We often joke about players being traded for a bag of balls, but in Kerry Ligtenberg's case, that's how he became a Brave.
Ligtenberg was pitching for the Minneapolis Loons of the independent Prairie League in 1995, a team of which former Braves catcher Greg Olson was the manager. In an interview with Talking Chop in 2010, Olson said Ligtenberg had three key intangibles: physical talent, tremendous work ethic, and mental toughness. He called the Braves and scheduled Kerry a tryout, and in January 1996 the Braves purchased Ligtenberg for $750 worth of baseball equipment; to be more precise, twelve dozen baseballs and two dozen bats.
There you have it: the Braves purchased Kerry Ligtenberg for, quite literally, a bag of balls.
Kerry debuted in 1997 (along with his awesome sideburns), and became the full-time closer in 1998 after Mark Wohlers developed the yips. He notched 30 saves that year and was fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Unfortunately, he fell victim to Tommy John surgery during Spring Training 1999 and missed the whole season, paving the way for John Rocker.
When he returned to action in 2000, Ligtenberg served a setup role but still earned 12 saves. He would stay in that role two more years, setting up for John Smoltz before being granted free agency. Ligtenberg would spend single years with Baltimore (2003) and Toronto (2004), and seven games in 2005 with Arizona. He last pitched professionally in 2009.
Ligtenberg is currently the pitching coach for the St. Paul Saints of the Independent League.