A most interesting ball

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LAKELAND, FLORIDA — You know, you never handle your luggage in the show? Somebody else carries your bags. It’s great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains.

Well, maybe not the white balls part. At least not in spring training.  Meet Richard DeConcilio, from Lakeland, Florida:

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He’s here today for the Yankees-Tigers game, and I started talking to him during batting practice because he yelled something about how a bottle of water left on the field was really “A-Rod’s growth hormone!” He seemed like my kind of guy, so I went over. I was specifically interested in the ball he was holding, which he told me was a home run ball he caught during the Tigers-Florida Southern game on Tuesday:

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Yep, they were using leftover — and apparently well-used — 2013 playoff balls in a spring training game. Which, while 100% understandable and sensible, just strikes me as kind of neat and odd.

I’m going to assume that was the ball that Jarrod Saltalamacchia tagged Prince Fielder with on the flop play at third base in Game 6 of the ALCS.

Mariano Rivera elected to Baseball Hall of Fame unanimously

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Former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera deservingly became the first player ever inducted into the Hall of Fame unanimously, receiving votes from all 425 writers who submitted ballots. Previously, the closest players to unanimous induction were Ken Griffey, Jr. (99.32% in 2016), Tom Seaver (98.84% in 1992), Nolan Ryan (98.79% in 1999), Cal Ripken, Jr. (98.53%), Ty Cobb (98.23% in 1936), and George Brett (98.19% in 1999).

Because so many greats were not enshrined in Cooperstown unanimously, many voters in the past argued against other players getting inducted unanimously, withholding their votes for otherwise deserving players. That Griffey — both one of the greatest outfielders of all time and one of the most popular players of all time — wasn’t voted in unanimously in 2016, for example, seemed to signal that no player ever would. Now that Rivera has been, this tired argument about voting unanimity can be laid to rest.

Derek Jeter will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time next year. He may become the second player ever to be elected unanimously. David Ortiz appears on the 2022 ballot and could be No. 3. Now that Rivera has broken through, these are possibilities whereas before they might not have been.

Another tired argument around Hall of Fame voting concerns whether or not a player is a “first ballot” Hall of Famer. Some voters think getting enshrined in a player’s first year of eligibility is a greater honor than getting in any subsequent year. I’m not sure what it will take to get rid of this argument — other than the electorate getting younger and more open-minded — but at least we have made progress on at least one bad Hall of Fame take.