Notorious ballhawk snags A-Rod’s 3,000th ball, holding for now
The fan at Yankee Stadium who wound up with the ball that Alex Rodriguez launched for his 3,000th hit is holding on to the prize souvenir.
For now, anyway.
”Told the Yankees I’m keeping it,” Zack Hample tweeted during the game Friday night.
The 37-year-old Hample describes himself as a pro at catching home run balls, is credited with collecting more than 8,000 of them and has written books about the art.
Hample was sitting in the right-field seats and got the ball Rodriguez hit for a solo home run in the first inning against Detroit.
A day earlier, Hample tweeted ”that man deserves favors from no one, least of all a fan.”
— Zack Hample (@zack_hample) June 20, 2015
Rodriguez mentioned the fan who caught Derek Jeter’s home run ball for his 3,000th hit in 2011. That man was all too eager to return it to the former Yankees star.
”Where’s Jeet’s guy? That’s the guy I needed,” Rodriguez said during his Friday postgame news conference. ”I wasn’t so lucky.”
After catching the ball, Hample told reporters he had envisioned catching it as ”a one-in-a-million” possibility.
"My intention all along imagining this scenario, one in a million, was not to give it back just because the guy who got Jeter’s 3,000th hit, a lot of people called him an idiot," Hample told Newsday as he received a police escort to the Yankees’ executive offices. "A lot of people said that he was a wonderful person and extremely generous. I really think that whatever you want to do with it is your choice.
"I think that someone like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez who’s made half a billion dollars in their career doesn’t really need a favor from a normal civilian and a fan like me."
After catching No. 3,000, the Yankees tried to negotiate with Hample.
The team offered Hample "all kinds of memorabilia," Hample told NJ.com. "Bats, jerseys, signatures, the chance to meet A-Rod, the chance to be on the YES Network, to have my own press conference, tickets, Legends tickets."
Will he sell it?
”I don’t know right now,” Hample said. ”Depending on what the Yankees could offer, I would consider giving it back.”
”I don’t plan to give it back for a chance to meet him and four autographed bats, because I don’t collect bats. I collect baseballs. Just having this ball is so meaningful to me, and I can’t believe that I got it,” he said.
Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo said efforts to have the man deal directly with Yankees president Randy Levine didn’t work.
”As far as we’re concerned, we have done everything we could to engage this guy in some type of discussion about some type of exchange. He had none of anything we were saying. He wouldn’t engage at all,” Zillo said. ”He is not intending to give it to us.”
”This guy is pretty well-documented. A professional home run catcher,” Zillo said.
Even though Hample has snagged over 8,000 balls — most of which came during batting practice — he has caught a few big home runs, though this is his most prized possession. Some of his other collectible highlights include catching Barry Bonds’ 724th career home run, Mike Trout’s first, and the last home run hit at Shea Stadium.
Hample boasts that he can ask for a ball in 31 different languages. One of his tricks include bringing hats of both teams playing in a game so he can suck up to the players.
“I love doing this. Every season there’s a new challenge in place,” Hample told FOX Sports Ohio a few years back in the below video:
— Larry Brown Sports contributed to this report.