseball would cause and made the right decision by giving it back.