NEW YORK -- Sean Hughes was standing with his back to the field, manning his position as a Yankee Stadium security guard -- section triple zero, field access right in front of the loading dock in center field -- when he felt something smack against the back of his right leg. Instantly, he knew what it had to be.
Fans around him began rushing toward the ball. His radio sprung to life: "Did you get the home run? Did you get the home run?"
Hughes recovered quickly from the shock of being struck in the leg to reach over and grab the ball before fans got too close. Yes, Hughes is the man who retrieved the ball from Alex Rodriguez's 661st home run.
"Yeah," he responded over the radio. "It hit me right in the leg."
Yankee Stadium security guards had been radioed to be on alert before each of Rodriguez's at-bats on Thursday and attempt to be ready to retrieve the ball if it was hit near them.
Still, Hughes never expected this. He had began working for the Yankees in March, just before the start of the regular season, after working as a security guard for six years.
Right away, he knew what he wanted to do with the ball.
"I just told them I wanted to give it to Alex Rodriguez," Hughes said. "Because he deserved it, he deserves all the merit for it."
Rodriguez had a much easier time getting this ball back than he did his 660th home run from Friday night. The Red Sox fan who caught that ball has said he will not give Rodriguez the ball and was unwilling to negotiate.
After Thursday's game, Hughes met with Rodriguez to exchange the ball for an autographed bat. The two took some photos and chatted for a bit, and Hughes said he took the time to congratulate Rodriguez on his accomplishments.
As for the bat, Hughes plans on keeping it at his home on Long Island.
"I'm saving that bat," he said. "It's a special moment -- it's going to go down in history and it's going to be a prized possession of mine.
"It's just an amazing feeling to be a part of this, to be able to share this. But the true merit goes to Alex Rodriguez. He's the one that did it. I was just doing my job."
Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.