Can’t we all just get along?

Several days ago, a well-known ballhawk from Ohio named Rocco Sinisi wrote a VERY opinionated column on about the “Ballhawk of the Year” Award, and within a matter of hours the blogosphere was abuzz. Quite simply, Rocco’s pissed that the same person — who now seems to have an unfair advantage — keeps winning it every year. Here’s how his column begins:

“Well, in a summer full of scam artists we have another dilemma that we might have to come to grips with. We may have to come to grips with the fact that we might have a professional ballhawk in our midst. Why is this a problem? Because the rest of us amateur ballhawks cannot compete with a guy who is being sent to ballparks to ballhawk on someone else’s dime.”

It’s no secret that the “professional” he’s talking about is me, so I thought I’d take a moment to respond . . .

For starters, I consider Rocco a friend. We’ve crossed paths several times at Great American Ball Park, and he’s always been cool. I didn’t take his column personally, and I’m not offended. If anything, I took it as a compliment because, evidently, I’ve set the bar so high that there’s now a discussion about leveling the playing field. That’s flattering, but it also sucks because I feel like I’m responsible for ruining other people’s fun.

Am I a professional ballhawk? I’m not sure. I’ve gotten paid to write about it, and I sometimes earn money by taking people to games. On two separate occasions, I received an honorarium for being interviewed about it on TV, and this season I was sponsored by a sunflower seed company. I’d say I’m semi-professional because (contrary to popular belief) I don’t make a full-time living doing this. Does being a semi-pro disqualify me from “competing” with my fellow ballhawks? Does it cheapen my ballhawking accomplishments or make them even more impressive? I don’t know, and I don’t care. I’ll let other people decide, if they even feel like thinking about it at all.

When I first really started getting into this as a 14-year-old in the spring of 1992, I had no intention of writing books or being on TV or getting any attention from it. I was just doing it because it was challenging and fun, and despite all the hoopla surrounding my collection nowadays, that’s still how I feel. If I somehow knew that I’d never be interviewed again, that wouldn’t affect the number of games I’d attend. I’d still be out there doing my thing, and in fact I’d be somewhat relieved. At times, the attention is overwhelming. I often long for the days when I could waltz into a stadium in another city without being recognized.

I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t care so much about the accolades and attention. There was a time when every interview stroked my ego; now I mainly do them for three reasons: they help raise awareness and money for Pitch In For Baseball, they help sell copies of my books, and they (sometimes) give me a chance to show the outside world that ballhawking is a good thing. Ballhawking has gotten some bad press in recent years, so I’m always glad when it gets portrayed in a positive light. But beyond that? I don’t really give a damn about what it means for me, personally. I’d rather sleep late than rush off to a TV studio at 5:40am to answer the same stupid questions.

Along those lines, I don’t care THAT much about the “Ballhawk of the Year” Award. I’ve always been honored to win it, but it never motivated me, and I think it’s a real shame that it’s now dividing the ballhawking community. I love the website because it has brought so many people together. This really IS a community. We should be sticking together and rooting for each other, not having petty quarrels over who’s the most popular and who deserves to win an arbitrary award. As a ballhawk, my enemies are unreasonable security guards and judgmental idiots who tell me I need to get a life. My enemies shouldn’t be other ballhawks, but suddenly I’m feeling more tension among my peers.

If the tension continues, it will destroy the hobby as we know it. If we can’t get along amongst ourselves, how do you think the public and the media will react? I’ve seen two other similar communities get torn apart because of people who had their own selfish agendas. I’m talking about (a) competitive Scrabble and (b) competitive classic arcade video games. I don’t want to see the same thing happen in the ballhawking world.

In terms of the actual “Ballhawk of the Year” Award, Rocco made lots of interesting suggestions in his column, but I don’t think he’s found the perfect solution. To me, it seems that having a “Hall of Fame” or “Ace” category would complicate things. Giving elite ballhawks gold backgrounds on their profiles seems gimmicky. Handing out extra awards to various groups determined by age, gender, and ballhawking experience seems like a hassle that would ultimately cheapen things. The more awards that are given out, the less meaningful they become. I’d rather finish in 3rd place for THE main award than win something that half a dozen people are also going to win. But maybe that’s just me. If everyone wants more awards, then let’s do it.

Rocco doesn’t want to have to compete with someone like me who gets sent to baseball games for free. I understand where he’s coming from, but would it be fair, then, for me not to want to have to compete with someone like him who gets to enter his home ballpark two hours and 40 minutes early every day? Do you think I like having my home run totals compared to the ballhawks in Baltimore who have endless room to run in that teeny ballpark? I hardly ever find Easter eggs in New York, and using the glove trick is strictly forbidden at both Citi Field and Yankee Stadium — but life goes on. We’re not just competing with each other. We’re competing against the odds and doing this because it’s fun . . . right?

It’s easy for me to say that I don’t need any more attention; I’ve gotten an awful lot of it over the years — way more that I’ve probably deserved — and inevitably I’ll receive more. But believe me, I know how much fun it is to be on TV or appear in a newspaper or magazine. Winning an award every now and then is fun too. Who doesn’t like being recognized for being good at something, if not The Best? If that’s your motivation, fine. I have no problem with that. We all have our own wacky issues and reasons for doing what we do, so let’s embrace it.

