Mike Trout's first home run ball too precious to keep, fan says
Apparently the Angels aren't the only ones who believe teenager Mike Trout is going to have a memorable career.
Zack Hample, the New York-based writer and collector who caught Trout's first home run ball Sunday in Baltimore, said another fan offered him $500 for the memento on the spot. But Hample refused, giving the souvenir to Trout instead.
"I just don't see dollar signs when I catch these balls," Hample, 33, said Monday. "I just wanted the kid to get his ball back, you know?"
Two weeks ago Christian Lopez, a 23-year-old cellphone salesman from New York, caught the ball Derek Jeter hit into the stands at Yankee Stadium for his 3,000th hit. It was estimated he could have sold that ball for hundreds of thousands of dollars but he turned the ball over to Jeter instead. (The Yankees rewarded him with four season tickets in a suite while Jeter gave him two signed jerseys and some autographed balls and bats.)
Hample said he caught Trout's homer on the fly after running about 20 feet, climbing over a row of seats and lunging to his left.
"I was pretty pleased with my performance," he said.
On his blog the Baseball Collector, Hample claims to have caught 5,270 baseballs at 48 major league ballparks since 1990. And though two of them were historic -- he caught Barry Bonds 724th homer in 2006 and grabbed the final Mets home run at Shea Stadium in 2008 -- he said he has never taken money for a baseball.
Trout, at the suggestion of the Angels, gave him an autographed ball in trade Sunday. Hample said that surprised him.
"I simply told stadium security that I wanted to be the one to hand the ball back to Trout so that I could shake his hand," said Hample, who got a signed bat after catching Met Mike Nickeas' only major-league home run in April. "His token gift was cool but it really didn't mean nearly as much as simply catching the home run in the first place and getting to be a part of this historic moment."
-- Kevin Baxter in Baltimore
Photo: Mike Trout watches his first career home run, hit against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on Sunday. Credit: Rob Carr / Getty Images