Zack Hample’s chief claim to fame is that he has snagged more Major League baseballs—9,475—than anyone on Earth, but another record he grabbed in 2013 is of greater interest to aviation fans: He caught a baseball dropped from a helicopter flying at 1,050 feet. Ouch. Of an earlier attempt, a Boston Globe article reported, “The balls that Hample missed blasted stitched craters into the LeLacheur [Massachusetts] outfield.”
Hample says he was inspired by Babe Ruth, who, as a private in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1926, caught a baseball dropped from a pursuit aircraft flying at about 250 feet. The Army’s first pilot, Benjamin Foulois, who advocated for an independent Air Force as early as the 1920s, was at the time commander of New York’s Mitchel Field, where the catch was made. He set it up to bring attention to the Army’s citizen training camps.
That may be another way that the Babe has influenced Hample: in public service. Hample has an arrangement with BIGS Sunflower Seeds. For every park where he snags a ball, the company donates $500 to Pitch in for Baseball, a charity that provides sporting equipment to needy communities worldwide.