The ball is long gone, but the memories haven't gone anywhere.
Sunday marked the year anniversary of the moment Damon Woo's life changed (at least a little bit). Sitting in Section 94 at Baltimore's Camden Yards, the 41-year-old Nahant native hauled in the ball labeled "M 92", otherwise known as Manny Ramirez' 500th home run.
"I was kidding with my brother [Jason] Friday about it saying, 'Yeah, it's going to be a year,'" said Woo, who know lives and works in Manhattan. "What an amazing year."
Woo had promised to his girlfriend's son, Ryan McCarthy, before the momentous game that if he caught Ramirez' historic home run the ball would go to the then-15-year-old. Yet, after a quick phone call, McCarthy gave Woo and his brother permission to hand the ball over to Ramirez, getting tickets and Red Sox memorabilia in exchange.
So, after meeting Ramirez in the Red Sox' clubhouse after the game, it was decided on that the Woo brothers would hold on to the ball for the night and then return it the next day, which they did.
"That's the last we saw of the ball," Damon Woo said. "Manny's quote was that he was going to auction it off for charity. In my mind, once we made the decision to give it back to him it was his to do with it whatever he wanted.
"I talked to my brother and my girlfriend about it and if I had it today it would never be on my mantle. it would be stuck in a safe deposit box somewhere in a bank. I would never look at it. The Sox were great about it. Like the Mastercard commercials, it was just a priceless moment. All my friends say, 'You look so drunk in those interviews', but I hadn't been drinking at all. It was just all the euphoria. What an experience!"
Now, 365 days later, a lot has changed.
Two months after the historic Ramirez home run, the player had done a complete 180 degree turn in the court of public opinion, forcing his way out of Boston and into Los Angeles. Seven months after that, Ramirez was getting a 50-game suspension for violating the Major League Baseball substance abuse program, having been disciplined for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
And then there is the ball.
Ramirez initially said he was going to put the ball up for auction for charity, which had the Woo brothers thinking about raising money to take a run at winning the bidding. But no such event ever took place, and it is assumed the ball is still in the possession of the player. (The bat used to hit the ball was given to Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo.)
"We didn't see anything come of that," said Woo of the proposed auction. "If it's sitting on shelf in Manny's closet or something, more power to him. It was his accomplishment and we're still very thrilled for him, even though he has 50 days off, right?"
Woo makes it clear he has gotten plenty of payoff when it comes to the ball, including tickets at Yankee Stadium right next to the Red Sox dugout during the game last year when Ramirez watched three Mariano Rivera pitches sail by him when pinch-hitting in the ninth.
Ironically it was Ramirez who once again got Woos in the public eye, as the ESPN showed the slugger warming up in the on-deck circle with the brothers sitting in the background.
So when it comes to Woo's opinion on Ramirez, even after all the negativity that has swirled around the slugger of late, change is a difficult thing.
"I like to think for hte rest of my life I have a connection to Manny Ramirez," Woo said. "That sentiment will always be there. I realize the personalities play in an important role as role models for not just kids, but folks in general, but they're still human at the same time. We all make mistakes.
"Hopefully those numbers keep going up and I'll have a chance to catch 600 someday and 700 and see him go into the Hall of Fame."