charlesok@cs.com
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Memo to Hample: Keep it. Enjoy it.

I recently retrieved my first-ever foul ball off the bat of promising catcher Tomas Telis. Yes, retrieved. The small whizzed off the bat at about a million miles an hour and ricocheted off a window and a couple of seats before rolling three steps away. No, I didn’t battle an 8-year-old child for the ball. With the ball firmly in my clutches, and feeling like a 8-year-old, I subsequently wondered how Zach Hample has caught, snagged or retrieved 8,161 balls in stadia across the country?

Like many Americans, I’ve played and witnessed a lot of baseball games in my time. I attend about 40 or so games a year, which is probably well above average for most Americans. Call me cynical, but, boy, does 8,161 sound like fuzzy math. I’m fairly certain I haven’t attended that many games. If the 8,161 figure is true, well, congratulations. Maybe Hample can sign baseballs at memorabilia shows with the notation “8,161 and counting.”

What I really want to address is the weighty question that appears to be gripping at least a number of pundits, if not the entire country: Whether Zack Hample should trade Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th hit ball for whatever A-Rod is willing to offer — a signed bat, signed baseballs, gloves, a combination of these, whatever. Or whether Hample should test the collectibles marketplace and sell it?

To entice him to do the latter, a couple of auction houses have thrown a big number out there as to what they think the ball could fetch. As in $200,000. Uh, don’t count on it.

Those are the two choices: Trade or Sell.

One other unlikely option is that Hample will just give it back to A-Rod or donate it to Cooperstown. Another is that he’ll just keep it as a keepsake, a conversation piece; or let it grow in history as a 3,000th hit that was a home run.

Here’s our unsolicited advice. Keep it. Enjoy it. It’s worth more to you personally, from the experience, than a signed ball or bat, which is easily attainable for not that much money. If you want to share this milestone ball with baseball-adoring fans, you can always make it available on loan to Cooperstown.

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