Tag: All-Star Game
It’s been a very busy week for me, but that’s the way I like it when it means being around baseball.
I rented a 200-400mm f4 Nikon lens and, determined to make the most out of it, I’ve done something I’m not even sure A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman has. In consecutive days, I covered games in Sacramento, Stockton and Midland, the three highest levels in Oakland’s minor league structure. The one in Stockton was simulcast on MLB Network, which was fun in its own right, but I went to Midland to shoot this year’s Double-A Texas League All-Star Game.
For starters, it’s quite a change going from taking a 150-seat 757 to Denver’s airport, which has somewhere in the area of 150 gates spanning three terminals, to a 50-seat Canadair jet to Midland, which has all of five gates at their airport. A rental car, a few miles and about 15 minutes later (thanks to a little unfamiliarity with the highways and side roads in Texas), I was checked in at the Residence Inn bordering the Scharbauer Sports Complex that consists of both Citibank Ballpark (baseball) and Grande Communications Stadium (football). As far as sports goes, the Midland/Odessa area is probably most famous for being the basis of the Friday Night Lights movie.
I caught a quick lunch at Osaka, a nice new sushi/hibachi/etc. place a couple blocks away that just recently opened. I don’t know how popular sushi and teppanyaki will end up being in that area but they’re probably in the right place to draw business from people in town for football and baseball. As a little sign of how foreign the concept is there, it took a few minutes for them to understand that pot stickers, or gyoza, are dumplings to them. Hey, at least they were good, and so was the sushi I had.
A little while later I strolled into Citibank Ballpark and added to my A’s minor league hat collection with a RockHounds cap (next year, Kane County?), then walked the concourse to see what the place looked like from different spots. This is something I like to do any time I go to a place for the first time. I’m into the design of the places, the architecture, and I enjoy getting a view from different angles. The concourse is open to take advantage of the wind, and their bullpens and outfield wall (at least in left) are arranged a little abnormally. It seems to fit without feeling too contrived.
Then it was down to the field for the Home Run Derby. The big story was Roger Clemens being there to throw at…I mean, pitch to the hitters. Among them was his son Koby, who plays for Corpus Christi in the Houston Astros organization. The Derby wasn’t much to write about, as very few balls were hit out. That was mostly because of a strong wind that blew in from left and, though it blew out to right, most of the hitters were right-handed and had some trouble going the opposite way. For the record, the father shut out the son, though Koby did line a couple back up the middle.
While I’ve never been a big Clemens fan (I think my favorite moment was his ejection in Oakland in the 1990 ALCS), I’d be lying if I didn’t say I enjoyed being around something like this. As a baseball fan it’s fun and as a photographer it’s nice to get some good pictures of. My personal feelings don’t really matter when I’m there to push the little button on the camera a few hundred times.
What about the game? First, a link to both galleries (totaling 150 photos) and my very brief summary:
The South Division won, 5-4. Luis Martinez of San Antonio singled in the go-ahead run in the 4th and the South held the lead, aided by a diving catch by Top Star J.B. Shuck of Corpus Christi to save a run in the 6th. Shuck did it again to end it, throwing out a runner at the plate after a base hit. Clint Robinson of Northwest Arkansas homered for the North and Alex Valdez of Midland tripled for the South. Jordan Lyles of Corpus Christi was credited with the win, Blake King of Springfield took the loss, and Jared Lansford of Midland got the save in spite of allowing singles to all three hitters he faced.
That’s the quick and dirty version, though it covers the main points. In truth, I think the South was fortunate to hang on for the win when you consider they allowed 14 hits and only picked up 6 of their own. It came down to limiting damage and getting out of jams as the North went 3-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 on as a team. The South was 3-for-10 but made the most of the chances they did have, leaving just 4 on base.
After the game a few of the special All-Star jerseys were autographed and auctioned off. Jeff Baisley’s bagged about $700. Archie Gilbert’s? Around $2,000 or so. What about the Roger Clemens one? $5,000. Yes, it went for that much. Someone wondered why, that it wasn’t even a Houston Astros jersey. I figured since it was worn by him and a true one-of-a-kind, that helped account for it. It was worth that much to somebody, and at least some of that money is going to a charity.
The crowd was good and aside from a brief bit of rain early, it only lasted about an inning and it was great the rest of the night. There was even a rainbow beyond right field just before the first pitch. My main goal was to get at least one usable shot of every player I could and I came close. I think there were only a handful I didn’t get something of, which isn’t bad. I also got a few plays in the field, mainly a stolen base, a sliding triple into third, and a couple shots to first and third basemen (one foul, one a hit). Other than that, it was a lot of typical pitcher/hitter shots, but those are the easiest to get quickly at something like this.
