Aug 7, 2009
Zack Hample doesn't really do the autograph thing, but he makes an exception whenever he snags a major milestone baseball. It took him a couple months, but on Tuesday Hample finally tracked down Mets Pitcher Livan Hernandez and obtained the signature for his most recent milestone ball, his 4000th. The ball, snagged at Dodger Stadium on May 18th on a throw from Hernandez, now features his signature on the sweet spot.
Having missed the opportunity to get his autograph on the day he caught the ball, Hample didn't want his latest encounter with Hernandez to go to waste. He brought his 4000th ball to Citi Field on Tuesday and went straight to the players' parking lot, where Hernandez was making his way into the stadium. "I held up my sign, shouted his name, jumped up and down like a little schoolgirl," Hample wrote on his blog. "...and to my surprise/delight, he waved me over! I rushed to the fence and handed my ball over and resisted the urge to tell him why it was special (I didn't want him to feel used) and simply asked him to sign it on the sweet spot."
Mission accomplished. Hample's day was only beginning, though, as he entered the stadium and proceeded to set the myGameBalls.com record for balls snagged in a single game at Citi Field, finishing with 14. His day included 10 thrown balls, including another one from Hernandez, and 4 Hit balls. His most impressive snag of the day came on a BP ball that didn't reach the seats but took a huge bounce towards the outfield wall. "I turned the palm of my glove face down and swatted down at the ball, hoping to trap it against the padded outfield wall," Hample wrote. "It was a maneuver I'd tried in the past, without much success because it requires perfect timing and an equally perfect prediction about how high the ball is going to bounce. Somehow, on this fine day, I nailed it and got a nice round of applause from the fans along the foul line."
During the game, Hample made his way down to the Cardinals' dugout, hoping to get a ball from Albert Pujols. At the end of an inning, Hample got his attention, waving at him to toss the ball. "Pujols DID throw me the ball, but he threw it on a line," Hample wrote. "Chest-high. Oh no. Easily interceptable. I said a silent prayer, knowing I was at the mercy of the people seated directly in front of me, and I reached straight out, hoping to be able to make the catch. As it turned out, no one in the front row even noticed or cared that a ball was sailing two feet over their heads, and I snagged it." A ball from Pujols, unquestionably a future Hall of Famer, is a valuable addition to any Ballhawk's collection.