Yankees donate $150,000 to Pitch In For Baseball, a charity Hample supports
By Grace Raynor
NEW YORK -- Two weeks ago, when he grabbed Alex Rodriguez's 3,000th hit -- a home run to right field -- there was nothing anyone could say or do to convince Zack Hample to return the ball to Rodriguez and the Yankees.
But in a pregame presentation on Friday, Hample gave the ball to Rodriguez and the Yankees donated $150,000 to Pitch In For Baseball, a charity that Hample has supported since 2009. Hample also received a signed Rodriguez jersey and bat.
"[Yankees head of security] Eddie Fastook was the first person who spoke to me after I snagged the baseball and he made a number of generous offers," Hample said. "By the end of the game, I heard that [Yankees president Randy Levine] wanted to speak with me. So I went up into his office, and [chief operating officer Lonn Trost] was there, as well."
The Yankees continued to try to negotiate with Hample, who was persistent in his reluctance. But then, when Levine offered to donate to the charity that meant so much to Hample, Hample reconsidered.
"Something kind of went off in my head at that point, and I thought, 'Hmmm, all right, a few hours ago there was no way I was giving it back,'" Hample said. "When that generous offer was made by Mr. Levine, I thought, 'All right, now I have to consider that.'
"Really, the thing that stuck out in my mind was how kind the Yankees were and how generous, and how well they treated me. I really was thinking Pitch In for Baseball and how I could use the situation to help them."
As he wrapped up his opening statement, Hample gave away the microphone, reached into his backpack and presented the ball -- which he had kept safe in a bag -- to Rodriguez.
He then apologized to Rodriguez for negative things he expressed earlier on Twitter, and Rodriguez both thanked and forgave him.
"You are forgiven," Rodriguez said. "I have a Ph.D. in saying some dumb things over the years, so I can probably actually relate."
Then, when the laughter subsided, Rodriguez took a moment to reflect. He plans on giving the ball to his daughters.
"It's been quite a year. Never did I think 12 months ago I would be in position with 660 [home runs] and 3,000 -- with two swings of the bat -- to be able to influence so many people, kids that are in need," he said. "I feel very fortunate to be where we are today, on the field we are playing solid baseball. Coming into Spring Training, I did not know what to expect, but I kind of made a commitment to myself that I wanted to keep my head down and let my bat do the talking, and try to help the team win as much as possible."
Grace Raynor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.