If anything, the overcast skies helped me get some of the best photos I’ve taken yet at a game. Given the way it looks like the sun sets there, the infield would have been in shadow early on while the outfield would have stayed sunny and bright, which would be really difficult to shoot in until the sun went down. Instead, I had no real shadows to contend with until the lights took effect and I got some stuff I’m very happy with. Hopefully the people who write for the various team pages on Scout.com can make good use of it all.
As for me, it was another chance to get out and do something I enjoy and do it at a place I hadn’t been to before. Hard to find anything wrong with that. Most importantly, I’ve used the 200-400mm lens enough to know that one of these days I should buy one of my own. It’s far and away the best lens I’ve used yet and still gives me the flexibility I want without being locked in to one set length.
To wrap up, here are the other galleries from earlier in the week:
From Raley Field in Sacramento. The River Cats won, 7-5. Dallas McPherson’s 3-run homer in the bottom of the 8th put Sacramento in front and they held on for the win. McPherson, Josh Donaldson, Steve Tolleson & Matt Carson all went deep for the River Cats. Tacoma took an early lead when Matt Tuiasosopo hit a 2-run homer in the 1st off Graham Godfrey, but they didn’t get much after that. Godfrey pitched 6 innings, allowing 3 runs, 2 hits, 4 walks and 6 strikeouts. Tacoma’s Michael Pineda also went 6, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits, 1 walk, 11 strikeouts and 2 homers.
From Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton. The Ports won, 8-6. David Thomas, Grant Green & Jeremy Barfield homered for Stockton as they came back from an early 3-0 deficit to win, Green’s breaking a 5-5 tie in the 7th. The Blaze also showed the power with homers by Chris Gradoville, Mike Bianucci & Johnny Whittleman. David Paisano doubled and tripled for Bakersfield while Stephen Parker and Ryan Ortiz both had a single and a double for Stockton. Neither starter, Ben Hornbeck of the Ports & Carlos Pimentel of the Blaze, figured in the decision.
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.
Earlier this week I covered the Single-A All-Star Game between these two leagues, held in Lake Elsinore.
From Lake Elsinore Diamond in Lake Elsinore. The California League won, 2-1 in 10 innings. Lancaster’s Jon Gaston hit the first pitch he saw in the 10th for a walkoff homer off Salem’s Derrick Loop. San Jose’s Buster Posey had an RBI single in the 1st before Frederick’s Pedro Florimon tripled in the 8th and scored on an error off the bat of Kinston’s Cord Phillips. Salem’s Ryne Miller was the top pitcher of the game, striking out 5 hitters in 2 innings of work. Visalia’s Pat McAnaney got credit for the win.
Most of this is just hitter/pitcher shots because I needed to get something of everyone for Scout.com, but there are a few action shots in there. Not as many as I’d like, though. Did get a few nice ones at the end of the celebration after the walkoff homer and a water bucket shower.
I’m flying out to Dallas on Monday and will probably see one or two Texas Rangers games before working the Double-A All-Star Game in Frisco. That’s a beautiful ballpark.
The past couple months have been mostly taken up by finalizing a home purchase and moving and I’m getting settled in enough that I can go back out and do some games. Shooting a lot of stuff in Sacramento and Stockton is nice when I’m only about 20 minutes from Sacramento and 40 minutes from Stockton compared to about two hours and one hour respectively, depending on traffic.
I got back out to Sacramento on the 11th then did a game in Stockton on the 17th followed by another in Sacramento the next night as I work on getting more used to night games. After covering the first game I started thinking more about getting a little extra zoom. Before I got the new camera and lens for it, I’d been using one that went up to 300mm but the problem was its aperture settings were nowhere near good enough to shoot at night (about f5.6 when at full zoom). Now I have one that’s f2.8 but it’s only 200mm and I’ve been noticing it’s not quite enough for me when it comes to cropping to a larger part of the image for a better-looking result.
I started looking at 300-400mm lenses with f2.8 but they’re definitely expensive. Rather than plunking down a few thousand on one (I’ve been spending more than enough lately getting necessary items for the house) I decided to try a 1.4x teleconverter Nikon puts out. So far I’m pretty happy with it, though having to go down a full stop to f4.0 does make for some differences in how I can shoot once night sets in. It’s a fair tradeoff, though.
Before getting into the next bit of news, three galleries:
6/11/09: Tacoma Rainiers at Sacramento River Cats: From Raley Field in Sacramento. The Rainiers won, 6-4. Brad Nelson tied the game with a 3-run homer in the 8th inning and two-out singles in the 9th by Mike Carp and Mike Morse was enough to overcome an early 4-1 deficit. Travis Buck hit a solo homer and had a sacrifice fly and Danny Putnam had a 2-run homer to account for Sacramento’s runs. Andrew Baldwin went 7 innings for Tacoma and pitched well aside from the homers while James Simmons worked 5 for the River Cats before leaving with tightness in his back.