It seems to me that the best solution for dealing with the award is to just let things play out naturally. If enough people are pissed that I’ve won it several times, then they can vote for someone else. Erik Jabs has snagged more baseballs than me this season. Shawn Bosman, Alex Kopp, and Tim Anderson have all gotten more game home runs. There are some really talented guys out there. Vote for them if you think they deserve it.

Most importantly, be chill and have fun, and if you see a little kid with an empty glove, think about handing him (or her) a baseball. We have tens of thousands of balls among us. Some people have zero. As bad as things might seem when you barely miss a gamer, remember how lucky we really are.


  1. Leigh Barratt

    Wow. Talk about a hornet’s nest! I see valid points on both sides. Zack, you and everyone else knows you’re great at what you do. No one can dispute you’re a great ballhawk. The biggest “complaint” that I always hear about you from fellow ballhawks is that you are always trying to draw attention to yourself. You seek out the fame and the media, etc. Look at me. Look at me. Alot of jealousy out there obviously. I think there is a way to squash this whole thing. The challenge to you would be to not do ANY media in 2014. Don’t do any interviews at all. No print media. No radio. No television. No podcasts. No sponsors. No free tickets. No Watch With Zack. No advertising where you’ll be on Twitter. Nada. Show everyone that you’re just “one of the guys” and don’t give anyone any fuel to add to the fire. Spend 2014 under the radar. Keep going to games and snag away. Pay for your own tickets. Pay your own way on any road trips. Update your own totals on I say continue to do your blog to help continue your work with Pitch in for baseball.

  2. Ray Burton

    Well said Zack. I see a very blurred line between ” professional ” and ” enthusiast “. If a person expends more time and effort , then their work deserves more acclaim. As in any competitive endeavour , as soon as awards or prizes start to be distributed , then the ire of the less-awarded is going to rise exponentially. If awards like this are going to have a negative effect and create tension between erstwhile friends then perhaps they should be abolished. Let everyone enjoy the sport and remove the competitive aspect. Then everyone can get along and enjoy baseball for what it is , not as a means for self- glorification ( in some people’s opinion ). In Australia we have a saying – ” the tall poppy syndrome ” , perhaps you have a similar one ,and I think this is a classic example. I know you do not seek the attention that you receive Zack , but unfortunately that is not everyone’s perception.

  3. Cook & Son

    It is sad that this is a story. has created a great community. I’ve met a bunch of great people through the website. But it’s sad to see that people are not all on the same team. If this award is going to create this tension, Ray might be right in suggesting to do away with the award. My advice: go to the ballpark with the goal of having fun. If you accomplish that goal, be happy. That’s all that matters.

  4. Zack Hample


    Thanks for the comment. I appreciate what you’re saying and how you’re saying it, but I’d like to clarify a few things. First, I don’t seek out the media nearly as much as you think. In fact, I haven’t sought it out this year at all. BIGS Sunflower Seeds hired a PR guy and was responsible for all of it, except for the frenzy that developed on its own after I snagged two home runs in one game. But like I said, the attention is good for the charity and my books, so I’m not going to turn down interview request just to placate the haters. Second, most people don’t realize that for the most part, BIGS “only” paid for me to attend one game at each stadium this season; given the fact that I’ve attended 85 games, I’ve actually paid for more of my own tickets/trips/meals than they have — yet I still choose to wear their gear. They’ve been good to me. I’ve tried to do as much as possible for them in return. Third, I would prefer NOT to mention where I’ll be on Twitter. You have no idea how much I would love to be able to cruise into a stadium and not have a dozen people looking for me and trying to talk to me outside the gates when I’m trying to read the previous day’s boxscores, not asking for a photo when I’m trying to catch home runs during BP, not asking for my autograph when I desperately need to piss and grab a pre-game meal, not want to hang out after the game when I’m exhausted and need to blog. The only reason why I give people a heads-up about where I’ll be is because they request it and because I’m nice. I actually have a list of folks — often total strangers — in each city who’ve asked me to notify them when I’ll be there. I do consider myself to be social, and I feel fortunate to be able to meet so people because of what I do, but it’s unbelievably draining. And finally, as for, when Alan Schuster was first starting the site, he asked me to join, and I was like, “Thanks, looks cool, but I’m too busy to get involved.” He knew that more people would join and take it seriously if I had a profile on there, so he offered to set it up for me and maintain it. It’s a shame that people think I do everything for selfish purposes, when in fact I give so much of myself to make other folks happy.

    Thanks as always for being the voice of reason, and yeah, I’ve heard of “the tall poppy syndrome.” I think it might be a good idea to ditch the awards, but would we then be reinforcing the silly attitude that “everyone’s a winner”? I think it’s good to compete, but in this case we must ask ourselves what we’re actually competing for — and at what cost?

    Glad you agree. Quick story: way back in the day, I attended a loathsome all-boys school with a dress code that took effect in 4th grade. Every boy either had to wear a turtleneck or a shirt and tie, which was awful, so to make it fun, our teachers held a “tie competition” one day, and whaddaya know, EVERY kid won an award. The teachers invented the dumbest categories (i.e. “widest stripes”) so that everyone would go home a winner. Nine-year-old me thought it was the dumbest thing ever. I don’t want to see the same thing happen in the ballhawking world.

    COOK & SON-
    Yeah, it is. But it’s not surprising. You’ve offered some great advice. I think we should all think about that and try to behave accordingly.

