Saturday, July 1, 2017

ICYMI: The TGP Exclusive Interview w/ Zack Hample


This morning we talked about Zack Hample and some of the advice that he was giving out to the USA Today about catching fly and foul balls at the ballpark. In the article we reminded everyone that if the name Zack Hample sounds familiar it is because he was the man who caught Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th hit, a home run to right field, inside Yankee Stadium. As you may remember there was a lot of controversy surrounding the home run ball after Hample caught it, so much so that Hample decided to come on The Greedy Pinstripes to talk about it and try to clear his name. Here is that interview from the 2015 season just in case you missed it. Enjoy and Happy Saturday!

Zack Hample is the lucky man that caught Alex Rodriguez's 3,000th hit that cleared the right field wall into the Bleacher Creatures, maybe you've heard of him? Zack's relationship with the Yankees fans immediately took a hit when he balked at the chance to return the historic baseball to Alex and the Yankees and has been on the defensive ever since. We have seen Mr. Hample on Good Day America, Conan O'Brien, Sportscenter and on many other avenues and today he lent his ear to us here at The Greedy Pinstripes. I admit that when I first sent the request to Zack I didn't expect to get a response but I had to have a horse in the race if I wanted a chance to win, to my surprise Zack responded. Zack was excited to be able to speak to the Yankees fans directly and give his side of the whole A Rod and 3,000 hit situation and I was more than happy to bring him an avenue. This is his avenue and this is his interview, Mr. Zack Hample:


The Greedy Pinstripes:

I think the first question my readers and Yankees fans everywhere want to know is are you a Yankees fan or would you consider yourself a general MLB fan?

Zack Hample:

I'm not a Yankees fan, but I'm not your typical Yankees hater either. I know it might sound weird, but I don't have a favorite team. For the last twenty years, I've rooted more for individual players, probably because I've attended games at 51 different major league stadiums and gotten a bit jaded in the process. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera were two of my all-time favorites, not just on the Yankees, but in all of baseball, so whenever they were directly involved in the game, I rooted for them. I still root for the team in certain situations depending on who's hitting, pitching, etc.


TGP:

Can you put into words how much of a tug of war is going on inside your head right now when faced with the question of whether to give the ball back or not?

ZH:

The president of a major auction house told me that the ball could be worth $500,000, but you know what? On a personal, sentimental level, it's worth much more to me than that, so I'd rather keep it than sell it. Of course it's also worth a lot to Alex Rodriguez, so I'm taking that into consideration and considering all my options, including using the ball to raise a whole lot of money and awareness for my favorite children's baseball charity, Pitch In For Baseball. The point is, this is a HUGE decision, and I'm incredibly conflicted.


TGP:

Can you share some and maybe explain the spectrum of the uproar you are receiving by Yankees fans and non-Yankees fans alike? I assume your most hateful responses have come from Yankees fans, are they any that are “PG” enough that you feel comfortable sharing?

ZH:

Bald Vinny has said the nastiest things on the biggest platform. I don't care to repeat them here, nor do I feel like getting into a war or words. I can deal with being insulted, but I don't appreciate false accusations, so I'd like to let everyone know that I don't knock over little kids. Despite what Vinny and various media outlets are claiming, it's simply not true. Come watch me during batting practice for five minutes or for the next twenty-five years and you won't see me knock anyone down. I've never done it -- not once in more than 1,200 games! It's not who I am or what I do. Before every single pitch is thrown, I glance to my left and right and often look over my shoulder to make sure I have some room to move in case a ball flies my way. I'm hyper-aware of my surroundings and take special care not to cause physical harm to anyone.


TGP:

Do you have any regrets for reportedly tweeting out, to paraphrase, that if you caught the 3,000 hit home run ball you would give Alex a “dummy ball and the finger?”

ZH:

I deeply regret that. I didn't have many followers then, and of course I had no idea that I'd actually end up snagging the ball, so I was just trying to be snarky. But it was a dumb, unnecessary, negative thing to say. Most people say things that they wish they could take back, and for me, this is it.


TGP:

I think everyone would like to hear your stance on Alex, the game of baseball in the steroid era and his repeated offenses and how it’s affected and shaped the game.

ZH:

Some of my favorite players of all time -- guys I practically worshiped as a kid -- turned out to be steroid users. It really hurt, and I instantly stopped rooting for them. A-Rod is no different. I understand that many people, especially Yankees fans, still love him, but I hope that people will respect the way I feel.


TGP:

If you can get into it and name specifics what are some of the things that the Yankees have offered you?

ZH:

Initially they offered me a chance to meet A-Rod, have my own press conference at Yankee Stadium, appear on the YES Network during the game, receive Legends tickets and all sorts of signed memorabilia including balls, bats and jerseys. I told them I appreciated it, but that the ball was worth more to me than anything they could possibly offer. I had no intention of selling it at first. I was actually planning to keep it forever because it really was THAT meaningful to me. At the very least, I knew I needed to leave the stadium that night with the ball still in my possession. I needed to think about it.


TGP:

Has Alex Rodriguez tried to contact you directly in any way?

ZH:

No, and I'm sure he won't. The Yankees said I could meet him if I give the ball back, so if he were to reach out to me, that would diminish their offer. I don't blame A-Rod for staying out of it.


TGP:

Would this have mattered at all to you if you were the one to catch Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit and not A-Rod's 3,000th hit?

ZH:

If I had caught Jeter's 3,000th hit, I still would've wanted to leave the stadium with the ball and think about it. I don't think that's unreasonable.


TGP:

For those who haven’t heard about your blog, 
ZackHample.com, and your books, "How to Snag Major League Baseballs", "Watching Baseball Smarter" and "The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals and Secrets Beneath the Stitches,"tell us how that came about and maybe share a few trade secrets for those of us who have not read the books or seen the blog.

