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04/18/09 1:44 AM ET

Fan gives milestone ball to Sheffield

Slugger gets to keep No. 500, repays favor with goodies

NEW YORK -- When Chris Matcovich attended Friday night's Mets game with four of his friends, he had no idea he was about to be a part of history.

But for the 22-year-old Thomas Aquinas College student, the encounter of a lifetime almost slipped away.

"I was thinking, 'Just don't drop it,'" Matcovich said of Gary Sheffield's 500th home run ball. "That's basically what went through my mind. If I dropped it, I would have been so disappointed in myself for the rest of my life."

Fortunately for Matcovich, he held on to the fateful ball that traveled an estimated 384 feet and landed in the left-field stands.

And while Matcovich and his friends looked at the ball in wondrous awe, the Mets' players were already casting bets on how deep Sheffield would have to stretch his pockets.

"Couple guys on the team kept saying, 'It's going to cost you about $100,000 to get that ball back,'" Sheffield said. "I was like, 'I don't think my wife's going to let me.'"

For the record, she wasn't. DeLeon Sheffield sat with her husband and two children and shook her head in an emphatic "No."

But none of the Sheffields had any problem honoring Matcovich's lone request: To return the ball. In fact, Sheffield went a step further and signed jerseys for Matcovich and his friends, with plans to also give the group some signed bats.

"I wanted nothing but to just give it back to Gary," Matcovich said. "It was his ball. It's not mine."

And on a night full of exceptional memories -- and an eventual 5-4 Mets win -- this is one Sheffield won't soon forget.

"That was special of him to do that," Sheffield said. "He didn't have to do that. But I'm appreciative that he did."

Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.