By LOLITA LOPEZ
4:43 PM PDT, July 13, 2011
NEW YORK (PIX11)
Christian Lopez, better known as the guy who caught Derek Jeter's 3000th career hit on Saturday, will have less to worry about if the tax man comes calling.
Modell's Sporting Goods and Steiner Sports have each donated $25,000 to Lopez, 23, who recently found out he could be on the hook for thousands of dollars in tax bills for the Yankee tickets and Jeter memorabilia he received after giving the Yankees captain the historic ball.
"We thought it was so critically important that someone needs to think about Christian so today we are officially announcing that this is Christian Lopez week at Modell's Sporting Goods and at Steiner Sports," said Mitchell Modell, owner of Modell's Sporting Goods.
Lopez, a cell phone salesman from Highland Mills, NY, was surprised when he discovered the Internal Revenue Service might try to collect an estimated $14,000 from him. The government could decide the goodies Lopez received are income that would be taxed according to the fair market value of the items. He says he has not been contacted by the IRS or the State of New York regarding any liability.
Instead, dozens of other companies and people continue to call on Lopez, who has hired a PR representative. Modell called the lifelong Yankee fan a "class act" for only wanting a signed ball from Jeter and nothing else in return for his gesture. Modell gave Lopez a lifetime 20% discount at all Modell's Sporting Goods locations. For the next week, 5% of proceeds from Yankee merchandise sold at the stores will also be given to Lopez.
In addition, Steiner Sports is holding an online auction with items like a dugout visit and second row seats to a Yankees game and a baseball clinic with the Yankee shortstop himself. Special DJ3K baseballs signed by Lopez himself and Jeter will also be auctioned off.
Profits from the auction will also go to Lopez to cover any future costs and existing ones, including a $150,000 college loan.
Overwhelmed by the support, Lopez became most emotional during a press conference in Times Square when Modell gave him his 2009 World Series ring. Modell received the ring because he is an official sponsor of the Yankees.
"I'm absolutely speechless right now. My hand is shaking actually," Lopez said after kissing the ring.
"Something great happened and obviously a great kid, a great guy did something just great and that's what it's all about," Brandon Steiner, chief executive officer of Steiner Sports Marketing Inc. said.
Lopez tells PIX11 he has no regrets for anything he did following the catch of Jeter's home run and 3000th hit. He insists if not him, someone will use the four Champion Suite season tickets he received from the team.
"There is going to be a Lopez somewhere in the seats up there," he added.
Lopez has also been offered money from Miller High Life and will get his own baseball card from the Topps Company. He is not expected to have to pay taxes on the donations because there is reportedly a $5 million exemption on taxable gifts.
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