Jose Reyes is giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “hair-raising.”
The new Miami Marlins shortstop parted with his patented long hair last week, and an eBay auction for his dearly departed dreads has netted the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida a cool $10,200.
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“It’s overwhelming,” said Richard Kelly, vice president and chief operating officer of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida. “There’s no precedent. There’s no track record for this type of an auction, so we didn’t know what we had. We didn’t know what this would go for.”
It all started when Reyes, who signed a six-year, $106-million contract with the Marlins in December, was forced to cut his hair at the behest of Marlins ownership, which has instituted a ban on hair below a player’s helmet line.
But rather than simply trim his hair in private, Reyes, who made four All-Star teams as a member of the New York Mets, made it a charitable affair. The 28-year-old reached out to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“It came through a personal relationship we had locally with one of our staff members and Jose’s agent,” Kelly said. “They approached us about doing this auction for us and having a creative way to have this opportunity to help a local charity.”
Reyes traveled to Secaucus, N.J., for the buzz, which was performed by a barber from the Bronx, N.Y. and aired live on television.
After the trim, Reyes’ hair — which he had grown since 2007 — was handed over to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which put the sheared locks up for auction on eBay. Five days, 50 bids and $10,200 later, Reyes’ hair found a new owner, who has not been identified.
“We started it at $2,500 thinking that if we got that kind of a bid and got it up to around $5,000 that would be great, but then it went from $6,000 to $10,000 yesterday,” Kelly said. “At a little over $10,000, it’s more than we could have ever imagined. It has greatly surpassed what we thought.”
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida grants wishes to kids with life-threatening medical conditions across 13 South Florida counties — including Miami-Dade County, where the Marlins play — and the US Virgin Islands. During the 2011 fiscal year, the South Florida chapter granted 537 wishes to area children.
“(The money from Reyes’ hair) will go 100 percent toward granting wishes,” Kelly said. “The wishes that we grant in the Southern Florida chapter average $5,000, so we’ll be able to grant two wishes with it.”
Though Reyes’ auction was the most unique, it was hardly the first time the Make-A-Wish Foundation worked with a notable athlete.
“Specifically, we’ve had (Heat coach) Erik Spoelstra donate his parking spot at a game,” Kelly said. “Last year, we auctioned off lunch with (former Florida State coach) Bobby Bowden. (Former Dolphins coach) Don Shula auctioned off the opportunity to sit in a suite and watch a game with him.”
Through the Make-A-Wish foundation, kids also have gotten the opportunity to meet a wide range of athletes and entertainers and attend an impressive collection of events.
“We’ve done celebrity wishes that involve everything from MMA to NASCAR to the NBA and NFL, onto movie stars and music and such,” Kelly said. “We have children that are currently scheduled to meet Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Children have met Taylor Swift, they’ve gone out to the Grammys. We sent a child to the Super Bowl, and we’re sending two children to the Olympics over the summer.”
Reyes’ auction doesn’t come with a chance to meet the newest Marlins star or attend a game, but the winning bidder should have Reyes’ hair by early next week. The hair will come in a tightly wrapped bag and will come from a certificate of authenticity from Major League baseball.
As for what to do with it? Like Make-A-Wish wishes, this one’s totally up to the winner.
“People have said, ‘What a peculiar thing to be bidding on,’ but my point is that it’s not much different than if we were to have a game-worn jersey or game-worn cleats or anything else that was worn in a game,” Kelly said. “You wouldn’t take those types of items and wear them, you would display them with other memorabilia that you had. I see the hair as kind of the same thing. It’s certainly one of a kind, and it’s certainly a collectible. It’s unique, and it comes with a story. And it was done live on national television.
“What would I do with it? I would do the same thing I do with other memorabilia that I have. I’d put it on a shelf in a prominent place, and I’d have a conversation piece forever.”
To learn more about the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida, or to make a donation, visit their website.