  5. ch1088

    Completely agree. Personally, I ballhawk because it is a way for me to get away from life for 5 hours and forget about life’s problems. I don’t ballhawk to win awards. We should be congratulating each other on our accomplishments. Throughout this hobby I’ve met incredibly cool and generous people I’d never have crossed paths with had I not started.

    Can’t we all just get along?


  6. Larry

    Well said. In my opinion there are too many good ballhawks to have one ballhawk of the year. There are also too many factors to in play to separate ” Pros ” from the others.

    For me it really shouldn’t matter if someone goes to games “on someone elses dime” because you kind of have to be a good ballhawk to get sponsored like that. You worked for that sponsorship ( even though you didn’t know it ).

    We really don’t need awards! Isn’t ballhawking fun enough?

  7. Zac Weiss

    I do agree that it is a shame the community can’t come together. It truly makes everyone look bad. I have scaled back this season due to my schedule and I have ballhawked because I enjoy the conversation, exercise and for a time raising money for charity. I already highly considered walking away due to business and the first grade arguing does nothing to help that. I enjoy when I am at the ballpark, however acting juvenile about things won’t get anyone anywhere. I hope everyone can get along and solve this issue but right now I am not optimistic.

  8. Mike

    Rocco is probably pissed because you told him to calm down on the 5+ consecutive comments he would leave on your blog at a given time. He seems like a nice guy, but the man needs to chill and understand this hobby, sport, whatever the hell you call it, is done for fun. You have to wonder why people rip your hobby when you have people like Rocco and Shawn from Milwaukee talking about how they give up friendships for ballhawking.

    Relax, it’s a game guys.

  9. Zack Hample

    Good luck. (I mean that sincerely.)

    You have a great attitude.

    Thanks. That’s a nice way to look at it.

    Good to hear from you. I really don’t blame people for being frustrated. I’m just not thrilled with the way some people express it.

    I hope Rocco didn’t get pissed at me for that, and if he did, I hope he won’t stay pissed because I’ve always enjoyed hearing/reading what’s on his mind. Meanwhile, I’ve never had a problem with Shawn. The few times that I’ve hung out with him at MIller Park, he’s always been great. I’ve never heard anything about people claiming to give up friendships for ballhawking, but I can see how being obsessed with anything could force someone to make difficult choices.

  10. Ray Burton

    Absolutely spot on Mike. Sadly , that was my perception. Note that he no longer posts comments after that episode. I get the impression that constructive criticism was not welcomed. Maybe some personal malice is involved. No doubt he will read this blog and it will be interesting if he has something to say. It truly is sad when such a great sport as baseball and the enjoyment it brings is sullied by controversy such as this. Get rid of the awards process , let mygameballs be the voice of the ball hawking community if it likes and promote the hobby , not be a medium for venting personal gripes or promoting elitism. As Zack says , everyone just get along. There are plenty of baseballs for everyone. It is interesting to watch this as an uninvolved outsider. Unfortunately , I have seen it all before in many other situations , both sporting and elsewhere. In the end , it cheapens the activity involved , promotes divisiveness and creates personal animosity.

  11. Mike

    Zack- read Shawn’s blog and you will see the direct quote.

    It’s a shame because I think this can be a fun, albeit different than the norm hobby. I just believe that some people take it way too serious.

  12. Mike

    Hi Ray-

    I don’t really consider this “controversial” as you say. I think it’s just sour grapes on the part of one person, which is magnified on another website, and I’m sure Zack either caught wind of the article from someone or read it himself. I don’t know Rocco from a hole in the wall. Just from here and MGB. He seems like a decent guy, just a bit inense when it comes to what this whole ballhawking hobby really is, and is pissed off that Zack told him to lay off commenting multiple times on his blog.

  13. Zack Hample


    I don’t have much to say in response to your latest comment — just that I like it.

    Do you have a link to Shawn’s blog? Or to the specific entry that you’re talking about? As for Rocco’s article, someone sent me the link, and then I read the comments there and found Tony’s blog response. I suppose I could’ve ignored it and it would’ve gone away sooner, but that seemed lame. I wanted to speak up and give other people a chance to do the same, here in the comments section. As for Rocco, let’s not jump to conclusions about what he’s thinking or feeling. It would be nice to hear from him directly.

    Amen, brotha.


    Where ya be?

  14. kslo69

    Wow, a lot of passive aggressive wording in that column. Also, way to much “may”, “might”, and “maybe” to warrant serious attention. If someone wants to voice an opinion to the world, I would expect them to plant their feet and take a stand, and speak clearly, rather than rely on innuendo and sniping. I read this blog (b) because it is entertaining and well written, (c) because it takes me on a virtual tour of all the ballparks I will likely never see, but mostly (a) because I can share it with my kids as a great example (the Hample Example?) of what a person can accomplish with passion and fortitude. The fact that you have transformed your youthful hobby into a means of providing joy, and even opportunity to young children you may never meet is commendable and infinitely more important than counting balls snagged. To my mind, this would make you a valid candidate for the award if you snagged only one ball all season. Without those qualities…Yawn. Anyone who follows this blog regularly can see that you are passionate about what you do, but also caring about the world around you. You chose to channel your passion in a manner that has benefited others (the restaurant is on the market…) and grabbed the attention of a lot of folks who wouldn’t care a whit about ballhawking otherwise, and as a result you have become, as Ray says, “The Tallest Poppy”. The fact that others would see this a reason for griping and backbiting is sad and petty, but not surprising. Keep doing what you are doing Zack, as long as you choose to do it, and know that you have provided happiness to uncounted children, lent a respectability to your hobby that it lacked before, and provided a sterling example to the youngsters who look up to you. This is more than I can say about any other ballhawk I have met or heard of.