ZH:

I wrote my first book, How To Snag Major League Baseballs, when I was 19. It was my dad's idea. He was a writer, so he helped me brainstorm and then organize my ideas into an outline. The next book, Watching Baseball Smarter, was his idea too, but he didn't help in any way until the first draft was complete and I wanted his opinion. The third book, The Baseball, was my own idea. My publisher approached me and said they wanted me to write another book, so I worked with them to develop the idea. Then I signed a contract for it up front, quit my regular job, and worked on the book full-time for 18 months. Trade secrets in terms of snagging baseballs? The number one piece of advice is to make sure you have some room to move. I always make sure not to get trapped in the middle of a long row of people, but at Yankee Stadium that's tough because it always so crowded.


TGP:

Surely you have a fourth book in the works after this whole A-Rod ordeal, any ideas for a title?

ZH:

I'm considering a bunch of different ways to write about the whole A-Rod thing and share the story with everyone, but I'm not sure if it's book-worthy.


TGP:

How many baseballs have you caught as of doing this interview?

ZH:

Including batting practice and all the various ways that I get them, my current total is 8,172. That includes 159 foul balls during games, 32 home runs, and one ground-rule double.


TGP:

Will your foul ball grabbing record ever be broken and where do you think your 10,000th ball will be caught?

ZH:

It's certainly possible for someone even crazier and more obsessed to break my record, but I'd say it's unlikely. Camden Yards is my favorite stadium, so I'm thinking it'd be cool to snag my 10,000th ball there.


TGP:

Is the A-Rod ball the highest profile ball you’ve caught? Do you think it is worth the most monetarily?

ZH:

It's the highest-profile ball by far -- no question about it -- and I would say that it's worth more by itself than my entire collection.


TGP:

We’ve heard stories of you catching Barry Bonds 724th home run ball and consecutive home runs inside Yankee Stadium in 2008, which would you say in your favorite memory? Is there a milestone home run ball we missed or don’t know about?

ZH:

Prior to A-Rod's 3,000th hit, my favorite ball that I caught was the last home run that the Mets ever hit at Shea Stadium. I also caught a Derek Jeter homer in 2012. That was his 3,262nd career hit. And here's another random one that remains as one of my most cherished baseballs: the final out from Mariano Rivera's 313th career save. Later in his career, he saved all the final-out balls, but at that time, he used to toss them into the crowd when he walked off the field.


TGP:

This isn’t really Yankees related but how did the whole controversy over Mike Trout’s first home run ball come about and how do you think you got stuck in the middle of it?

ZH:

I'm not aware of any controversy. I caught his first career homer in 2011 at Camden Yards, and I gave the ball back to him after the game, no questions asked, other than to be the person to hand it to him.


TGP:

Tell us about the charity work that you do with “Pitch in for Baseball” and the work you do with BIGS Sunflower Seeds and your fans to donate money to underprivileged children so they can have baseball and softball equipment.

ZH:

Since 2009 I've been using my collection to raise money for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball and softball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Basically, people pledge money for every ball that I snag -- kind of like how your friend will run a marathon and ask you to pledge some money for every mile -- and it all goes to the charity. I've raised nearly $40,000 with the help of BIGS Sunflower Seeds, who sponsored me in 2013 and sent me to all 30 stadiums and made a large donation to the charity. If people Google my name along with the word "charity," they'll find more info about how it works.


TGP:

Speaking of charity and interviews, is Conan still the worst interview you’ve done since all this went down? Also how many interviews do you think you’ve done since catching the 3,000 hit ball?

ZH:

Yup, Conan was the worst. When I tried to talk about the charity, he cut me off twice, and when I forced it into the conversation, he made fun of me. He wasn't interested in anything I had to say -- just making me look bad and getting laughs. I did 16 interviews the day after snagging the A-Rod ball, and I've done approximately 35 more since then. There are still at least 100 interview requests that I haven't even responded to. I needed a break this week, so I went to a couple of Yankee games and then spent an evening hanging out with friends. I've also had to stop scheduling interviews because I'm losing my voice.


TGP:

Is there anything you want to say to the Yankees fans directly? The stage is all yours.

ZH:

I'm sorry for the negative comments I made about A-Rod. If you guys can forgive him for using performance-enhancing drugs, I hope you'll forgive me for some of the dumb stuff I've said. The Yankees have been so kind to me throughout this whole process, as have most of the fans I've met in person at the Stadium, and I truly appreciate that. I'm hoping to work out a way for A-Rod to get the ball back and for the charity to receive a huge donation and for myself to get some cool experiences and perks at the stadium, but it's taking time. That's why it's dragging on -- not because I'm holding the ball for ransom or trying to get more interview requests. If you see me at the Stadium at some point, please don't hesitate to come say hi.



Zack, thank you so much for probably the most interesting and most hyped interview I have ever done in my years as a blogger. I appreciate you doing this interview for us as the owner of the blog and as a Yankees fan because I was able to get answers to the questions that I and every Yankees fan wanted after the home run was hit. While the saga continues of whether Mr. Hample will or won't give the ball back to Alex we can at least make our judgments now knowing both sides of the story. 

I have found a whole new respect for Zack after doing this interview and see him in an entirely new light, I hope that everyone reading this can as well. I told Zack when I asked for the interview privately and I will reiterate it here on the blog, I was hyper-emotional when the ball was hit and it was not immediately given back. Like Zack did, I said some things that I am not proud of and I didn't mean and I apologized to him and told him it was nothing personal, if he hadn't forgiven then I don't think you would be reading this now. I think when all is said and done 
Pitch In For Baseball will get their donation for a very worthy cause, Zack will get more than ample perks at the Stadium, Yankees fans will forgive and forget and Alex will get the ball.


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