27-year-old New York City native Zack Hample is best known to most people as the inventor of “ball hawking,” and has acquired more than 8,000 major league baseballs in his hawking career. On Friday night at Yankee Stadium, Hample caught Alex Rodriguez‘s first-inning home run off of Justin Verlander – A-Rod’s 13th home run of the season and his 3,000th career hit. According to his Twitter account, Hample doesn’t intend on returning the ball to A-Rod.
“My intention all along, I’ve been imagining this scenario as a one-in-a-million, was not to give it back,” Hample told NJ.com. “You know, just because the guy who got Jeter’s 3,000th hit, a lot of people called him an idiot. A lot of people said that he was a wonderful person and extremely generous. And I really think that, whatever you want to do with it is your choice.
“I think that someone like Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez, who has made half a billion dollars in his career, doesn’t really need a favor from a normal civilian and a fan like me. I don’t know right now if I’m going to sell it. I mean, depending on what the Yankees could offer, I would consider giving it back. I’m not giving it back for — I don’t plan to give it back for a chance to meet him and full autographed bats because I don’t collect bats, I collect baseballs. Just having this ball is so meaningful to me. I can’t believe that I got it.”
Hample has many milestone baseballs on his resume – including Mike Trout‘s first career home run, Mike Nickeas‘ first career home run, Didi Gregorius‘ first home run (also at Yankee Stadium), Barry Bonds‘ 724th career home run, Mariano Rivera‘s 343rd career save, and the final home run ever hit at Shea Stadium by Carlos Beltran, the 263rd of Beltran’s career. Yankee Stadium has been very generous to Hample, who caught a grand slam off the bat of Robinson Cano in 2009, and another 4-RBI home run from Carlos Beltran in 2014.
Many fans have seen Hample’s glove trick, in which he uses some string, a baseball glove, a sharpie marker and a rubber band to reach stray baseballs that are out of his reach.
Hample broke a world record in July 2012 at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, MA, when he caught a softball dropped 312 feet through the air from a helicopter, and also caught baseballs dropped from heights of 312 feet, 562 feet and 822 feet. He returned in July of 2013 and successfully caught a baseball dropped from 1,050 feet, another record.
He has written three books over the course of his ball hawking career – How to Snag Major League Baseballs, Watching Baseball Smarter, and The Baseball. Fans can even hire Hample to attend a baseball game with them with the guarantee of catching a baseball.
Check out ZackHample.com for more information on his collection of baseballs and memorabilia, as well as information on how to order his books or attend a game with him.