I’ll play it straight and let you decide.
John Mayberry’s home run on Saturday sailed over the left-center field wall and into the glove of Zack Hample, who, according to Zack Hample, is regarded as the best in the world at his craft: snagging baseballs at Major League Baseball games. He has written three books, including one on the art of, you guessed it, snagging baseballs at Major League Baseball games. He’s obtained 6,906 balls* from Major League Baseball stadiums in over two decades of honing his skills. It’s a… strange… hobby for Hample, who sometimes works in his parents’ New York bookstore, but it’s one that has earned him quite a bit of publicity (he caught Mike Trout’s first home run and Barry Bonds’ 724th.)
I spoke with him earlier this week about his trip to CBP last weekend, and he has since blogged about his experience… which included being kicked out of the ballpark on Saturday after referring to a female usher as “a [unspecified anatomical body part**]” and being threatened with jail time by security.
From Philly, with Love.
This season, Hample, who is sporting a black eye after taking a baseball to the face in Atlanta, is being sponsored by BIGs Sunflower Seeds and is traveling the country in an attempt to collect a ball from every Major League stadium. His tour is scheduled to conclude in Philadelphia at the end of the season, at which point BIGs will make a donation to support youth baseball. But on Saturday, Hample was in town for Ballhawk Fest, an annual gathering of people who like to collect balls from baseball games. Their pastime is unique, if not insanely weird.
Hample says normally would have bought a ticket in the infield – so he would be all but assured a ball from a coach, umpire or player – but, for this game, he purposely bought one for left-center in a deliberate attempt to not get a baseball (so his charitable tour could be punctuated at CBP later in the season).
Sometimes, however, like Lindsay Lohan, balls just find your mitt.
Mayberry’s home run flew deep and Hample, of course, caught it:
He caught it partly because he wasn’t in his seat. He had opted to snag an open aisle seat because he gets too antsy in the middle of a row, he told me. Ushers repeatedly asked that he move, but he never fully complied. He simply switched rows, sections or basically did anything he could not to sit in his actual seat.
By the 12th inning, security had had enough.
Hample explains on his blog, where there is a much more in-depth recap of his day:
Everything seemed fine until I made it down to my row and plopped my backpack on a seat. That’s when three security supervisors surrounded me. One of them said, “We’re gonna need you to come with us. Have your ticket and ID out.”
“Is there a problem?” I asked, trying to figure out what was going on.
“Yeah, there’s a PROBLEM,” he answered.
“What did I do?” I asked.
He repeated his command about about my ticket and ID, and they all marched me up the stairs.
Once we reached the top, they asked me if I recalled having used a derogatory word to insult them, and I was like, “Huh? No, I really don’t,” and I meant it. Yeah, I have a potty-mouth sometimes, but I would never curse at a stadium employee, especially when I was already in trouble. That would be the stupidest thing ever.
I was truly puzzled and had no idea what this was all about until the guards informed me that a beer vendor had heard me use a bad word in describing them, at which point it all came back to me, and I felt horrified and embarrassed, and yes, angry. Indeed, when I was leaving the the left field seats in a huff, a young/cool-looking vendor had asked me what was up, at which point I said, “I gotta get out of here — the guards are being a bunch of . . . “
I won’t repeat the word, so don’t ask, but as I tweeted later, it wasn’t derogatory toward any culture or minority; it was an anatomical reference. I also tweeted that I was sorry. I never want to make anyone feel bad, but I was also sorry about my own behavior, namely that I stooped so low and had made a useless, throw-away comment that could not have possibly led to any positive outcome. What I said to the beer vendor could have only made things worse, and indeed it did. Is he mega-lame for ratting me out? Yeah. What’re we — in 3rd grade here? But whatever, that was his choice, and of course the whole thing could’ve been avoided had I not even uttered that word in the first place.
Anyway, the security guards were pissed at me, and when I said, “I’m sorry,” the one who was writing down my name and address shouted, “NO!!! THERE **IS** NO ‘SORRY’!!! YOU KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT!!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!?!?!”
I stared at my feet and nodded, and when he was done with my license, they escorted me toward the 3rd-base gate. On the way, the guard who had initially come to talk to me about the home run ball said, “If you attempt to reenter the stadium, I will find you and have you arrested, and you will spend a WEEK in jail; if you come back tomorrow or any other time this season, all will be forgotten. Is that understood?!”
I asked Hample if he told security that he was doing this for charity or if they had noticed his shirt, which indicated that he was there on official ball-snagging business. He said they didn’t notice until after tensions had escalated. He also said that at almost no other stadium in baseball will ushers go out of their way to hassle you about not being in your exact seat, especially when there are as many empty seats as there were by late afternoon at CBP on Saturday.
My first thought when I heard Hample’s story was that, along with the team, the attitudes of gameday employees at CBP have gone in the shitter and that this was yet another example. But the more I thought about it, the more I sided with security. Hample admitted that he ignored repeated requests to sit in his actual seat. Sure, he was there as part of a nerdy jammy jam slash charity thing… but that doesn’t give you license to bounce around outfield sections at your whim. And why, in the world, would you ever confide in a beer vendor? What, did he think it would be ironic to vent to the Coors Light guy? A costly miscalculation there. Beer guy has to make the people in his sections happy, and if Hample was annoying them by hopping around all game, beer guy was left with only one choice. Once you’re no longer of use to beer guy, you might as well be dead. You’re mere friction between him and smooth-pourin’ smooth sellin’.
Anyway, Hample is pissed about the incident and told me that he dislikes the Phillies more intensely than he had previously. He did, however, return to CBP on Sunday night with his GIRLFRIEND(!). He encountered no issue with security.
*Caught in-game or during batting practice, or given to him by someone who is paid to be in the ballpark. Not other fans. He doesn’t count balls given to him by other fans. Because there’s no honor in that. And because it would be weird.
**My bet is “cunt.”
Pics and screenshots from Hample’s blog