November 2011

Too cool for school

Haven’t been blogging or writing much lately. Been spending most of my free time scanning old photos . . . like this one, taken some time around 1994 when I was trying a bit too hard to be cool.

I was roughly (or should I say smoothly?) 17 years old when that photo was taken, and until last week, I’d never seen it.

Speaking of last week (and because my friend “Big Glove Bob” requested it), here’s a photo of my Thanksgiving plate:

Since you probably can’t tell what everything is . . .

1) smoked turkey with gravy
2) squash with shallots
3) mashed potatoes with gravy
4) brussels sprouts (only two because I hate them)
5) cranberry jello
6) salad
7) stuffing
8) cole slaw
9) carrots

You should’ve seen what I had for dessert. But anyway, speaking of Thanksgiving and of mid-1990s photographs, here’s a recently-discovered shot of me with my two half-brothers on Thanksgiving of 1996:

That’s Joe Hample on the left and Henry Hample on the right.

Look closely at my shirt and you might recognize it from my stint with the Boise Hawks.
Look closely at my face and you might notice my pathetic attempt at growing a beard.

Speaking of beards, did you catch the tweet I posted on November 20th? Or the one I posted on November 26th? The beard is still happening (and still itching like a mutha). You know I’ll be sharing photos of it soon.

Original “how to snag” photo

As I mentioned three days ago on Twitter, I recently found a TON of old photos that I’d never seen before (or that I simply didn’t remember). I’m still in the process of combing through them and scanning them, and there’s one that I have to share immediately:

That’s the original photo that was used for the cover of my first book, How to Snag Major League Baseballs. Check it out:

That photo wasn’t supposed to be THE photo. The story (which has never been told until now) goes as follows . . .

My publisher (Aladdin Paperbacks, an imprint of Simon & Schuster) initially came up with a design for the cover, which, to put it mildly, I didn’t particularly care for. Here’s what they showed me:

Note that the title of the book was different at that point (and while you’re at it, note the 318 different fonts — ouch).

Anyway, when I saw that cover and showed it to my dad, he was like, “Oy gevalt! It’s all wrong. YOU should be on the cover,” and I was like, “Meeee?!” and he was like, “Yeah, YOU. You’re so young that other kids will relate to you. It’d be great for the book.”

(I was 19 when I wrote the book, 20 when the cover photo was taken, and 21 when it was published.)

So yeah, he took a bunch of photos of me with my baseballs, including this one in the hallway just outside my bedroom:

Several days later, my dad and I picked the best photos and sent them to my editor, who passed them along to the art department. I simply wanted the publisher to see how cool it’d look to have hundreds of balls on the cover. I hoped they’d say, “Yeah, okay, you’re right, that’s very cool. When are you free to pose with the balls for a professional photographer?” but instead they were like, “These are great. We’re gonna use the photo of you with the barrel,” and I was like, “Umm, I look like an idiot in that photo, and I’m all hunched over, and could you at least photoshop out my chest hair . . . ?”

. . . and they were like, “Sure, we’ll look into that.”


(To hell with math and science and history and philosophy; “Manscaping 101” should be a requirement for all college freshmen, although I’m not sure how the final exam would go.)

By the way, did you notice the little photo of me (wearing the “Baseball is Life” shirt) on the test cover? Here’s the original photo . . .

. . . which was taken (by my dad) for this article in Inside Sports, which was written about me when I snagged my 1,000th ball. That article prompted Men’s Health to get in touch with me. They then paid me (two hundred and fifty bucks!) to contribute to this article, which simply referred to me as “Zack, a freshman at Guilford College in North Carolina.” My dad was so pissed off about my last name being omitted that he suggested that I write my own damn book about snagging baseballs. Funny how things work out.

Finally, if you don’t own a copy of How to Snag Major League Baseballs and you’re now suddenly thinking of buying it . . . DON’T!!! Not only is it a terrible book, but it’s out of print, so the few second-hand copies that are floating around out there tend to be insanely expensive. If you want to spend a few bucks on something that’ll teach you how to snag, check out my new book, which is called The Baseball. The final third is called “How to Snag Major League Baseballs,” and that part is longer than my entire first book.

NYPD vs. Occupy Wall Street protesters

Last night, while getting ready for bed at 2am, I heard that the NYPD was raiding Zuccotti Park and kicking out all the Occupy Wall Street protesters — so I headed down there. This was as close as I managed to get . . .

. . . which of course wasn’t close at all. Lower Manhattan was like a military zone. There were cops in riot gear everywhere, and the area surrounding the park was completely blocked.

For the record, I support the Occupy Wall Street movement — it’s kind of hard not to — but I’m not an active participant. I’d only been down to Zuccotti Park twice since the whole thing started, and even then, my main goal for being there was simply to check out the scene.

