By day, Jaime Ayala supervises an Arlington, Texas, police patrol bureau. At night, the deputy chief is a private eye – for baseball fans. He’s a baseball cop at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, one of the major league’s 130 authenticators, responsible for verifying the source of game-used and autographed items that may be sold as memorabilia. The goal: prevent counterfeiters from preying on unsuspecting fans, reports the Dallas Morning News. “It’s an eyewitness program,” Ayala says, designed to protect the integrity of the game.
On a recent summer night at the ballpark, he recaps what he has recorded: two cracked Louisville Sluggers, six baseballs and a pair of lineup cards – each getting Major League Baseball’s stamp of authenticity. Spurred by an FBI investigation of an autographed memorabilia market brimming with fakes, the program has quietly grown since Major League Baseball first experimented with it during the 2000 World Series. The FBI says the memorabilia industry has become considerably cleaner since then. About 2 million items bear the mark of authentication. Authenticators, nearly all of them current or retired law enforcement officers, attend games and are responsible for affixing stickers to balls, bats and other souvenirs.