An Interview With The Man Who Caught A-Rod’s 3000th Hit, Zack Hample

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Aug 14, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; General view of Yankee Stadium after a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Tampa Bay Rays won 12-3. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 14, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; General view of Yankee Stadium after a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Tampa Bay Rays won 12-3. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Comparing the Old and New Yankee Stadium

Patrick Hennessy: So now let’s talk about the new Yankee Stadium for a bit, are there some things you like/dislike about the new Yankee Stadium where comparing it to the old one?

Zack Hample: Well, let’s see… I think there’s something that makes it both easier and harder for catching baseballs. The biggest thing that makes it tougher is that there is no more cross-aisle that extends through the seats. So in the old stadium, you could walk right through the seats from section to section and you could even get away sometimes with standing in one of the tunnels until someone asked you to move or it got too crowded, but you could hang out there for a batter or two and if they hit one, you could maneuver left and right in the aisle… and in fact, it’s because of that aisle that Jeffery Maier became famous and interfered with that ball.

I mean of course fans can still interfere now but it was just very easy to run back and forth behind the right field wall on the short porch of the old stadium. So, I miss that. The key to catching balls in the seats is to move left and right, now at the new stadium the only way to move is if there happened to be empty seats.

So in other words, if the old Yankee Stadium was sold out, you would still be guaranteed to have the cross-aisle where you could move around. Now if you’re at a sold out game at the new stadium, you seriously have nowhere to go except maybe up and down on a staircase and that’s a lot harder to do than run left and right.

So just the mobility is a lot worse at the new stadium. What I think is better about it is that the seats in fair territory extend out towards the gaps, so in other words, there are seats now in left center and right center that there weren’t in the old stadium. Or they were bleachers and you’d have to have a separate ticket for that. I feel like there are slightly more catchable home runs at the new stadium just in terms of what will actually land in the seats that people have a chance for. It’s a small difference but it does make a difference if you go there enough.

You know, the new stadium is obviously extremely fancy and expensive which feels good on my butt when I’m sitting in that padded chair day after day, but I also miss the grittiness of the old stadium. I actually recently discovered old home video that I filmed in 1996 at the old Yankee Stadium and I edited it recently and I’m going to post it soon and I added some commentary 20 years now after the fact when I filmed it and one thing that I talked about in the video is just how a lot of people including me miss the old stadium because it had character and it was a fun place.

I really don’t know if there’s anybody out there who doesn’t miss the old Yankee Stadium, it certainly had flaws… the concourses were narrow, the aisles were narrow, it was grungy in a lot of places, chipping paint, and just all kinds of things like that but I’ve never met one person that prefers the new Yankee Stadium. I’m sure there are people who like it a lot and I like it in some ways but I think everyone missed the old stadium on some level.

Patrick Hennessy: So when you say that, do you think the Yankees ownership made the right decision by building the new one?

Zack Hample: That’s hard to say, I mean in terms of their bank accounts then yea they definitely made the right decision. There’s a lot more money to be made with premium seats at the new stadium, but it’s like what would happen if the Cubs or Red Sox tore down Wrigley Field or Fenway Park and put something really fancy in its place. Now those stadiums are even more special and unique in some ways than the old Yankee Stadium because the old Yankee Stadium, of course, had been renovated in the 1970’s but even though it had been around for a while it didn’t really have the true old world feel but just the thought of being the iconic place where Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Yogi Berra played.

Patrick Hennessy: You mentioned that Yankee Stadium is good when there are empty seats, well last year you has that scenario play out and you were practically all by yourself in the stadium after a long rain delay… what was this like to have free range to go practically anywhere you wanted?

Zack Hample: It was a dream come true to be in such a huge stadium that’s normally so strict and to practically have the whole place to myself. Security always makes people stay in their ticketed section, but when there were only a few dozen people and it was after 2am, everyone was allowed to go anywhere except the Legends and Champions areas. Most people clustered around the dugout. I stayed in the outfield, and there was no one else there.