Anyway, by the time I got there last night, things were relatively calm. Despite all the riot gear and barricades and hundreds of chanting protesters, the police seemed relaxed — a little bit too relaxed:

Yeah, great time to read a text from your best friend.

Now, as I said a moment ago, I wasn’t really there to participate, but when a NYC garbage truck (containing the bulldozed remnants of Zuccotti Park) approached the other side of the barricade and everyone around me started shouting and linking arms, I had no choice but to join them. The plan was to form a human barricade and prevent the truck from getting through. And it worked. Presumably, the truck ended up reaching its destination, but while it was held up and being forced to turn around, the message was delivered: “SCREW YOU!!!”

I won’t lie. It was scary to be staring down a hundred cops in riot gear while a 20-ton garbage truck crept toward me, but whatever. I was there, so I held my ground with everyone else and hoped that I wouldn’t get (a) run over or (b) arrested.

Five minutes after the truck turned around, I found a great place to stand and watch the action: from the top of a phone booth. Check out the view:

Yes, those are civilians standing and sitting on top of a police car. Things were starting to get a bit out of hand, and I could tell that something big was about to go down. I just hoped that in the process of documenting the action, I wouldn’t get hit with a rubber bullet.

Here’s another photo that I took from the top of the phone booth:

At around 5am, a police lieutenant grabbed a megaphone and announced that everyone in the street had to move to the sidewalk, or else they’d be arrested. Hardly anyone budged, and it was clear that there was about to be a major confrontation. This was the result:

It felt really weird to be up there, looking down at the mayhem. On one hand, I felt extremely close and connected to it, but on the other hand, I felt safe and protected and partially removed from the whole thing. I would’ve kept filming, but as you can see (if you watch the video right up until the end), one of the cops was yelling at people to get down. As soon as I heard that, I turned my camera off, and with the help of some people standing near the phone booth, I quickly climbed down. (For a moment, it was like I was crowd-surfing.) It’s a good thing I moved so fast because ten seconds after I got down, some other guy who was standing right near me on another elevated platform got yanked off by the cops and dragged into the street to be arrested. TEN SECONDS!!! Maybe even less. I mean, by the time my feet touched the pavement, this other guy was getting hauled off. I’ve never been arrested or even gotten a speeding ticket, so this was a pretty big deal for me. (Getting ejected four times from Shea Stadium in the 1990s and being threatened with trespassing if I ever returned is probably the worst I’ve ever gotten in trouble.)

After the street was cleared, the police threatened to arrest us if we didn’t clear the sidewalk:

I’m no constitutional lawyer, so I might be missing something, but it seemed that our Right to Assemble was completely violated by the NYPD. Can anyone shed some light on this? And did I mention that there were cops EVERYWHERE?

Some of the cops had serious attitude. One cop in particular was exceptionally rude to people who said anything to him. People obviously weren’t happy about how they’d been treated, and whenever anyone complained or cited the constitution or whatever, the cop would simply say, “Thank you. Good night. Go home.”

The crowd eventually dispersed, and by the time the sun came up, there was a general assembly taking place several blocks away at Foley Square:

Of course there were a ton of cops (and news vans):

The topic of the assembly could be summed up as follows:


It would’ve been great to stay and be a part of it, but it was 7am, and I was about to collapse, so I headed home.

Not really sure what to make of all this Occupy Wall Street stuff. I’ve never been terribly interested with politics, but I’m VERY curious to see how this is going to play out . . .

Fan mail from Italy

Last month I received an envelope from Italy:

Here’s the note that was inside (and for the record, I received permission to post all of this stuff on my blog):

(No, Marco, thank YOU.)

Check out the cards that were enclosed. Here’s the first:

Here’s the second:

And here’s the third:

Pretty snazzy, huh? I must say that it was quite an honor to receive these cards.

Now, since a lot of you enjoy challenges, I challenge  you find the original photos on my blog or website that Marco used for the cards. Ready! Set! Go!

Meanwhile, if you ever want to mail something to me to get autographed (my books, for example), send them to the address on the envelope up above. Just make sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelope, and if you have any special requests or instructions, throw a note in there and let me know.

Also, in case you want to check it out, I have a large collection of fan mail on my site — not actual letters, but emails and blog comments. Click here and start scrolling down.

2011 Ballhawk of the Year Award

It’s been a few weeks since my last blog entry. Just needed to get away from baseball and catch up on life, but now, all of a sudden, I have some baseball-related news to share. Check it out:

The image above is a screen shot from this article on (Don’t ask about the Phillies jersey.) Many thanks to everyone who voted for me, and congrats (despite the trash-talking) to my buddy Tim Anderson for winning the “junior” Ballhawk of the Year Award.

I’ll blog again soon.
I promise.