Sunday night, the Marlins and Braves played in the first major league game in the state of North Carolina. The two clubs played at Fort Bragg in a new 12,500-seat park donated by MLB that will be turned into a recreational facility for servicemen and their families. The Marlins won the game 5-2.
The game was supposed to be for military personnel and their families only, and yet, noted ballhawk Zack Hample was in attendance. He made sure everyone knew it on Twitter:
Fort Bragg commemorative baseballs? Oh yes! Martin Prado just tossed this to me after the 3rd inning. pic.twitter.com/OQoGJfExbR— Zack Hample (@zack_hample) July 4, 2016
Fans needed a Department of Defense identification to get into the game, which Hample does not have. He claimed he was able to get into the game through a friend in a military, though that doesn't seem to be true, because he offered to pay $1,000 for a ticket on Tinder.
.@zack_hample then why did you do this? pic.twitter.com/fX7EHsbOWF— RT Ohio (@RT_Ohio) July 4, 2016
Busted? Yes, busted. Soon after it was revealed Hample tried to buy his way into the ballpark, he announced he was donating $100 to charity for each ball he caught at Fort Bragg, minus one, which he presumably kept for himself. Hample claims the total came out to $1,100.
On Monday, Hample issued an apology for attending a game intended for military personnel only. The apology boils down to "I'm sorry but I really wanted to go." Here's the apology:
I am deeply sorry for going to Fort Bragg. There's lots of misinformation, so here's what really happened: pic.twitter.com/nld9YgGXAe— Zack Hample (@zack_hample) July 4, 2016
Hample claims to have caught thousands and thousands of baseballs, and he doesn't always play by the rules. He's routinely pushed people out of the way to get a ball, including kids. I've seen it with my own eyes from the bleachers at Yankee Stadium.
Because of that, Hample doesn't have much support despite his baseball catching prowess. As a result of that and the Fort Bragg incident, a petition has been posted on the Change.org website seeking to ban Hample from all major league ballparks. Here's the petition and here's some of the text:
Hample has a documented history of pushing children out of the way to get the baseballs he so dearly cherishes, making him a blight on our nation's pastime and an active deterrent to the up and coming generation falling in love with our game. Given this most recent violation of MLB, Fort Bragg, and our military on the eve of our nation's Independence Day, tonight's game should be Mr. Hample's last. We call on Rob Manfred, Commissioner of Major League Baseball, to issue a lifetime ban and restore the integrity of the fan experience.
The petition has received 813 signatures as of this writing. If it receives 1,000 signatures, it will presumably be sent to commissioner Rob Manfred at MLB.com's offices in hopes of generating a response.
Would Manfred go as far as to ban Hample, a paying customer, from the ballpark because other fans don't like him? It seems unlikely. But folks are not happy with his antics and are trying to make themselves heard. The Fort Bragg game incident may have been the tipping point.
Hample jumped into the public spotlight last season when he caught the ball Alex Rodriguez hit for a home run for his 3,000th career hit.