  15. Big Glove Bob

    Z-Man, Big Gloveski weighing in here. Are you having fun doing what you are doing? If the answer is yes then keep doing it. Is anyone getting hurt in the process? If the answer is no then keep doing it.
    This is a classic example of jealously rearing its ugly head. Instead of the backbiting and cackling, the people should be paying homage to you. You have created something from almost nothing. You have carved out some super cool opportunities for yourself and I laud you for that. If someone saw fit to shove a microphone in the yap of any of these detractors they would be a giddy as a school girl. Let us not forget we are talking about collecting baseballs, not Syria. Anyone who takes ballhawking too seriously needs to splash some cold water in their face, look in the mirror and ask themselves some candid questions about where their life went off track. It is a hobby folks. Zack, keep doing what you are doing and let the haters hate.

    Big Glover Bob

  16. Wayne

    Leigh, your comment is absolutely ridiculous. What sense does that make for Zack to change his ways for ANYONE?

    When I started ballhawking in 2006, I had no idea what to do. A simple Google search and I found Zack’s book. Then I started catching baseballs. Then I started using his glove-trick. Then I started traveling stadiums and catching more baseballs. Then I bought all 30 team hats. I’m sure my story is very similar to a lot of others who wanted to catch a baseball and didn’t know how to do it. And now those very same people are hating on the dude who showed you the ropes?

    Zack, I know the BoTY award doesn’t mean much to you and that’s totally fine. It doesn’t mean much to me, either. You keep doing what you’re doing, dude. Seriously. You traveled all 30 stadiums (half of them on a broken leg) to promote your book. BoTY award.
    You snagged 21 baseballs at the Tokyo Dome- that alone- BoTY award. (That place was PACKED and huge odds AGAINST him; I was there to witness)
    This year you traveled all 30 stadiums AGAIN and snagged a gamer at all 30 parks- BoTY award.
    Next year you’ll be in Australia at the Sydney Cricket Grounds. Ahem- HISTORIC… that alone- BoTY award.

    And like the last guys comment. You have raised nearly $40,000 dollars in donations to Pitch in for Baseball. That’s a lot more than any other ballhawk has done for their community. On top of all that, you have the number one blog in the fan section on MLB which is done to perfection each entry. You don’t short change any of your readers, ever.

    To all the haters: If you haven’t done more than just catch BP homers, Ballhawk Shawn, Happy Youngster, all those old dudes on Waveland Ave, and those kids out at Camden Yards have you BEAT by a long shot. It isn’t just Zack who has your number! HAHA!

  17. Rocco sinisi

    PEOPLE, CALM DOWN!!! Did anyone *really* read my article…I don’t think so. All they heard was someone bagging on their guy Zack!

    I state for the record, that I am a Zack Hample Disciple!!! I love Zack Hample, and I support him as a fellow ballhawk! All modern ballhawks know that Zack was their inspiration for the sport. He pioneered modern BALLHAWKING as we all know it today…let there be NO mistake. He is KING OF THE BALL SNAGGERS, as the Urban Dictionary states. I consider him a friend, and a mentor. I would also like to keep this conversation CLASSY, as all the little kids see us as psuedo Roll Models…please!

  18. Rocco sinisi

    Sadly, it seems that most of the Ballhawks out there misunderstood the intent of my last article. It was not trying to crack on Zack, but trying to spark a HEALTHY debate over some ballhawking issues (Amateur vs. Pro Ballhawk), adding some NEW ballhawking categories, and possibly some new awards to recognize some outstanding achievements by some other OUTSTANDING FELLOW BALLHAWKS…that’s it. The article was not meant to be mean spirited, but somehow I knew that some people were going to get into the gutter with this…too bad, and childish. My aim was to try and help GROW this/our sport, and help other ballhawks get some just due. As for me, I don’t need an award to validate my worth, I have a chest full of medals from the United States Army, and a house full of awards from 26 years of service, from both the Army & Police! My wife is also a little upset that nobody is looking out for the FEMALE ballhawks among us. Anyone that knows me, knows that I will move Heaven and Earth to help a fellow ballhawk . This was on my mind.

  19. Rocco sinisi

    I am going to write a rebuttle article this week, to hopefully clarify some of my points, so stay tuned. Zack Hample might have Popularized our sport, but I am going to STANDARDIZE this sport!

  20. Big Glove Bob

    I don’t know that the “sport” needs any standardizing. I read Rocco’s piece and I wonder why he chose to preface his remarks about Zack with a comment about a summer of “scam artists” and the people may have to “come to grips” that we may have a professional in our midst. A little over the top IMO. If this hobby has a professional, it is Zack. Zack is the gold standard, and was the gold standard long before he was being sponsored. Who cares about the Ballhawk of the Year award? Take the award downtown and you couldn’t get a cup of coffee for it.

