Archive for July, 2009
This is going up a little later than I planned but a few things (house, work, some laziness) have led to me being a bit slow in putting things up.
I was in Portland from July 13-15 to cap off the trio of Minor League All-Star Games I covered. For the Triple-A game, they do it similarly to the Major League version by having a multi-day event of it. After a weekend fanfest, they held a Home Run Derby on Monday, a media/workout day Tuesday and the game Wednesday.
PGE Park has quite a long history. Originally opening in 1926, it went through a number of renovations in 2001 but it’s still very easy to tell how unique it is, what with its irregular shape that makes it easy to host football and soccer games. Down the first base side foul territory is fairly normal and they’ve got a seating area that ends within a couple feet of the foul line. Down the third base side it rivals the Oakland Coliseum for open space. It’s deep enough below the surface streets that a high wall runs from left to center, cutting the distance to a mere 317 feet down the line. However, the wall is not in play like Fenway’s Green Monster. Anything hit off of it or the large, completely hand-operated scoreboard is a home run. The ballpark also has a roof that extends out to cover the entire seating area.
For photographers, it’s not that easy a place to shoot in unless you have a longer zoom. Mine only goes to 200mm so there were a number of shots where I couldn’t get as close as I’d like before having to crop out things I didn’t need later on, which shows a bit in the overall quality of the action shots from the game itself. It also has no traditional photo wells so finding room to shoot among other photographers was a challenge at times. Still, nice place to see a game, nice place to work in. Let’s just say I’m glad I don’t cover games there all the time.
Monday’s Home Run Derby: Portland’s Chad Huffman hit a combined total of 15 homers, topping Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s Shelley Duncan who finished with 10. Huffman belted 5 in the final round to Duncan’s 1. The ability to shoot from closer spots on the field made this easier to get good close-ups and I took the chance to wander around the ballpark for a few different perspectives during the middle round.
Tuesday’s Media/Workout Day: A good opportunity to work on shots around the batting cage. Listening to the crack of the bat is one of those things we’re all familiar with from batting practice but being within a foot or two of the netting taking pictures of it makes it just a little different. It’s also important to be very aware of what’s going on around you as just a few feet away a coach is hitting grounders to the infielders.
Wednesday’s All-Star Game: The International League won, 6-5. Erik Kratz of Indianapolis went 2-for-2 with a homer, double, 2 runs, 2 RBI and a walk. Drew Stubbs of Louisville also homered and drove in a pair with Andrew Carpenter of Lehigh Valley getting credit for the win after a scoreless 2nd in which he struck out the side on 9 pitches. The IL struck out 14 hitters on the night. Esteban German of Oklahoma City went 3-for-4 with a homer, double and 4 RBI. Yorman Bazardo of Round Rock took the loss, giving up 3 runs in 2/3 of an inning.
One highlight was seeing and meeting the San Diego Chicken, who was brought in for the game. You can read up on his history as a mascot since the 1970s elsewhere, but it’s safe to say Ted Giannoulas revolutionized the art of character mascots and helped lead to other famous ones like the Phillie Phanatic and the Phoenix Suns Gorilla. Now just about every professional team has a mascot of some kind.
As it happened I was down behind the backstop near the first base dugout at the same time he was so I had the opportunity to chat with him for half a minute or so. I just told him it was my first time seeing him in person and I wanted to let him know how much fun it was, which he sounded like he really appreciated. I’m sure he’s heard it a lot but he still goes at it with so much energy and dedication. I also mentioned how perfect the timing was on the “Employee of the Month” sign that came after a homer by one of the PCL hitters during the first half-inning he was out there and he said it couldn’t have worked out any better for using it. Specific photos I took of him performing are here.
From Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, TX. The North Division won, 2-1. Corey Smith of Northwest Arkansas was the only player with 2 hits as pitching dominated. He also scored a run and drove in another late in the game. Midland’s Josh Horton doubled in the only run for the South Division. Springfield’s Trey Hearne started and pitched 2 innings to get credit for the win while Midland’s Jason Fernandez, who also went 2 innings, gave up an early run that saddled him with the loss.
Ever since I saw pictures of this ballpark a couple years ago I’d hoped to get a chance to see a game there in person. When I found out earlier this year that the Texas League All-Star Game would be played there I made it a goal to cover it. Fortunately that worked out, I took my trip to the Dallas area last week, caught a Rangers game on Monday (and marked one more MLB park off my list of places to visit), then worked this one on Wednesday.
When a league has an All-Star Game where just its own divisions face each other it means a lot more players from those teams are involved than you get with the California/Carolina League game or the Pacific Coast League/International League game, which has a max of three players per team this year. Maybe it waters down the talent a bit but in this case it gave me the chance to see a number of A’s prospects from Midland’s team along with others as well. I’d been thinking of trying to catch a game in Midland but the timing didn’t work out, though they do have an airport nearby so I wouldn’t have to drive five hours or so once I got into Texas.
So far that’s two minor league ASGs with 2-1 finals. I’d bet the last one I’ll be at in Portland will have a few more runs scored than that. The dugout steps were a little steep and I wanted to be a bit safer from foul balls so I shot from inside the dugout itself, close to the steps, and it let me get ground-level angles for everything I did from the sides. I like being that low if I can. One thing I did more of this time was take shots of pitchers from off to one side of home plate as they warmed up between innings. I also like them wearing their team uniforms so much better because it makes it a lot easier to remember who’s who later on when you have more than just a hat to go by. There are 115 shots.