CLEVELAND-The FOX 8 I TEAM is taking you behind the scenes at the ballpark for a look at what fans never see—how much it takes to guarantee a souvenir actually came from the game.
The Cleveland Indians recently gave an I TEAM camera a glimpse at the process which involves more security and checks and balances than most folks might ever imagine.
But it shows what happens in creating priceless souvenirs from Major League Baseball games.
We saw game balls given to a witness. Bases marked and tagged by a witness. Even dirt from the field that was scooped under watch.
Kris Roukey oversees the program for the Cleveland Indians, a leader in authenticating memorabilia.
Roukey said, “And the program really was started to protect the players and consumers as well.”
It has evolved into an elaborate system to help keep fake memorabilia off the market.
For every game, the Indians, and other teams, have authenticators.
They all have a background in law enforcement. They collect balls, bats, jerseys and more, cataloging each item and putting a special sticker on each.
If those special witnesses don’t see it used in a game or worn by a player, it can’t be sold or auctioned as authentic memorabilia.
Consider that dirt.
Roukey said, “When the dirt is collected, it’s collected first in a big five-gallon bucket, and that gets authenticated. Then when we fill these bottles, we need to pour the dirt into these individual bottles as well.” He adds, someone has to witness that happening, too.
And those stickers also link to a website telling a story.
For instance, a game-used ball for sale in the Indians team shop was collected after Francisco Lindor’s 669th hit. The link on the sticker can tell a fan the name of the pitcher, the date of the hit and even the inning.
Even line-up cards get sold, plus pieces of jewelry made from game gear. It all goes through the same process.
However, if you sit in the stands and you catch a ball, you can’t take it and have someone at the stadium mark it with a sticker as an official ball from that game. The agent certifying those things would have no way to be sure what you bring them is what you say it is.
So much care goes in to handling history, and the souvenirs sold after careful collection can end up the market worth big money.
Fans we met say they’d rather be sure what they’re buying is legit.
One man said, “I just want it to be what it says it is. If l’m gonna pay this kind of money, it’s not cheap, I just want it to be what it says it is.”
And another fan said, “To have a piece of, you know, the real deal, it’s just nostalgic for me.”