Razorback fans who snagged Regional-clinching home-run ball plan on returning it to sender

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – One of the main reasons why Arkansas is playing in the NCAA Super Regionals Friday is the three-run homerun Monday night from pinch hitter Charlie Welch.

That dinger sealed the deal for the No. 1 Razorbacks to advance over Nebraska. It was a moment that Hog fans won’t forget for a long time, especially the Sprout family.

Jacob and Jaylin Sprout were the ones who ended up with the homerun ball, a souvenir with a history Jacob is quick to share.

“I see it coming to us, and I know it’s going to land about four or five rows back. I was like ‘Oh my goodness,’ he recalled. “I see it go to a crowd of people, and I stepped into the aisle just to see, then it clunks around for 10-15 seconds and next thing you know it’s rolling right to me.”

The Razorback fan got his seats thanks to his generous boss, Shane Lester, who was watching the action play out from home.

“I had the tickets. There was a mess up on Sunday night. I was laying in bed watching it. All of a sudden, Charlie hit that shot,” Shane said. “I jumped up out of bed and started screaming, and when I saw where it was heading, I said, ‘That’s Jacob! That’s where Jacob is sitting!’ So I pick the phone up and I call Jacob. He wasn’t answering. All of a sudden he picks up. ‘I got the ball!’”

For Jacob, and most Arkansas baseball fans, the homer was a thing of beauty.

“Once we made it home after the game, and I’m seeing how pure and clean that home run was hit. That’s a moment,” he described. “That’s when it set in how crazy and how insane that baseball is going to mean.”

And while the bundle of cowhide and string means a lot to fans, the baseball is most special to the man who hit it.

The Sprouts got to meet up with Welch, a sophomore from Florida, to discuss what would happen with the piece of Oma-hogs history.

“He actually told us we could keep the ball. He said, ‘I understand if you want to keep the ball, but I’d love to have it,’” Jaylin explained. “At this point, it had been all day and we had made the decision to give it back.”

The Sprouts said the decision to give up the ball was simple, especially since the knew where it was going.

“I come from a baseball family. I know what it means to him,” Jaylin said. “Even though it’s a super awesome story for us, it’s infinitely more meaningful to him. It’s priceless.”

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