PG Talk: Zack Hample
Professional Baseball Hawk
Profile: Zack Hample | From: New York, New York | College: Guilford College
For those who are unfamiliar with yourself, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I describe myself as a professional baseball nerd. My weird claim to fame is catching baseballs in the stands at major league games. I’ve blogged about it, written books, and now I’m focusing on doing videos for my YouTube channel.
How did collecting baseball come about?
I was first inspired by watching games on TV as a little kid and seeing fans going crazy after they caught baseballs. I was hooked even before I came close in person.
How many baseballs have you collected and what is your goal?
My grand total including balls during batting practice, other pre-game warm-ups, during games, and even after games is 10,163. I’d say my main goal at this point is to snag 100 home runs during games. Right now I’m at 55.
How do you store all the baseballs?
They’re mostly in a storage unit near my place in New York. The balls themselves are mostly kept in 32-gallon bins, which hold 400 balls apiece. I do keep the better home run balls separated along with one of each commemorative ball that I’ve snagged over the years.
How did you keep your 5 minutes of fame and turn into a brand? Was social media a big part of it?
Ballhawking, as it’s called, is a media-friendly hobby. I’m certainly not the only person who does it, but I seem to be the one who’s taken it to the greatest extreme, so a lot of attention naturally comes my way. Beyond that I just try to be creative and share my experiences through writing and videos, and of course it also helps that I continue to catch home run balls on TV, some more important than others.
Do you have a day job?
Sort of but not really. My family owns a big old book store in New York City, so I work there part-time when I’m not completely swamped with baseball stuff.
What's your favorite home run ball you caught?
The last Mets homer ever hit at Shea Stadium — Carlos Beltran on September 28, 2008.
What was it like catching Mike Trout's first home run and ARod 3000th hit the ball? What did you end up doing with them?
With Mike Trout, it was extremely fun and exciting. I had a ton of empty seats to work with and made a running/climbing/lunging catch. I met his parents ten minutes later and handed the ball to Trout himself after the game — nothing but good vibes. With A-Rod, I was more stunned than anything because the moment was so huge that it felt more like fantasy than reality. At first I decided to keep the ball, but two weeks later I gave it to A-Rod in exchange for the Yankees donating $150,000 to a children’s charity called Pitch In For Baseball that I’d been supporting for years.
Whose home run do you want to catch? Past & Present
I often wonder what it’d be like to have caught Babe Ruth’s first career home run, or perhaps his last. Or maybe the first home run ever in an All-Star Game, which he hit. Or maybe his 60th of the season back in 1927. Currently I want to catch a Mike Trout home run so that I can actually have one to take home that can always be part of my collection.
In your opinion who's the best baseball player right now?
I think Mike Trout is the best, and I hope he stays healthy and plays until he’s 40.
What are you 2018 baseball goals?
My goal is to not let baseball take over my life. That’s my goal every season, and I always fail. Beyond that I just want to catch a decent number of home runs during games — at least half a dozen. And to have another solid year of putting out YouTube videos.
Any 2018 World Series predictions?
I’m bad at predictions, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yankees and Dodgers.
We know you published 3 books do you plan on releasing any new ones?
I have no plans to write another book. That might change someday, but I think I’d need to be married to a writer or someone creative who works from home because writing is too stressful and solitary.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time besides watching baseball?
No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I’m going to be most excited about who I’m with. In other words, most of what I do away from baseball is people-oriented, but I do spend a good chunk of time on my own obsessing over music and keeping in shape.
Tell us something we don't know about Zack Hample!
My favorite time of year is when there’s no baseball. I try not to even think about it over the winter, and I don’t miss it at all.
Photos courtesy of ZackHample.com