    Big Glove Bob

  21. Charles

    I have met Zach once in my life. And while I can tell you that he is a highly energetic Passionate person, in no way did I get the impression that he is any of the things listed in the posts above. Ball hawking is competitive for everyone. The fact that he has raised money for charities is completely over looked. Zach keep doing what you are doing. The fact that you have received the exposure that you have is due to your drive, love, and passion for what you do. Don’t let anyone rain on your parade.

  22. tonyv433

    Not sure why my original comment never posted, but I’ll try to remember what I wrote:

    I hope you took no offense by my blog post. I got to meet you for the first time this year and I must admit, I was a bit skeptical. A guy who is the “king” of anything – and from New York City – cannot possibly be a stand-up guy, could he? Well, you proved that you are a very kind guy and even though your time is precious (you could be snagging more balls, eating, drinking, relieving yourself, etc.) you talked to everyone that approached you. In short, you left a positive impression on me.
    The main point of my post was not to drag you (or other top ballhawks) down, but to bring up one simple idea – vote for guys that you know and who represent the hobby in a positive way. Sure, everyone has their rights to vote as they please, but much like politics, make an informed decision, not just based on one category or “popularity”.
    I like the name of this blog post, and have to say, it reinforces the last part of my blog post as well:
    We are a niche hobby, the dedicated few who are absolutely mental about baseball. We are not only lucky enough to have one baseball in our collections, but many of us have hundreds, or even thousands! We get to not only watch baseball games, but bring pieces home with us, and even better, we make friends that share the same quirky hobby! Aren’t we all winning?

  23. Rocco sinisi

    …”ARRR ZACHARY”…DID YOU READ ME’ COMMENTS MATEY??? (a little Pirate humor)…AND YOU SAY???

  24. Ben Weil

    Well, after an hour plus of reading, and searching, I’m finally caught up on EVERYTHING, so I feel I can comment accurately, and appropriately. I’m going to offer a few different viewpoints as responses.
    First, in regards to Zack as a person, we met about 4 years ago. I believe the first season at Citi. Since then, I can’t tell you what happened, or how it happened, but I can tell you I consider him one of my best friends. So much so, that you’re going to be in my wedding. That’s right buddy, you heard it hear first! That is, if you’ll do me the honor of partaking. Zack is one of the kindest, generous people I know. Also, one of the most honest. So if you don’t like what you hear, maybe it’s cause you don’t like the truth, or reality. Believe me, I’m not here to make this a Zack-love-fest, but I am stating a strong opinion. I refuse to manage people in my life that are selfish, or petty, or any of that other negative crap that may have been suggested. What I can tell you is that Zack offers a lot of time and energy to many strangers, for no reason. If he was a complete prick, we would’ve met once, crossed paths many times, and likely never spoke. There are certainly some people I come across when ballhawking, where that is the case. I’ve been at multiple games with these same people, and they’ve never acknowledged me, so you better believe I’d rather piss on them than acknowledge them. And you ALL should know, through this blog, that Zack acknowledges practically everyone he meets, by posting pictures with them. Complete, random strangers. And he gladly takes pictures with them and posts them. Pretty selfless, if you ask me.
    Secondly, Rocco, I love you. I do. You treated me like a frickin king when I was in Cincinnati. I’ll always remember being alone, feeling rather lonely waiting in the Hall of Fame in Cincy, and you aggressively waved me over, cause I had no idea you were waving at me. We met, hung out, had a great time, and did our share of snagging. You offered me advice about the ballpark, and offered up the best spots to me. You treated me like a king visiting your country. I’m forever grateful, and it’s one of the fondest memories I have of any ballpark I’ve ever been to. And I, very much like you in this case, LOVE to start a controversial conversation. I’ve done it many times via my own facebook. Conversations that have lost me friends. Conversations that I guarantee, you would not want to hear. So I can appreciate your point of view. What I will say in regards to this though, is truly, why does it matter? Cause I damn sure know it doesn’t matter to you! You’re the effin man in Cincy. You own that ballpark. If you wanna consider Zack a “professional” at this hobby, so he is. And we move on. It doesn’t inhibit the balls you snag. It doesn’t take away from your great accomplishments. It has zero affect on your life, or anyone else’s. Actually, his accomplishments DO have an affect on others lives, as each ball he snags raises additional dollars for charity. But that’s not the point. I appreciate you voicing a topic for discussion, but if people want to be petty, and complain, let them. Let’s not involve them in our fun hobby and all the wonderful people we meet. Man, I am so grateful for this hobby, and I see it more so now through Jen’s (my fiance’s) eyes. She’s always so amazed and so impressed by the random people I know, and how I know them, just by going to baseball games! She’s loved the concept of ballhawkfest, meeting a group of people, just via this hobby. Two weeks ago, we were in Minneapolis, and hung out with Mateo, outside of a baseball game. I mean, we’re talking about friendships built, just through this fun hobby. What could be better? I know for damn sure I will be contacting you, Rocco, next time I’m in Cincinnati. And my guess, is we’re not just going to be at the ballpark together, but we’re probably gonna grab lunch, or dinner, or whatever it is. And you BETTER contact me, if you’re in NY!
    Lastly, this may be a bit repetitive from my last comment, but it’s really the most important thing I have to say. WHO CARES?!?!? Really, who cares what others think? Why does anyone let the thoughts of others impact the things they do? I KNOW I don’t. You all have seen me. I have 10 piercings on my face. I know people judge me for this all the time. But who cares? It makes me happy. And that’s the most important lesson in life: Do what makes you happy. Not what makes others happy. Not what you think is going to make others happy. Do what makes you happy. I can tell you with certainty, that I’m as happy as anyone can be in life. Because I do what makes me happy. And that’s it. Y’all have said it, and seen it before. When Zack catches a homer, I’m probably happier than he is! When Tim caught a homer in Baltimore, I jumped on him with thrill. Why? Because these guys are my friends, and I’m so happy for them and their accomplishments. Jealousy is disgusting, and ugly. It brings you down in life. Why, why would you want to harbor feelings of jealousy for others? I can’t understand it. Now, you better believe I’m proud of the things I accomplish. I know I’ve improved as a ballhawk since I started, and I’m proud of that. I love to compare my stats, to my stats! I love seeing I snag 1 ball more per game than two years ago. Would I love to snag 8 balls per game? Of course, who wouldn’t? Do I care that I don’t? Eh, not really. Maybe one day, after hundreds of games and thousands of hours of practice I’ll get to that point. But if not, it was never meant to be my calling. I’ll take what I can get and enjoy it. And I’ll be thrilled for my friends and their accomplishments, at the same time. Because that’s what makes me happy.

