Jul 2, 2010
Zack Hample's Blog
"Everybody is famous for one day. Today is your day," a Puerto Rican fan told Zack Hample after he snagged his 13th career home run ball as well as three in-game toss-ups on Monday at Puerto Rico's Hiram Bithorn Stadium. The guy obviously had no idea about the legend that is Zack Hample.
Hample, attending a Major League game in his 48th stadium and first outside the continental United States, came down with Mike Stanton's home run ball in the face of some aggressive competition from a gloveless fan. It was the 8th inning, and by that point he had spent virtually the whole game in the left field bleachers and had helplessly watched four home run balls sail into the opposite field bleachers in right.
So when Stanton launched a shot to left, Hample's eyes lit up and he prepared to make a play on it from the wide cross-aisle in the front of the bleachers. "From the second the ball left Stanton's bat, I knew it was coming to me," he wrote on his blog. "I mean right to me. I don't know how I knew. I just knew. And I also knew I was going to catch it. It was as simple as that."
He was right, but the snag definitely wasn't easy. Another fan made his way through the cross-aisle, determined to catch the ball despite being bare-handed. "I had tried to box him out (simply by holding my ground), but he managed to reach in front of me at the last second," Hample wrote. "Still, I think my effort to block him made a slight difference, and as a result, the ball cleared his left hand by about four inches."
It was a close call, but he kept his concentration and made the clean catch beside the other fan's outstretched arms. Hample went into a wild celebration and was clearly visible on the television broadcast wearing his "Where's Waldo" t-shirt. He also thoroughly confused everyone watching on tv by going crazy for a Marlins' home run while wearing a Mets' hat.
In addition to the Stanton home run, he also snagged three toss-ups during the game from Marlins' outfielder Chris Coghlan. In all, he finished with eight balls to increase his season total to 176.
It was his first of three games in Puerto Rico, and from the beginning he loved the atmosphere and excitement that was quite different than most games in the U.S. He enjoyed a lot of memorable interactions with the other fans, mostly local fans, many of whom asked for pictures and autographs.
"It's like I was their good luck charm," he wrote. "as if touching me or connecting with me was going to bring them fortune. I've never experienced fans reacting like that before. iViva Puerto Rico!"