The Man Who'll Cash In on Bonds

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Dino Vournas / Reuters

Fans reach for the ball (top left) after the San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run, August 7, 2007.

Matt Murphy, the lucky New Yorker who caught the historic 756th career home run hit by Barry Bonds in San Francisco earlier this month, is about to cash in. The online bidding war for the Bonds ball began Tuesday, and ends on Sept. 15, at Murphy, 21, caught up with TIME's Sean Gregory to talk about winning the Bonds lottery.

Take us inside the big moment, when you caught Barry Bonds' record-breaking home run in San Francisco.

High fly ball. We [Murphy was at the game with a friend, Amir Kamal] see it tracking. We think it's close, but it's just out of our reach. It goes about 30 feet to my right, and about six rows behind me. And then ... it bounced. It hit a fan's hands, and then hit the pavement, which made it about eye level with me. I immediately, without even thinking, dove head first into the pile. You see something, and you instinctively know just to grab it. So I got my hands on it, and I immediately covered the surface of the ball with my hands, and held onto it. And just waited for the pain.

It was a wild scrum for the ball. How did you not die in there?

Everyone landed on my leg. So that pressure hurt the most. There was a point when I couldn't really breathe. But I wasn't worried about breathing. I was thinking about my grip. Hold on to it. Hold on to the motherf----r. (Laughs). Then, I'd say about a minute later, I hear somebody shouting 'Does somebody have it? Does somebody have it?' I thought that was some fan. So I immediately started shouting, "I got it. I got it. Get the bleep off me." But it was a cop who was saying all this. So as someone is picking me up, I'm nudging him off me, like, "Get off me, man." The cop says, "I got you, son. I got you." And I think, "Oh, good, a cop." I couldn't really stand up. I couldn't really move my leg. So they pick me up, and they ask, "Can you walk?" I say, "Barely." He says, "Let's go," and we made it down to a grounds' crew office. A Major League Baseball authenticator checked the ball, put a little sticker on it, took a picture, then that was it.

How did you sleep that first night?

I didn't really sleep. We switched hotels, and the hotel offered to put the ball in their safe, in the bank manager's office. I didn't really like that idea. So I went up to the suite, and there was this electronic lockbox. I put it in there, put in the combo, took a deep know, like, whew. I took a shower, made some phone calls, came out, changed the combo, went downstairs, got some champagne, came back up, changed the combo again, and spent the rest of the night in front of the door. Paranoid. Paranoid. Paranoid. They're coming to get me at any minute now, and I'm going to fight them off. We put it in a safe deposit box the next morning.

You had stopped in San Francisco for a few days before going to Australia on vacation. Were you able to relax Down Under, knowing about the commotion that was waiting for you in the States?

Normally, I'm not that much of a braggart. But I wanted to tell everybody about something of this magnitude, and you're in a country where they don't know what baseball is. So I had to keep it to the phones and Internet. It was a good vacation — I was on a movie set most of the time [visiting my friend's sister, the actress Abigail Breslin], on the beach. When you leave a vacation, you're usually upset. I was excited to leave, because I was going back to a whole different world.

My parents suggested that I don't go to Australia. I'm like, "No. I'm going to Australia." I set out to California to go to Australia. I want to see this through.

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