It was quite a year for Zack Hample, the guy who has caught more baseballs then any other fan in the history of the game. We became interested in learning more about Zack because there are few poeple in the world that love the game of baseball as much as we do. Zack was nice enough to ‘sit down’ with us and answer a few questions. So sit back, relax, and get to know one of the best fans in the game.
Diamond Hoggers: You’ve accumulated 3,820 baseballs in your life. We’ve got about 10. Give us three tips– if we’re headed to a game and want to get a baseball– that would help us increase our chances significantly.
Zack Hample: Show up early for batting practice, bring a glove, and wear a hat of the visiting team in order to suck up to the players and trick them into throwing baseballs to you.
DH: Who is your favorite all time baseball player? If you have to, do favorite Met and favorite non-Met, and why?
ZH: My all-time favorite is Cal Ripken Jr. because of his dedication and durability and respect for the game—and because he was great and played the same position as me…and because he was big for Major League standards and I was big for high school standards. My favorite Met is David Wright, although I have to admit that Jose Reyes (despite his occasional attitude problems) is more fun to watch.
DH: Out of all your baseballs you have, do you have a favorite? Why?
ZH: The last home run ever hit by a Mets player at Shea Stadium. I’m not sure if anything will ever top that. It took an incredible athletic effort to make the catch. That’s what I love most about it. It’s also worth a lot of money, not that I want to sell it, and it’s the only ball I’ve ever caught that was authenticated by MLB.
DH: Do you collect any other type of baseball or sports memoribilia?
ZH: I collect ticket stubs and try to get them signed, as well as other items from MLB games like bats, batting gloves, lineup cards, etc. I used to collect baseball cards and ended up with about 100,000 of them. I once snagged a puck during warm-ups at an NHL game, but I have no intention of snagging another. I can only deal with one sport.
DH: Your book, Watching Baseball Smarter; give us a brief snippet of the moral of the story. To someone who has not heard of it, what is the idea behind the book?
ZH: In one line, I’d sum it up by saying it’s for anyone (beginner or expert) who’d like to learn about baseball, have a few laughs in the process, and end up enjoying it more.
DH: What is the coolest in-game baseball feat you’ve seen since you’ve been going live to baseball games.
ZH: Witnessing Griffey’s 600th and Manny’s 500th career home runs was cool. Attending two different games at which players hit for the cycle was also nice. But the greatest feat that I’ve seen in person was a no-hitter thrown by Dwight Gooden at Yankee Stadium in 1996. Sadly, though, I only snagged one ball, so the day was practically a waste.
DH: The New York Mets have an affiliation with Dunkin Donuts. Are you a fan of DD?
ZH: They do? Hell yeah, I love Dunkin Donuts, but it’s a dangerous place for a hypoglycemic like me.
DH: You started your blog back in 2005. Pretty neat in our opinion. You’ve got your entire journey on there. Will The Baseball Collector continue for as long as you’re snagging baseballs?
ZH: Well hey, thanks. I can’t predict the rest of my life, but I definitely don’t plan on ending the blog anytime soon.
DH: Adam Dunn was always a tough autograph for us to try and get. Any players notorious for being tough/stingy with giving away baseballs?
ZH: Interesting because Dunn is pretty good about tossing balls into the crowd. Greg Maddux is terrible, however I once got lucky and caught one from him that I think he might have throwing to someone else. Randy St. Claire, the longtime pitching coach for the Expos/Nationals, is a true nightmare for baseball collectors.
DH: Give us your three favorite baseball stadiums to watch a game
ZH: Camden Yards and AT&T Park for the snagging/beauty and Fenway Park for the beauty/tradition.
DH: You are an author, blogger, and superfan. You mention your girlfriend. Do you have a full-time job? Are you a student? What fills Zack’s time other than baseball?
ZH: I don’t have a full-time job. I’ve never been able to do the 9 to 5 thing. It’s just not how my brain works. I get by doing baseball stuff during the warmer months and work for my family’s book store during the colder months. I’m not a student, and believe me, I wake up happy every day because of that fact. School just wasn’t for me.
DH: Do you play fantasy baseball? How did you finish last season?
ZH: I’ve never played. What if my opponent had David Wright on his team? Would I have to start rooting against one of my favorite players? I’ve always avoided fantasy baseball for that reason.
DH: You interested us because few people love baseball the way we do. What is it that made you fall in love with the game of baseball?
ZH: It’s such a beautiful sport with so much history and so many nuances.
I took to it as a kid and then my obsessive personality took over and got me here.
DH: Should the baseball Hall of Fame have a section where fans are inducted?
ZH: Yes! If baseball owners and executives can be in the Hall, why not fans?
DH: Hobbies besides baseball?
ZH: Music, writing, reading, drawing, photography, people (if that qualifies as a “hobby”), Scrabble, eating, exercising, video games, etc.
DH: You caught the last baseball ever at Shea Stadium. Gained a lot of notoriety. You’ve left your mark on the world for sure. What do you hope to do in the future as a fan and as a person (goals and such)?
ZH: I’d like to transition into a TV career. Having my own show or being a regular on a particular network would be great. Personally, I’m looking forward to getting married someday and having at least one kid.
DH: Do you play baseball video games? Do you have a favorite?
ZH: I’ve never enjoyed sports video games, and I don’t mean to be all grouchy about it, but for me these games only cheapen the real thing.
DH: If you ever want to come to Cincinnati or Cleveland for a ballgame (we’re in Columbus) let us know. The trip is on us.
ZH: Awesome. I was in Cincy a few years ago. Wish I had this offer back then.
DH: Thanks Zack.