Archive for April, 2009
For Scout.com I mostly cover affiliates of the Oakland A’s, but the nice thing about it is I can get out to cover more than just their teams. Last week I was in Reno for two games during the first homestand at brand new Aces Ballpark (no corporate sponsorship for it yet) and I’d recommend it to anyone who may be curious to check out a new place that’s not too hard to get to depending on your location.
Reno is the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks and they relocated from Tucson in the offseason, opening play on April 17 in a downtown ballpark that’s literally blocks from the main casinos. There’s going to be a “new shiny” feel to anything like this, but if Wednesday afternoon’s crowd of about 4,500 is a sign then the Aces are going to enjoy good crowds for a while.
The ballpark itself is quite nice, though there are certain things they could stand to do to improve it. I like the open concourses and multiple areas to stand behind the seats and the high left field wall (you can walk around the entire place), and their right field bullpen/berm area makes it nice for fans to kick back and relax on the grass.
They need to utilize their graphics board more for stats and things like that, and they could use a board or two in the seating areas that at least give R-H-E along with the inning and score. It’s interesting in that the press box is located down the first base line instead of behind the plate. This is undoubtedly done to capitalize on being able to sell luxury suites behind the plate instead.
From a photography standpoint, I had no real problems and I enjoyed wandering around the place before the gates opened for the fans. I always like checking out new places to see just what kinds of design elements go into it. It’ll be interesting to see how the ballpark plays as the weather warms up. The wall is like a mini Green Monster in left and if the ball carries well it’ll keep some hits in the yard. The two games I was at, the wind blew out pretty strongly to right field and one ball was absolutely crushed to right center only to see Carlos Gonzalez run it down close to (probably) 425 feet from the plate.
As for the games themselves?
April 21: Colorado Springs 3, Reno 2
Matt Murton’s 2-run homer in the 5th inning gave Colorado Springs the lead for good and Josh Fogg worked 6 solid innings (4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO) for the win. Murton had a pair of hits, as did Dan Ortmeier, Christian Colonel and Matt Miller, who hit a solo homer. Seth Etherton threw 7 innings for the Aces, pitching well except for the two homers (7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO). Josh Whitesell tripled and drove in a run for Reno.
April 22: Colorado Springs 16, Reno 8
Carlos Gonzalez led the way with 6 RBI on a double and a triple while Mike McCoy had had 4 hits and 4 runs and Matt Murton picked up 3 hits and 3 runs as Colorado Springs collected 20 hits. Jason Hirsh rebounded from an early 5-0 deficit to keep Reno scoreless over his last 5 innings, working 6 total. Chris Roberson homered, doubled and drove in a pair for the Aces and Brandon Watson also had a pair of hits, but Travis Blackley and the rest of the pitching staff had a rough day.
With the Nikon D3 and a 70-200mm, f2.8 lens, I’m reaching the point where I’ll be able to do a lot more than just day games thanks to having equipment that can really handle it and the kind of lighting that’s common at minor league facilities. Still, I enjoy an afternoon at the ballpark and will continue shooting as many of those as I can because it’s much easier to freeze the action and get some nice, crisp shots.
Take Wednesday’s game between the Portland Beavers and Sacramento River Cats. Conditions were nice and sunny and for most of the game I was shooting at a shutter speed of 1/6400 or 1/8000 at f2.8 while the ISO ranged between about 500 to 1000 depending on how bright the background was or which direction the sun was coming from. What this let me do is something I’ve been wanting to be able to get since I began shooting baseball: really freeze the bat and ball, especially from one side of the infield or the other.
Behind the plate, when the ball is coming toward you it’s not really moving anywhere but on a mostly straight line. From the first or third base areas, it naturally goes side-to-side so there’s going to be blurring if the camera’s not fast enough to really stop it. With the D3 and the lens I’m using, it’s a piece of cake to get it to the point of being able to see the stitches. Maybe it’s a small thing but it’s something I like.
So, about the game. The Portland Beavers were in Sacramento for a series with the River Cats and this one wasn’t close at all. Behind four home runs, thirteen hits and twelve walks, the Beavers cruised to an 11-1 victory that saw not one but TWO position players (outfielder Matt Carson and catcher Raul Padron) pitch for the River Cats. Every once in a while you’ll see a position player get an inning in a blowout – just the other day Nick Swisher did it for the Yankees – but I’ve never heard of two doing it in the same game. Maybe it’s a little more likely in the minors and I’m guessing Sacramento wanted to save one or two of their pitchers, but it’s still got to be pretty rare.
