Zack Hample was running late yesterday for interviews with
Japanese TV, NBC and YES, so he opted against the subway and instead hailed a
cab on the Upper West Side.
"This is just crazy," he said, breathless, into his cell phone, running
toward Amsterdam Avenue. "Geez. Where's a taxi when you need one! Geez! Oh, my
Finally, he found one. "Yankee Stadium," he said to the driver.
So it went on the strangest day yet for Hample, 31, in a 25-year obsession
that made him semifamous, and more famous now than ever.
Hample is one of the world's leading experts at gathering balls at baseball
games, from batting practice to foul balls to home runs. He wrote two books
about it, and has a Web site and blog.
It wasn't until recently, though, that he discovered the joys of the
rightfield bleachers at Yankee Stadium, where he found himself Tuesday when he
caught Jason Giambi's home run ball. He did a goofy dance to celebrate, and was
caught on camera.
Wednesday, he was back. He caught a Johnny Damon home run ball. He did the
YES recalled him from the day before and ran the video, which was shown on
ESPN's SportsCenter and picked up elsewhere.
Hample explained it all in extreme detail on his blog yesterday, writing,
"My life has been insane since last night . . . It's just nuts!"
In addition to last night's interviews, he was to appear on CBS' "Early
Show" this morning.
"I have had a couple of books out, but as far as one defining moment, this
is right at the top," Hample said as the cab made its way to the Bronx.
For all his ball-hogging savvy, he admitted luck played a role. "If you
flip a penny a billion times, it will land on the edge once," he said. "If you
flip it a trillion times, it might happen twice in a row."
standing in the upper deck hoping for a ball to come his way. It took six years
to get his first.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would turn into this," he said.
"It's a beast."
Hample has secured nearly 3800 balls at 44 major-league parks, mostly
during batting practice.
Thrice he has gotten three foul balls in one game. Overall this season he
has 486 balls, shattering his previous mark of 321.
"I think I have an obsessive personality by nature," he said.
In addition to his writing, Hample shares his knowledge with fans for a
fee, a business called "Watch with Zack." In the offseason he works at his
family's Manhattan bookstore.
Hample is not a Yankees fan, and said Shea is better for him because there
are fewer people and security is more lax. He keeps going to the Bronx "for one
reason and one reason only: to try to catch an A-Rod home run. But I'm getting
no love from A-Rod."
Where did the dance come from? "Some dark, terrible place deep within
myself," he said. "My girlfriend is a former professional dancer. She's
Hample doesn't mind the attention. On the contrary. "I'm a media whore; I
admit it," he said. "I just want to have fun for myself, friends and family and
people who read my blog. I just feel like life is more fun when it's silly, so
I just ran with it."
Tricks of the trade
With the help of what he calls a "Glove Trick," Zach Hample has secured
more than 3,800 baseballs at 44 major-league ballparks. Here's how it works:
Start with a baseball glove, a rubber band, a Sharpie and some string.
Tie the string to the handle of your glove and keep it tucked away in the
palm when you're not using it.
Hook the band under the flap on the outside of your glove's pocket.
Stretch the band over the tip of your glove and prop the glove open with
Lower your glove over the ball. The glove's weight forces the band to
stretch around the ball. But first make sure that the band is not too tight or
the ball won't go in, or too loose or the ball won't stay in. This takes
Lift the glove slowly so the ball doesn't fall out. Wedge the ball in
there, and then the pressure from the glove and rubber band should hold it in