His name Zack Hample and he hold the world's record for catching baseballs in the stands at Major League stadiums. He has his own website and a page in Wikipedia and as of September 29, 2013, he has collected 7,157 baseballs from 50 different stadiums. His personal, one game record, was 36 baseballs at Great America Ball Park on September 14, 2011.
I wasn't aware of Hample until I got around to reading my Oct. 7th issue of The New Yorker where Reeves Wideman wrote a story on this ballhawkers career. Hample set out this summer to establish a new record of catching a game-used ball in all thirty major league stadiums. He flew to Denver, the last city on his quest and told Wiedeman, "I feel triumphant," after catching a foul ball hit by the Rockies' Todd Helton. He also said he had no plans to retire.
Most of the balls are caught during batting practice, but there have been notable game catches and on his website he mentions his top three: "Mike Trout's first major league homer, Barry Bonds' 724th career homer, and the final Mets home run (thank you, Carlos Beltran) ever hit at Shea Stadium. I also caught Derek Jeter's 3,262nd career hit (a homer in the bottom of the 9th inning at Yankee Stadium), and I snagged the ball that recorded the final out of Mariano Rivera's 313th career save -- random, I know."
And what did he do with the balls? "I gave back the Trout ball - no questions asked, except to actually be the person to hand it to him after the game. Security didn't want to let me. They said it was get-away day and that the Angels had to catch a bus to the airport. I was like, "Okay, fine, in that case, I'll just keep the ball," and whaddaya know, the bus was somehow able to leave two minutes later. I still have all the others. I've never sold a ball in my life." They are stored in his mother's apartment in 12 garbage cans.
In Wiedeman's New Yorker story Hample said he "caught his first ball when he was 12 years -- a defining moment in most American childhoods, but one that left him unsatisfied. If I can catch one ball, he thought, why not a thousand? Two decades later, a thirty-six-year-old bookstore clerk, with a shaved head and a soul patch is the world's preeminet ballhawk."
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