On July 9th, Derek Jeter became the 28th player in baseball history to reach 3,000 hits. As if the feat weren't memorable enough, he accomplished it in grand fashion—by launching a home run to left field.
As the ball bounced among a sea of Yankees fans, it ended up in the hands of possibly the least greedy potential owner in attendance that afternoon—Christian Lopez. After securing his priceless piece of baseball history, he did the unthinkable; he gave the ball to Derek Jeter and asked for nothing in return.
What did Lopez get for his selfless generosity? He was rewarded with four front-row Legends seats for the remainder of the 2011 season, including the postseason, along with three bats, three balls, and two jerseys autographed by Jeter, his own baseball card, and a whopping estimated tax bill of $14,000! Though Mr. Lopez was very gracious, acknowledging that he harbored no ill will toward the IRS, he could not have been thrilled.
But worry not; private sector incentives came to the rescue. Soon after Lopez's surreal windfall, Miller High Life publicly stated that the company would pay Lopez's tax bill. In addition, Modell's Sporting Goods (a 2009 Yankees sponsor) donated a 2009 World Series ring to the lucky fan. As if this were not an adequate display of generosity, the company's CEO and fellow CEO Brandon Steiner of Steiner Sports have promised Lopez $50,000 to help pay off his student loans.
To those continually maligning capitalism for incentivizing greed, this is a lesson learned: Self-interest can precipitate benevolence. In the end, Mr. Lopez gave a priceless ball away, was showered with invaluable gifts, and paid off part of his student debt. In addition, Miller High Life, Modell's Sporting Goods, Steiner Sports, Topps (the baseball card company producing Lopez's official card), and the Yankees organization are enjoying immeasurable publicity that undoubtedly helps their respective images, likely improving their bottom lines. This is no accident.
Free market forces brought about by taxation of a likeable guy made winners of every party involved-even the Internal Revenue Service.