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500th HR ball owner considers options

08/06/2007 7:29 PM ET
By The Associated Press
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Walter Kowalczyk's brother wasn't surprised that he caught the ball from Alex Rodriguez's 500th career home run. He's seen his little brother make tougher catches.

"He's got great hands. I've been throwing the football to him since we were really young," Brian Kowalczyk said. "He would catch the ball any which way possible,"

After the 6-foot-4-inch Walter Kowalczyk caught the ball, he used his roughly 250-pound frame to protect his prize from a scrum of crazed fans Saturday.

He was retrieved by stadium security guards who took him to a suite to watch the rest of the game and then drove him home.

Brian Kowalczyk said his brother, who has been staying in New York with his fiancee as his family has been swarmed with interview requests, hasn't decided what to do with the baseball.

Although the value of baseball memorabilia has stagnated recently because of the widespread federal inquiry into steroids use, items such as home run balls and jerseys can still fetch steep prices at auction.

Brian Kowalczyk said Monday that his brother, a lifelong Yankees fan, was forced to sell his house after being unemployed for a spell.

Kowalczyk grew up near Trenton, playing both baseball and football during high school, and his brother said he referees high school football games. According to his brother, Walter Kowalczyk started studying labor law in January at Rutgers University.

Brian Kowalczyk said his brother has been considering going on a New York sports radio show, "Mike and the Mad Dog," to ask the hosts' opinion on what to do with the ball.

Rodriguez has said he would like to have the ball.

"I'm kind of just going to let it sit for a few days," Rodriguez said. "It's his ball. Let him enjoy it and then go from there."

Jason Zillo, a spokesman for the Yankees, said the team is willing to make an exchange with Kowalczyk for the ball. "If his favorite player is Roger Clemens, I think Roger Clemens would give him some stuff," he said.

Brian Kowalczyk said his brother, a big fan of Derek Jeter and former Yankees star Don Mattingly, used his entire savings to buy his season tickets and has been going to every game he can.

The Kowalczyk brothers are going to Shea Stadium on Tuesday night to watch the Mets take on Atlanta, but Brian Kowalczyk said when it comes to catching game balls, he doesn't have his brother's touch or luck.

"I never even caught a foul ball in Little League," he said.

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