  25. Zack Hample

    I’m flattered by all the nice things you’re saying, but jeez . . . enough already. It’s getting embarrassing.

    Many thanks. And thanks some more. I like the phrase “Hample Example,” and I like the out-of-order list even more — B, C, and then A. Thanks for making me smile yesterday and again today when I reread your comment.

    I do have fun overall, though Yankee Stadium continually tries to break my spirit. I like interacting with people overall, but there are a few folks out there who should be put to sleep — no one who has commented on this entry, I should mention. I do enjoy writing the blog overall, but sometimes it really gets in the way of life. I may have to rethink a few things this offseason. As for people getting hurt . . . yeah, me. I seem to have sustained more injuries in the last two years than I had in the previous two decades — gotta rethink that as well. Anyway, thanks for the support and encouragement. That means a lot. Sometimes *I* have taken ballhawking too seriously, and I’m still trying hard to find the right balance. Oh, and as for Rocco’s “scam artists” comment, I’m pretty sure he’s referring to a different controversy over people fudging their stats.

    You’re awesome, but I should clarify that I didn’t have a broken leg — it was a badly sprained ankle — and the main purpose of my travels that season wasn’t book promotion. It was to have fun, but of course I knew that in going to all those games and writing the blog and being interviewed, it would help the book and the charity. Also, I snagged 23 balls at the Tokyo Dome. Come on! Don’t sell me short. (I’m just hoping for a few in Australia. I really don’t expect to put up huge numbers there.) Normally I dread the start of each new MLB season (because I have so much more fun in the off-season — hard to believe, I know), but I’m *very* much looking forward to our crazy plan for next March.

    Glad to hear from you, but sheesh . . . again, what’s the deal with posting so many different comments on the same entry? In the future, could you please try to consolidate all of your thoughts into one comment? If you want to have a “classy” discussion (as I think we all do), it would help us all to process our thoughts if there were just one comment per person. Understand that I’m not picking on you. I would request this of anyone. And you know I’m always glad to hear whatever’s on your mind. I like the idea of standardizing things — there has long been a debate, for example, on whether spring training balls should count — and I like the idea of more people being recognized for their accomplishments. There used to be a great way of doing that. Alan used to write feature articles for every time one of the site’s members snagged a game home run or did anything noteworthy — even snagged a foul ball if it was a younger member who hadn’t ever done it before. Every milestone and noteworthy feat, it seemed, was written about, but then Alan had a kid (the nerve!) and got too busy to keep churning out the articles. I wonder if you and/or anyone else here would be willing to step in for him and take over so that more people could get props. I would do it, but I’m already *so* busy with my own writing that I truly don’t have time to take on any other projects. Anyway, I look forward to your official response.

    Thanks. Just make sure to spell my name “Zack” from now on. :-p

    No offense taken. As a general rule, I don’t get offended. If someone says something dumb or hurtful or just plain bone-headed, I shrug it off because it reflects badly on them, not me. But that wasn’t my reaction to your thoughtful blog entry. I hear what you’re saying, and I agree with a lot of it. I especially like your point that we ballhawks are a privileged bunch. Boo-hoo, we missed a home run ball? First World Problem. We have it pretty good, and we should be working together to make it even better.

    Now *that* was a comment. Thanks for everything you said, especially the part about the wedding! I’m honored and delighted to participate, but please don’t make me rent a tux, okay? (I would rather show up naked than wear a tux. Seriously.) One thing I love about you is that you really *don’t* give a damn what anyone else thinks. You are so YOU, and it’s beautiful. I need to learn to do that, but on the other hand, I think it’s good to consider what other people think because it makes everyone behave better. Anyway, I won’t try to match your comment’s word count, so just know that I read it all, and it made me quite happy. See you tomorrow in the Bronx.

  26. James Lee (@esigs)

    I imagine that when most of us started on this hobby, we were thrilled to just leave the ballpark with a ball or two in our bags in each game we attended, without any thought of receiving an award, while 99.99% of the people had no clue on how to get a single ball ever. Until not too long ago, I was among the 99.99%. Then a foul ball found me, and I found Zack’s blog. Since then, it has become my challenge to get a ball or two on the few games I attend, and I’ve used this blog to learn how to increase my chances, even though I’m “too old” (as one umpire told me), of the wrong gender, not quick enough, still struggling to navigate seats & cup holders while tracking BP homers, etc.

