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A baseball signed in September 2019 by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is currently up for bid at RR Auction in Boston, with some of the proceeds earmarked for Ukrainian relief efforts. As of Tuesday, May 3, the ball reached the low end of its $15,000-$20,000 estimate. The auction ends on May 11. Image courtesy of RR Auction.

Zelenskyy-signed baseball to be auctioned for Ukraine relief

A baseball signed in September 2019 by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is currently up for bid at RR Auction in Boston, with some of the proceeds earmarked for Ukrainian relief efforts. As of Tuesday, May 3, the ball reached the low end of its $15,000-$20,000 estimate. The auction ends on May 11. Image courtesy of RR Auction.
A baseball signed in September 2019 by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is currently up for bid, with some of the proceeds earmarked for Ukrainian relief efforts. As of Tuesday, May 3, the ball reached the low end of its $15,000-$20,000 estimate. The auction ends on May 11. Image courtesy of RR Auction.

BOSTON – When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy autographed a baseball for an American collector in 2019, he likely had no idea it would one day be used to help his nation during a time of need. The official Rawlings Major League baseball is being sold by Randy Kaplan, a renowned collector of balls signed by world leaders, with a portion of the proceeds going to war relief efforts in Ukraine, auctioneer RR Auction of Boston said on May 3.

The ball was expected to sell for at least $15,000, but the leading bid as of May 3 had already exceeded that amount, an RR spokesperson said.

“With what’s going on in the world right now it makes sense to auction it at this point because the proceeds will help the people in Ukraine,” Kaplan said in a telephone interview. “What’s going on in Ukraine is a disgrace and it’s breaking my heart to see the people dying there. Their needs are just so dire right now.”

The ball is signed with black felt tip both in Ukrainian Cyrillic and in Latin letters. It is accompanied by a transmittal letter signed by Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko, which reads: “Dear Mr. Kaplan, Please find enclosed a baseball, signed by the President of Ukraine, H.E. Mr. Volodymyr Zelenskyy during the visit to New York in September 2019.”

In addition to the unspecified percentage of the sale that will be donated through the global nonprofit Americares, RR Auction will contribute its buyer’s premium and seller’s commission to war relief efforts. Americares’ website describes its humanitarian response in Ukraine as focused on the medical needs of millions of refugees.

Kaplan is a governmental affairs specialist from New York who has many contacts with the U.N. and in U.S. politics. He doesn’t buy his baseballs at auction, instead acquiring them himself through those contacts.

He started his collection in 1996 when former President Bill Clinton signed a baseball for him at a meeting in Washington, D.C. The collection, which now numbers more than 500 items, has been displayed at museums and presidential libraries around the country.

This is not the first time he has auctioned a piece of his collection, but this is probably the first time he has sold a ball signed by such a high profile leader, a man he has come to admire during the country’s war with Russia.

“I am really hoping Zelenskyy survives this,” Kaplan said. “He’s a very brave man.”

The auction containing the baseball ends May 11 and also includes autographs and artifacts from Johann Sebastian Bach, Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein.

By MARK PRATT, Associated Press

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