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Jeter Fan Cashes In, With Help From Friends

Christian Lopez with Derek Jeter
Getty Images
Christian Lopez with Derek Jeter

Yankees fan Christian Lopez was not expecting to catch Derek Jeter’s historic 3,000th home run. He also wasn’t expecting $14,000 worth of taxes to fall into his hands from the IRS.

But you know what they say: You get by with a little help from your friends. And since his Yankees tax debacle, Lopez has found friends in some high—and unexpected—places.

When the 23-year-old Verizon customer service representative caught the left-field slammer, he landed a piece of sport’s memorabilia. It was the first “3,000th hit” ball in Yankees history, and is now estimated to be worth anywhere between $100,000 and $1,000,000.

Being a true ball fan, Lopez tossed the ball back—a sportsmanlike gesture which the Yankees rewarded with four tickets in a box-suite for the rest of the season. For his part, Jeter gave Lopez three signed bats, three signed baseballs and three signed jerseys.

It seems like a dream come true for Lopez, but the IRS wasn’t going to let that fastball by without getting a piece of it. Enter the $5,000 to $13,000 tax bill that it will reportedly be sending Lopez’s way for his Yankees loot.

Enter Lopez’s new friends, with names like Miller, Modell’s and Topps. Miller High Life, the brewing company, offered to pay Lopez’s tax bill, saying in a press announcement the company believes “you should be rewarded for doing the right thing, not penalized.”

Modell’s Sporting Goods has committed to donating 5 percent of its Yankees merchandise sales (with a minimum guarantee of $25,000) through Tuesday to Lopez, who, along with the unexpected tax bill, already has more than $150,000 in outstanding student loans.

And as if that weren’t enough, Lopez is going to be immortalized as a superfan on his very own Christian Lopez baseball card, which Topps, the nation’s leading manufacturer of the cards, will soon begin producing. The company just told me it even invited Lopez to its lower Manhattan headquarters to help pick out the picture for Jeter’s 2012 card. Bam. Rock star.

Which only goes to prove that our mothers were right: Selflessness pays off. In box seats. And sports star status—endorsements, cards and fans—without actually knowing how to play sports.

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