    I never got close to a game home run ball, which I imagine would be the most thrill in ballhawking. So far, the most satisfying games I had happened when I went to two games without BP and I left with 3 balls in each game: a day game I arrived late due to a subway incident, and the second game of a doubleheader. Without Zack’s blogs, I would not have had any. And to me, that is all there is to in this hobby. The satisfaction for accomplishing something that is seemingly unlikely, unless you know what Zack has shared with everyone who wants to learn.

    So Zack, keep on blogging and please wear clothes to Ben’s wedding (congratulations Ben!).

  27. Dave butler nats with sf giants. (world champions) hat

    I am very blessed my life is less complicated….see the ball, chase the ball & god willing, catch the ball…stop & have fun!
    While you guys debate this, the rest of us r katchin !

  28. Ray Burton

    Is Ben`s comment coming out as a book. I`ve lined up Peter Jackson to turn it into a three part epic film with Brad Pitt starring as Ben if I can get the film rights. Don’t worry Zack , there is a small part for you playing yourself.

  29. Tim

    It’s not a sport please don’t tell me that it is a sport. Baseball is a sport. Catching balls in the stands, using glove tricks to gather balls laying on the ground, and begging for third out toss ups is a hobby. I must say though that Zach has taken it to a level never to be matched consider all the access to a professional world that he has had by always being ahead of the rest and trying to treat others as he would like to be treated. If you want to have a award for 2nd best that’s fine but there is nobody better at this hobby or for this hobby than Zach.

  30. Tim

    I know it’s Zack not Zach my apologies for multi-tasking while typing and watching the Pirates and Cubs game.

  31. Dave butler nats with sf giants. (world champions) hat

    Tim…good one…begging is not sport…and Baltimore is a very very competitive, not a fair comparison to anywhere

  32. Brandon (skinny)

    Why isn’t anyone concerned about me!? I’ve been to soooo many dumb 7 hour ballgames with Zack over the years… even some games in the rain, Where’s my award!? When we go to a game we are the 1st ones in and the last two out. And he won’t eat at regular places like In & Out burger and Taco Bell consistently on our road trips. Do you think I want to spend my Friday night at a crappy game in Cleveland!? No!

    Go Padres!!

  33. John

    WOW! A long string of debate and I didn’t start it! However I will add my 2 cents just to fire it up a little.

    Leigh – I like your idea, I know where you are coming from ….. NO CHANCE it happens.

    I think the big issue here is the fact that ballhawking used to be a quiet hobby that many had but it was still possible to enjoy. Quite honestly many of the OLD SCHOOL ballhawks, whether they admit it or not, have an issue with all the HAMPLEITES running around with their backpacks on banging into people.

    I know you don’t like that term Zack but that is exactly what they are and it’s all your fault …… lol

    First, I do consider Zack a friend and yes there is always a little jealousy because he wrote the first book about Ballhawking 10 years after I should have written one. He started ballhawking and got best at it during the age of the internet where everyone could read about it, see it and be part of it by knowing where he would be.

    I remember a conversation about with Zack when we first got emails from Alan. The one thing that we both said was that we wanted this not to become a competition but to remain fun. No I am not knocking Alan and but it has now made every year a little crazier and a competition for those that go to games all the time.

    For me ….. that past 10-15 years I go to a small number of games because I have worked in baseball all that time. I hate going to a game and having 10 kids that read Zack’s Blog and books think they know everything and can cut people off, run into people etc. Yes it happens!

    Wayyyy back in the day I was in a Levis commercial Ballhawking outside of Wrigley Field. For a little while it brought unwanted attention to Ballhawking at Wrigley which all the older guys hated it. Now I see why!

    This is all about having fun. Yes there is always friendly competition between friends and there are always some guys you can stand so you try to shut them out. Ultimately it’s a hobby and should be fun!

    I could go on and on but it took me an hour to read everything that went with this mess and now I have added another 10 minutes to it.

    Good or Bad Zack has changed Ballhawking. Like it or not all of us have to live with the way it is now vs. the way it was.

    My suggestion on the award end of things ….. it does get old seeing Zack who , yes, is a PROFESSIONAL BALLHAWK, get the award every year or even every other year. So here is my suggestion on that end of things:

    Just kill the Ballhawk of the Year award …….. instead send out Certificates for those that make the TOP 10. Yes it will still be a competition I guess in a sense but this way more people are in on the fun.

    I also think if the Ballhawk of the Year Awards are still given then maybe the community should put together a Hall of Fame committee. Then have Ballhawk HOF …… once you are in that you are no longer eligible to win the awards because the HOF is the ultimate award.

    Just a couple of ideas from an old washed up Ballhawk!

    In the end we are all family and need to watch out for each other! Us old farts need to teach the younger kids the “unwritten” rules and police our hobby to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand like it did a couple of years ago!

    That’s all!


  34. Zack Hample

    Thanks for commenting. You always have thoughtful things to say, so I’m glad to see you taking part in this discussion. It sucks being called “too old” to do something you love. It has happened to me so I know exactly how you feel. Hell, I was TOO YOUNG to do this when I first started. I couldn’t even go to games on my own. And now, two decades later, I’m suddenly too old? Screw that. As for the wedding, Benny has already said that he’ll try not to make me wear a tux, so I think we’re all good.

