Fan makes the catch of a lifetime
Massachusetts native snags Ramirez's 500th homer
BALTIMORE -- Like many of the countless Red Sox fans in attendance at Camden Yards on Saturday night, Damon Woo -- seated with his brother Jason in section 94, row P, seats 15 and 16 -- pulled out his camera when Manny Ramirez stepped to the plate in the top of the seventh inning.
As long as Ramirez was stuck at 499 homers, all of his at-bats were must-see events. But Woo might have been the only fan who put down his camera at almost the instant Ramirez made contact.
The ball was coming his way. And Woo made the catch. It actually struck him in the neck, and he then cradled it in his hands.
The milestone baseball was his -- but not for long. The 40-year-old Woo is a Red Sox fan. Though he lives in Manhattan and Jason is based in Washington, D.C., they grew up in Nahant, Mass.
Even though the ball could probably fetch several thousand on the open market, the Woo brothers decided to do the honorable thing.
"It's his accomplishment, it's his achievement, it's his ball," said Damon Woo. "That's the right thing to do."
Ramirez is also going to do the right thing, announcing that he's going to auction the ball and then donate the money to a children's charity in the greater Boston area.
The Woo brothers went into the Boston clubhouse after the game and formally presented the ball to a grateful Ramirez, who became the 24th player in Major League history to hit 500 home runs.
"Congratulations, you got 500," Damon Woo said as he handed the ball to Ramirez. "It's all yours."
The proof was on the baseball. Ever since Ramirez hit No. 498, every baseball that has been pitched to him was authenticated and numbered by Major League Baseball.
The ball that Ramirez tattooed to section 94 in right-center field of Camden Yards off Chad Bradford was labeled "M 92." It also had an authentication sticker on it.
Ramirez told the Woo brothers that they could keep the ball overnight and return it on Sunday.
"They were so nice," said Ramirez. "I'm just happy to have that ball."
But he won't have it for long. Instead he sees it as an opportunity to do some greater good.
"What I want to do with the ball is take some pictures with my kids," Ramirez said. "I don't want to keep the ball. I want to see how much money I get, because I want to put it toward a hospital that I'll donate money to."
Ramirez has been working on a program through which he's donating $1,000 to charity for every home run he hits. The 500 ball will go toward that same cause.
Damon Woo had no reservations at all for passing up a quick payday.
"Like I said, it's not my accomplishment," he said. "I was lucky enough to catch the ball. Manny was nice enough to say I could borrow it for the evening. It's his ball. They can call me crazy. I've done a lot crazier things in my lifetime."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.