It’s another episode of Grown-Up Gigs! I know I’ve had a lot of these lately, but I can’t help it – I’ve been virtually introduced to a lot of people lately who make me not be able to keep my questions to myself. When I came across Zack Hample, an author 3 times over who took his strength/passion of catching/collecting baseballs (5,800 of ’em!) and made it a consulting business (yes, he gets paid to go to baseball games and help snag balls), I couldn’t, um, keep my questions to myself. He’s also been interviewed by Jay Leno, Rosie O’Donnell and zillions of other news outlets. In a word: amazeballs (pun intended).
1. What did you wanna be when you grew up? There was only one thing that I wanted to be: a major league baseball player. I’m still upset that it didn’t happen, and I still don’t know what to do with myself.
2. You’ve caught more than 5,700 (!!!!) major league baseballs, and now you charge to help others do the same. It’s freakin’ genius. Can you describe what made you decide to make this personal skill/passion a business, as well as any challenges you met along the way? I’m actually past the 5,800-ball plateau now, but anyway, I came up with the idea because so many people kept asking if they could attend games with me. I always used to say no, and then one day, it just occurred to me, “Hey, why don’t I start saying yes and charge some money?” I started the business in the spring of 2007 because my second book, Watching Baseball Smarter, was coming out, and the timing seemed right. The first challenge, oddly enough, was getting a cell phone. I didn’t have one and didn’t want one, but realized that it was essential, especially if I was gonna be running around stadiums with people’s kids. The other main challenge was simply spreading the word, but that’s something that most business owners struggle with. Taking people to games is the most fun job ever, and I wish I could do it full time.
3. I love how you described your parent’s opinion of your passion as “cute until 1992, worrisome through ’98, and fantastic once my book came out in ’99.” Did you find that people’s opinion of what you were doing changed at that point? And if so, how’d ya deal with the haters before you “legitimized” your passionate career? It always bothered me that people’s perceptions changed when my first book came out. I was the exact same guy beforehand, and I’d been doing the exact same thing, but no one took me seriously. It made me feel bad for all the other people out there who were getting looked down upon, simply because they hadn’t written a book or done something big and public. I mean, on a personal level, I loved all the positive attention, but it’s still unsettling to this day.
4. Reading through your website and looking at the pics/videos makes me feel like I already know you. It’s obviously really authentic stuff, and I know it’s something lots of entrepreneurs/wanna-be entrepreneurs struggle with. Did you ever feel like you had to be more “professional”/stuffy? Any advice for those that are scared to put their real personalities out there? I’ve never felt that I had to be more professional, but I do censor myself in terms of not being crude or offensive. Sometimes I wish I were completely unknown so that I could really let loose — and there may come a time when I do it anyway. I don’t think I can offer anyone advice on this subject because I’m so conflicted myself. Quite simply, society is very judgmental, and some things are better left unsaid.
5. If you can have your present self give your pre-pro-baseball-snagger self one piece of advice, what would it be? “Foul balls are meaningless. Go for home runs exclusively.”