    This may be the best comment in the entire thread.

    Sounds good, but you know what? I would prefer to be left out of the movie. If I’m in it, it’ll only make people angry to have to see me again. Maybe you can get Russell Martin to lose 40 pounds and play me. Supposedly we look alike. Alternatively, Cody Ross or Tim Hudson would be good choices — just not James Carville or Moby.

    I have never thought of ballhawking as a sport. I’ve referred to it as a “game within the game,” but that’s about it. I don’t care what it’s called because I have fun doing it, and that’s all that matters.

    Shux. You’re pretty classy yourself. Hi to Danny. I miss you guys already.

    Congratulations. You’ve now pissed off the entire city of Cleveland. The only award you win is the one for “biggest complainer.” You do take nice photos, though, when you try. Road trip in 2014?

    Believe me, it’s often a drag for me too. Some of the younger ballhawks are *painfully* annoying, but you know what? I was annoying as hell at their age, and there are annoying people in all walks of life. I’m just glad to share my strategies so that more people can enjoy doing this. If it increases the amount of competition, well then . . . so be it. There will always be plenty of baseballs to go around. It’s good to hear from you, and I appreciate your respectful take on things.

  35. Rocco sinisi

    …SORRY ZACK, that’s how I write! I’ll try and keep it to “a low roar” from now on. I would be glad to take over writing duties, if Alan gives me the OK!!! And, I have been told by a famous ballhawk, who shall remain namesless, that I should be nominated for “COMMISSIONER OF BALLHAWKING”. That way, I would be able to sort out all the “Monkey Business” with FAKE accounts, and the like…

  36. Zack Hample

    COOK & SON-
    I’ll wear the Garfield costume. No problem.

    I’m not trying to stifle your passion. I’m just requesting that you combine all of your thoughts into one comment. If someone responds to you, then by all means leave another one. Is that possible? Would you be able to write your multiple comments in another window — a word processing program, perhaps? — and then copy/paste everything here onto the blog?

    Make it happen. Do you need permission from anyone? Do you need my measurements? Rent the outfit for the day, and I’ll wear it. Or I’ll rent it, and that can be my wedding gift to you.

  37. RANTER

    Rocco, stick to being a half-assed writer. I’m embarrassed for you old man. Ball Hawks don’t feel the way you do, it’s just you and your jealousy…Ranter

  38. Rocco Sinisi

    …for everybody that is having a hard time trying to figure out if this is a SPORT or a HOBBY, let me help you out, and drop some wisdom on you.

    If you go ballhawking to get away from it all; then the stadium and ballhawking is your “BEACH”!

    If you ballhawk like you would collect STAMPS; then it is a HOBBY for you.

    If you are snagging lots of baseballs to win an award like Ballhawk of the Year for instance, and you are competeing against someone for something, then… IT IS A SPORT!!!

    And Ranter, I hate to break the news to you Brother, but there are a lot of people that agree with what I wrote, that’s why I wrote the article…a lot of people!!!!!!!

  39. tonyv433

    “I also think if the Ballhawk of the Year Awards are still given then maybe the community should put together a Hall of Fame committee. Then have Ballhawk HOF …… once you are in that you are no longer eligible to win the awards because the HOF is the ultimate award.”

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who thought this. Great finally hearing your story Mr. MLBallhawk!

  40. Mike

    Rocco-Commissioner of Ballhawking? Seriously?!? There was what, 2 instances of people faking accounts? That’s not a summer full of scam artists. Who cares anyways? If someone says they caught a bunch of baseballs last night at stadium Y, and you were there and know for a fact they didn’t, then call them out, and that’s it. You can also ignore the bullshit too.

    Seriously man, take it down about 10 levels. This is a hobby/sport whatever the hell you want to call it, but it’s all in fun. I agree with Ranter. I would say a good majority don’t care about some award that 99% of people either wouldn’t know about or care to know about. Honestly, what are you going to do with that piece of paper? Frame it and put it on your wall next to all your baseballs?

    You guys really wonder why Deadspin and other sites rip on you. It’s when you take this shit way too serious.
    For the record, exclamation points don’t make your post sound more prudent.

  41. Mike

    What “famous ballhawk” said you should be commissioner? Honestly dude, you’re nuts. Take it down a few levels. Can you limit your exclamation points to 1 per post too?

  42. Rocco Sinisi

    …I’m “NUTS” …right dude; I have been tested and sanctioned by the State of Ohio as *Legally Sane* just for your information, you have to be to become a Police Officer!!!

  43. Rocco Sinisi

    …Oh yeah Mike, I almost forgot, I was also tested to become a United States Army DRILL SERGEANT! (Ft. Jackson, South Carolina…1990 to 1993, Active Duty Drill Sgt. too, not a Reserve Drill!!!) I did 20 years Active Duty stud!!! My name is STILL hanging on the wall at the United States Drill Sergeant School. What did you do in the Military???

  44. Mike

    I’m a 5 star General in COD. 2nd Prestige!! Is that good enough?

    Nuts was a bit harsh, but sheesh, its a freaking hobby.

  45. jeannette ellsworth

    I just wanted to say that I knew Rocco when I was a teenager, and he had a lot of integrity then, and I’m sure he does now.

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