September 30, 2008
Major props to Zack Hample, the New Yorker who keeps proving that when it comes to his hobby of "snagging" baseballs, luck has nothing to do with it.
Only one week removed from catching two of the last home runs ever hit at Yankee Stadium, Hample came up big again on Sunday, getting into postion to catch the final homer hit by the Mets at Shea Stadium, a blast to left field from Carlos Beltran against the Marlins.
It's not as unbelievable as it might seem, as The Wall Street Journal's "The Numbers Guy" writes:
After spending many of his nearly 400 games at Shea in the loge section behind home plate, he realized in recent months that "I was [wasting] my time going for foul balls that no one other than me cared about." So he started toting a cardboard sign to games that said, "I need one Picnic Area ticket." The Picnic Area, which includes the bleacher seats, generally is reserved for large groups, and inevitably there would be at least one no-show, which allowed Mr. Hample entry. As everyone else made a beeline for the food tent, he'd secure a seat ideal for catching batting-practice balls and in-game homers, in a wide aisle for maximum mobility.
It's likely, though, that Hample won't get any slaps on the back from fellow Mets fans, seeing as how he admits that he "almost" began hoping the Mets would lose so the value of his ball would be retained, an outcome that would have ended their season (and later, in fact, did).
The lifelong New Yorker who grew up a Mets fan but now roots more for players added, "I almost started rooting against the Mets," reasoning that a Mets win would mean at least one more game at Shea and possibly more home-run balls, lessening the historic value of his new prized possession. As it turned out, there would be no more games at Shea but there would be more home-run balls: Two Marlins homered in the eighth to end the Mets' season.
Still, I can't imagine the value of the Beltran ball plummeted that much, seeing as how a Mets fan probably wouldn't want a nightmare-inducing home run ball from Florida's Dan Uggla. If it did, though, Hample will just have to bite the bullet and get a couple of more fans to pay him $500 for the pleasure of his company at a game. (Yeah, it's a hefty price, but you can't say the man doesn't get results.)
UPDATE: Go read Zack's incredibly detailed and interesting account of his day.