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The true worth of a prize

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You've probably read by now the story of a 12 year old girl who caught Ryan Howard's 200th career home run ball in a game at Florida earlier this season. While it has a happy ending, the circumstances that led to the conclusion will only paint the Phillies in a negative light yet again.

As has become customary when a player hits a milestone HR, the girl was asked to return the ball, ostensibly so that Howard could add it to his trophy case. Howard reached 200 HR faster than anyone in MLB history, so this should've been an open & shut case, right? Swap the ball for an autographed ball or bat, and this case is put to bed. Wrong. Howard was supposed to meet this young lady after the game, and didn't. Ultimately, she had to sue to get her souvenier back, and the ink was barely dry on the litigation before the ball was back in her hands.

It isn't Howard's fault, they say. If you've seen his ad for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America that has aired since last year, you know he's one of the most popular guys in the bigs. The blame lies with the higher-ups with the Phillies, who might've been afraid the child, her parents, and their legal team might be asking for money, like other fans tend to do to exploit the significance of the feat. That unwarranted paranoia has given the defending World Series champs a collective black eye they don't deserve.

Luckily, the child has her souvenier, and Howard & the Phillies can focus on repeating as champs. No harm, no foul, just a few minutes of life in the spotlight. Not every fan is looking for a quick payday, just something to show they've been to The Show, just like the players themselves. It's all about a good time, and for a 12 year old girl in Florida, proof that innocence still exists.
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