An ice cream vendor allegedly punched a 13-year-old kid and then bit another person to grab a Ken Griffey, Jr. grand slam ball in 1991. It was Griffey’s first grand slam in the Kingdome, and the second of his career.
That vendor, now 44-year-old David Nyakas, hopes that same ball can somehow knock his life out of the gutter.
Nyakas fought for the ball successfully while finishing his duties at the ballpark as an ice cream vendor. But in doing so, he violated Kingdome employee policy, and was fired the next day. Mike Lewis of the SEATTLE P-I paints the picture of a man down on his luck, hoping that the sale of the ball will be that one break that turns around his life:
“I need a roof. I need a car. I need a job,” the 1981 West Seattle High School graduate said while sipping coffee at Luna Park Cafe. “You know that overpass down the street? I slept there the other night.”
Wrong place, wrong time. This could be Nyakas’ mantra, his middle name, stamped into the large type on his business card, if he had one. Years of low-grade crimes, in and out of custody. Fourteen months for nearly (and accidentally, he says) backing over a cop when he was trying to flee outstanding warrants.
Running from the cops? Well, if Paul Newman taught us anything, it’s that most folk heroes started out as criminals. Lewis also mentions that Nyakas was interviewed by police after retrieving the ball for an incident report, but he denies being arrested. A Washington state courts record search pulled up 55 hits for “David Nyakas,” but included few details for each incident.
Nyakas is hoping to get $50,000 for the ball, which is about one-fifth of what Griffey will make per at-bat this season. Also worth nothing is that Nyakas paid Griffey $40 to autograph the ball at a memorabilia show.
It’s hard to fault a fan for wanting to get back some of the money that he helps put in the pockets of those he pays to watch play. But since this was an employee of the facility (and, essentially, the team), and this escapade seems to be just another in a string of bad decisions this loser has made in his life. No baseball is going to save him from himself.