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Interview with Ballhawk Zack Hample
April 14, 2014
See that guy in the photo holding the baseball? Yeah, that's Zack Hample. Looks just like your ordinary baseball fan that you'd encounter in any 1 of the 30 Major League Ballparks on any given night. But he's not just your average baseball fan. Far from it. He's part celebrity, part philanthropist, part author and part world traveler. Many of us want to see all 30 Major League ballparks in person. He did that years ago and has done it many times over. He's known for being the fan with the world's largest collection of baseballs from Major League Baseball games. He acquires them at games like you and I get hot dogs and $8 beers. We first learned about Zack when we stumbled upon his MLB hosted blog, which we have linked at the foot of the article. He was kind enough to answer a few questions that we had that may not have been documented just yet.
1. First of all, you were recently in Australia for the Dodgers/Giants series to open the 2014 season. What was that experience like? I hear the flight to Australia is absolutely brutal.
"The travel was especially brutal for me. For some reason, when I booked my trip, the cheapest option was to fly through Dubai, so I had a pair of 13-hour flights. Getting home at the end of it all took 43 hours door to door because I started in Alice Springs in Central Australia. That said, it was totally worth it. Seeing Major League Baseball in a new place is always exciting, and the Australian people really seemed to embrace it."
2. You've been featured on Jay Leno, ESPN, Baseball Tonight and many other news outlets. Over the years, are baseball fans starting to recognize you more and more and do you enjoy the recognition?
3. I know Heath Bell and yourself are close friends. Are you acquainted with any other players in the League and are you able to spend time with them when baseball is out of season?
4. Tell us a little about your charity. How it works and how you initially got started with it.
"In 2009 I started using my baseball collection to raise money for a charity called 'Pitch In For Baseball', which distributes baseball and softball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Basically I get people to pledge money for every ball I snag. I typically get about 500 balls per season so if someone pledges just one penny per ball, it ends up turning into a five-dollar donation. With everyone's help, I've raised more $38,000 so far."
5. Which ballparks are your favorite and least favorite to attend a game in and why?
"Camden Yards is my favorite because it's not too crowded, the prices are reasonable, the ushers are friendly, there aren't too many rules, and there's lots of room to run around for balls. No matter where you go, there's a cross-aisle, and out in right field, there's a standing-room area which is great for chasing game home run balls. My least favorite place, by far, is Yankee Stadium because of the crazy prices, restrictive rules, insane crowds, and sinister vibe."
6. Would you call Dodger stadium the least accessible and biggest headache for fans to get to? It has no trains, sits away from downtown Los Angeles, no bars, restaurants or hotels nearby and you can only enter and exit certain parking gates and stadium gates.
"Yeah, it's awful, and for me, the worst thing about it is that the parking lots open at the same time as the stadium itself. Think about that. You can't be in two places at once, so in order to make the most of batting practice, you have to sneak into the parking lot on foot. It's dumb."
7. I've found that for day games, sitting out in the Sun just drains the life and energy out of me. My body can't get used to them. How do you feel after enduring 9 innings out in the Sun chasing down balls?
8. A lot of fans probably look at your travels and then ponder what it costs to attend a Major League Baseball game. $100 for a hotel room, $9 for a beer, $6 for a hot dog, ticket prices will vary, $20+ for parking. Many want to know how are you able to afford going to so many ballparks. Have the books you've authored allowed you to freely travel? Or is it that living in New York, so many ballparks are within a few hours driving distance for you? Or have you just visited them slowly over a long period of time?
9. Being a New Yorker, are you interested in teams in other Leagues (Devils, Knicks, Giants/Jets?) Or do you even pay much attention to the other Leagues?
10. We conducted a previous Interview with a gentleman named Mike Nolan from Philadelphia. Like you, he has seen all 30 MLB ballparks but his goal was to see a baseball game of some type in all 50 states. He was able to see Adult League games in Hawaii and Alaska and many of the other 48 states at least had minor league teams. Is this something you could see yourself doing or wanting to do on down the road?
11. For the fans that don't know, you've caught the last Mets home run ball at Shea Stadium, Mike Trout's 1st home run ball, and one of Barry Bonds' home run balls before he broke Hank Aaron's all time home run record. Which by the way, is mind-boggling. Are there any other milestone balls or balls of interest that you've snagged recently?
12. Are there or have there been security guards or ushers that recognize you and intentionally try to keep you from snagging balls at the stadium or are most pretty cool?