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Paul Sullivan: Ben Zobrist’s agent says former Cubs star’s World Series ring not for sale — day after auction house said it was up for grabs

CHICAGO — What’s the value of a Chicago Cubs World Series ring?

When the team doled out 1,908 pieces of jewelry in 2017, the championship rings were valued at $30,000 to $40,000, team sources said.

Four years later, it’s safe to assume they have gone up in price.

The question was broached Friday after a Heritage Auctions tweet that Ben Zobrist’s World Series ring was up for sale, labeled as the first player ring to be made available.

The story quickly went viral, but as it turns out the ring will remain in Zobrist’s hands after all.

Scott Pucino, Zobrist’s agent, on Saturday told the Chicago Tribune that Zobrist was surprised to hear the news.

“He’s not selling it,” Pucino said. “I had a conversation with him twice — one late (Friday) night and one early in the afternoon.

“I said, ‘Are you sure you’re not selling it?’ He said ‘No, it makes no sense. Why would I sell this ring? It makes no sense. I’m never going to get rid of this ring — never, never, ever.’ ”

Heritage Auctions communications director Robert Wilonsky told the Kansas City Star the ring had been sold by Zobrist, and the owner was “a collector of championship hardware.”

When Pucino spoke to Zobrist, he told the former Cub, “I’m sure there are a lot of players that want to buy it and give it back to you.”

“He was the (World Series) MVP — there is too much history there,” Pucino said. “He always wanted to be a Cub. He is not getting rid of this ring.”

Zobrist is living in Nashville, Tenn., and taking care of his kids while going through a divorce. He hasn’t played since returning to the Cubs at the end of 2019, and though he is not officially retired Pucino said Zobrist is not coming back to baseball.

“He’s a devoted dad and grabbing the bull by the horns and taking hold of the situation,” he said.

What do those rings mean to the players?

“They’re definitely special,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said before Friday’s game against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park. “I’m not a big memorabilia guy. I like more pictures in the moment, being able to look at things that take me back to that time.

“A World Series ring is definitely something that does that for me, but I think I’ll probably hold on to mine forever and pass it down.”

Where does Rizzo keep his World Series ring?

“A sock drawer somewhere,” he said.

In truth, Rizzo has the ring in safe place that he wasn’t about to reveal. A heist of a Cubs World Series ring would make for a great Netflix movie, and Rizzo didn’t want to give anyone reason to look for it.

When the Cubs issued the rings, the team was worried about some immediately turning around and selling them on the internet. Most of the recipients had to sign a document that included an agreement to offer the Cubs first right of refusal at $1 if they intended to sell them. But the Cubs said players, manager Joe Maddon and the coaching staff did not have to sign the document.

“Why did we do this?” Cubs spokesman Julian Green said in ’17. “We don’t want rings, 30 days after they receive them, to (have owners) start putting them out on eBay, which reduces the value of what we think is one of the most coveted rings in sports.”

Then Cubs president Theo Epstein and then general manager Jed Hoyer signed the form willingly.

“If people are racing to the market to make a little bit of money, it does kind of drive the rings down in value,” Hoyer said when the news of the forms was revealed. The Cubs later made news by presenting a World Series ring to Steve Bartman, the fan whose brush with a foul ball in the 2003 National League Championship Series made him part of Cubs lore and forced him to avoid publicity the rest of his life.

Bartman issued a statement that day that he was “happy to be reunited with the Cubs family and positively moving forward with my life.” He then disappeared from public life again. Imagine how much the Bartman ring would be worth.

Some people wear their World Series rings on occasion either because they’re proud of the accomplishment or perhaps to let others see what they look like. Washington Nationals president Mike Rizzo had his 2019 championship ring on during a recent trip to Wrigley Field, a ballpark he grew up in.

Cubs outfielder Joc Pederson will be getting his 2020 championship ring later this month when the Cubs go to Los Angeles to play the Dodgers, his former team. The remaining Dodgers received their rings at the home opener in April, and Pederson doesn’t know how his will be presented.

“I hope there is a ceremony,” Pederson said Friday. “We put a lot of hard work into the organization and into winning that World Series. We did not get to celebrate as a team and we didn’t get to have a parade, so I think we got shafted on that. Take advantage of every opportunity we can get to enjoy that moment, because that was something really special for the city and the team.”

Rizzo said he hasn’t spoken with Zobrist recently. Zobrist visited Cubs camp during spring training in Mesa, Ariz., in 2020, and politely declined to talk with the media.

The 2016 Cubs will always have a special bond, and almost every time one of them comes back to Wrigley Field with a different team they’re treated like royalty. There are only seven players from that team currently on the Cubs: Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Jason Heyward, Willson Contreras, Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta.

“I’m sure five years from now there will be a 10-year reunion,” Rizzo said. “When you’re on a World Series team, a championship team, you’ll have memories that will tide you over forever.”

Rings are just pieces of jewelry that can go up and down in value.

Memories are priceless.

Fortunately for Zobrist, he always will have those memories — and the World Series ring, too.