Portland also wore a vintage-style uniform that consisted of a dark blue top and pants with white piping. In checking the Pacific Coast League’s media guide I found the top is their alternate jersey, but they’d worn it with the traditional white or gray pants before. This was the first time they broke out blue pants as well. It reminded me of things I’d seen from the 70s in particular when teams like the Indians wore all red uniforms. I actually like taking pictures of stuff like that once in a while because it’s a little different, but I can’t really call it a good look. See what I mean:
One of the things I’m working on doing is getting more non-action shots that show players in the dugout or reacting to what’s happening on the field. It takes paying a little more attention to it but it can add to the overall effect of what I do and it’s something I’ve seen others pull off very well.
Next week is going to be pretty exciting for me as I head to the new ballpark in Reno for the first time. During the offseason Arizona’s Triple-A affiliate moved there from Tucson, and tonight was the first game in their new downtown ballpark. I really like getting to places I haven’t been before, especially when they’re as new as this. Look for pictures from two games there over the next couple weeks. There may be a bit of a delay depending on how quickly I move into my new home.
This is a bit late in coming but a combination of things (home purchase among them) have been keeping me pretty busy.
After experiencing the first World Baseball Classic in San Diego back in 2006, I decided that any chance I had, I’d try to go to every tournament in some way. This time around the semis and final were held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles so it was easy to make plans to attend. It was also the first time I’d been to that ballpark. The 1988 World Series is so long ago that I didn’t really think about Gibson/Eckersley. It’s a pretty nice place, though their seating sections are clearly separated. I had a ticket a few rows from the field so I could wander pretty much anywhere I wanted, but that’s not the case for fans in the nosebleeds. All the talk of traffic in and out of the place being horrible wasn’t too bad, either. The crowds were pretty big and I’m sure it didn’t hurt that my buddies and I got there early and winded up closer to an exit.
The games themselves were worth it, especially the final. The first one (Venezuela vs. Korea) wasn’t close and the second (Japan vs. United States) had its moments, but the final (Korea vs. Japan) was as good as it gets.
Korea won, 10-2. Shin-Soo Choo homered and had 3 RBI, Tae Kyun Kim homered, had 2 RBI and 2 hits and scored 3 runs, and Hyun-Soo Kim went 3-for-3 with a walk and a double. Suk-Min Yoon pitched into the 7th, allowing 2 runs for Korea while Venezuela’s Carlos Silva didn’t make it out of the 2nd, giving up 7 runs. Venezuela made 5 errors in the game, including a costly dropped fly ball by Bobby Abreu in the first inning.
Japan won, 9-4. Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched into the 5th and allowed 2 runs while Japan had a big 4th inning against Roy Oswalt, scoring 5 runs. Overall, 4 of Japan’s 9 runs were unearned due to errors by the United States. Three players had a pair of hits for Japan (Hiroyuki Nakajima, Michihiro Ogasawara and Munenori Kawasaki) while Nakajima and Kenji Johjima had 2 RBI apiece. Brian Roberts led off the game with a home run and Jimmy Rollins went 4-for-4 for the United States.
Japan won, 5-3 in 10 innings. Ichiro Suzuki’s 2-out, 2-strike, 2-run single in the 10th gave Japan the lead after Bum Ho Lee tied it in the bottom of the 9th with a 2-out single for Korea. Ichiro went 4-for-6 and Seiichi Uchikawa had 3 hits and 2 RBI. Shin-Soo Choo homered for Korea. Japan’s Hisashi Iwakuma pitched late into the 8th inning, allowing 2 runs, 4 hits, 2 walks with 6 strikeouts. Though Yu Darvish gave up the tying run in the 9th, 5 of the 6 outs he had were via strikeout. Jung Keun Bong got into trouble early but only allowed an unearned run in 4 innings for Korea.
The crowds, especially Korea’s fans, were great. In the last few years Korea has surprised a lot of people by becoming an international baseball power, highlighted by a trip to the WBC semis in 2006 and a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Much has been made of the growing rivalry between Korea and Japan and that along with the drama of late-inning rallies in the championship game made for as amazing an experience as you can hope for, even if those teams had nothing to do with my favorite MLB team. At that stage, it’s special just to be there and be a part of that atmosphere. When Korea tied the game, their fans were elated while Japan’s were nearly heartbroken. Then when Ichiro came through with the go-ahead runs, the moods were flipped around with one swing of the bat.
Before going to Los Angeles I bought a new lens for my camera, a Nikon 70-200mm one that gets to f2.8. I was a little concerned I’d run into trouble bringing that monster into the stadium but it aside from opening the bag for it the thing didn’t get a second glance. For the first time using it, I felt very comfortable. It’s heavy but it’s a top-line lens and it worked very well. When I do minor league games and I’m a little closer than I was at the WBC, I’m sure I’ll get some excellent results.
Oh, I guess adding the D3 after getting back home won’t hurt either. THAT thing is nice.
In addition to those game galleries, I’ve also got a few more for fan shots and stadium photos. It’s all here: