New Yorker Zack Hample's collection of more than 5,800 baseballs, both home runs and fouled balls, is the largest in the world. "Yes, I'm obsessed," admits Hample, who's snagged balls since 1990. His only goal during baseball season is to hit as many Major League stadiums as possible and snag at least a thousand balls -- and his success relies on a carefully honed combination of preparation, ingenuity, and pure dumb luck.
"If the White Sox come out early for batting practice, I'm going to throw on my White Sox gear and start shouting at them," he says. But he'll happily switch gear depending on the team. Some of the players make a game out of throwing him the ball: "It's cool to be connected to all these guys. It's my own version of fantasy baseball, where I get to interact and play with numbers and feel like I'm a part of it somehow." Hample also has a rigged mitt, and he yells at foreign players in their native languages.
If you've read this far and consider Hample a Major League distraction, or just a jackass ballhawk, take note: He's written three books about baseball, and he's also started an initiative through which people pledge a dollar amount for every ball he collects. He donates the proceeds to Pitch in for Baseball, a charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids around the world. "I just love baseball," Hample says, "and I feel like I would be going to games regardless and just being obsessed with the sport."
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