Dean, balls to be part of Hall of Fame exhibit

HOUSTON -- Shaun Dean only remembers facing one major-league pitcher in his life, back in Little League when he walked against Josh Beckett and stole second base.

Now, the lifelong Houston Astros fan is going into the Baseball Hall of Fame after catching two home run balls during a playoff game.

Dean was in the second row of the left field stands for the Astros' 18-inning victory that ended the NL Division Series against Atlanta. He caught Lance Berkman's grand slam in the eighth inning, and then 10 innings later he snagged Chris Burke's homer that ended the longest game in postseason history.

On Friday, Dean returned as a guest of the Astros and gave both balls to the Hall of Fame. The balls, along with a picture of Dean and his family, will be part of an exhibit that will be set up at Cooperstown after this year's postseason is completed.

"As a baseball fan, you hope to catch a foul ball, get something once in your life," Dean said. "To be an Astros fan, be at the playoffs and catch both balls, it was an unreal experience."

Dean never considered selling the balls. He had planned to display them on a shelf in his 3-year-old son's room decorated with sports memorabilia, including a signed picture of Don Larsen and Yogi Berra.

"They would have just gone to his collection," Dean said.

Instead, 3-year-old Tyler -- who initially appeared frightened -- and his dad got to meet Roger Clemens. They got their No. 22 jerseys signed by the star pitcher, who eventually got a high-five from the young boy, and spent a few minutes with Berkman and Burke.

"It's a pretty cool story," Burke said. "What are the odds of Lance and I hitting the ball in the same spot. ... It's a cool thing he's giving the balls back."

The Astros gave Dean's family tickets for Game 3 of the NL Championship Series Saturday against St. Louis. Instead of in the outfield, they will be sitting behind home plate.

Hall of Fame representative Jeff Idelson, who was in Houston on Friday to accept the balls, said more than 111 million people attended major- and minor-league baseball games this season.

"Think about trying to find anybody who caught two home run balls in the same game, and I don't think you can find anybody," Idelson said. "Put it in the context of the historic game played here, and it's really amazing. Shaun's gesture is the ultimate act of selflessness."

Idelson also gave the family lifetime passes to the Hall of Fame and said they would be flown there next summer to see the balls exhibited.

Dean, a comptroller for his father-in-law's construction company, caught the balls with a worn-out glove that his high school coach used to call "a trash can lid."

"I never dreamed of anything like this," said Dean, 25. "It's beyond words."