6/17/09: Modesto Nuts at Stockton Ports: From Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton. The Nuts won, 6-2. Connor Graham pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings for the win, allowing just 4 hits while walking 4 and striking out 7. Tyson Ross was undone by a 5-run 6th, giving up 6 runs on 9 hits with a walk and 4 strikeouts in 5 1/3. Home runs were hit by Modesto’s Jay Cox and Stockton’s Jemile Weeks, who has at least one hit in all 18 games so far this season. Brian Rike drove in 3 of Modesto’s 6 runs.
6/18/09: Salt Lake Bees at Sacramento River Cats: From Raley Field in Sacramento. The River Cats won, 9-0. Cliff Pennington’s 3-run triple in the 7th broke open a 1-0 game and the River Cats scored a total of 8 runs in the last 2 innings to turn it into a blowout. Gio Gonzalez worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing just 4 hits and a walk while striking out 10. Dan Denham pitched 6+ for the Bees but left with the bases loaded before the bullpen failed to limit the damage. Eric Munson’s solo homer was the only run until late in the game. Pennington finished with 4 RBI while Travis Buck, Munson and Aaron Cunningham had 2 hits apiece for Sacramento. Brandon Wood was the only Salt Lake batter with multiple hits, also getting a pair.
Something else I’ve started playing around with are animated gifs. Of course they’re nothing like video with 30-60 frames per second, but with a camera that lets me shoot about 10 fps it can be fun messing around with throwing a sequence together and seeing how it comes out to get a better look at someone’s pitching motion or a stolen base. Here are a few examples:
* Salt Lake’s Howie Kendrick tags out Sacramento’s Cliff Pennington
* Sacramento’s Gio Gonzalez from the first base side
* Sacramento’s Gio Gonzalez from behind the plate
* Salt Lake’s Dan Denham from the third base side
* Stockton’s Tyson Ross from the third base side
Some talk has surfaced among A’s fans about the delivery Ross has ever since he was drafted last year and just looking at one or two still shots doesn’t tell the story the same as a video or animation like this does. With the camera what it is, I can play around with things like this a lot more and turn it into another part of what I do.
As for the actual news, I’ve got credentials lined up for three minor league All-Star Games in the next month:
* June 23: High-A All-Star Game in Lake Elsinore, CA (California League vs. Carolina League)
* July 1: Double-A All-Star Game in Frisco, TX (Texas League North vs. Texas League South)
* July 15: Triple-A All-Star Game in Portland, OR (Pacific Coast League vs. International League)
The opportunity to cover a few of these is a good one, especially with the chance for some of the photos to see further exposure online and in print. It’s also just a lot of fun to be around things like this. I’ve been to both ballparks in Lake Elsinore and Portland but the one in Frisco will be a first and from everything I’ve seen it’s a beautiful ballpark. You’ll see what I mean. I’ll also be close enough to go watch a game or two in Arlington and knock one more MLB ballpark off my list. Midland (the Oakland affiliate in the Texas League) is too far to go to this time around but about 10 players from the team will be in the All-Star Game anyway.
The next month will be pretty busy but that’s just fine with me.
Here’s a nice, round number: 300
Not only is 300 a highly successful movie from earlier in the year, it’s also the final total of photos uploaded from the Triple-A All-Star Fiesta in Albuquerque last week, about a third of them coming from the game itself. Of the handful of games I’ve worked with media credentials, this is by far the most high-profile event of them all. It’s an experience and opportunity I’ll never forget.
The way things worked out with the assignment from scout.com, it really helped me place an emphasis on getting as many players accounted for as I could, though there were a couple I was unable to get. It was a lot easier to shoot most of the hitters because of the batting practice and infield drills they took. Many of the pitchers could only be shot during the game or around the dugouts. Anyhow, here are all four galleries:
I hope you enjoy them. I sure did.
Being that baseball is a sport dominated by stats, here are a few pertinent ones of my own:
* 3 days
* 17 hours at the ballpark
* 5+ miles walked
* 90° or higher each day
* 1,250+ photos taken
That’s a quick and dirty recap of my time in and around Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, but it doesn’t even come close to telling the whole story.
Simply put, I had a blast.
Monday night’s home run derby was won by an ex-Isotopes player, Robert Stratton, who is now a local real estate agent. Think that might help drum up some extra business for him? He beat out the likes of Craig Brazell (in a slugoff after they finished the final round in a tie – basically, they did a repeat), John-Ford Griffin, Scott Seabol, Shelley Duncan, Mike Hessman, Valentino Pascucci and Mike Marshall. Yes, that Mike Marshall, the one-time Dodger.
He apparently hadn’t swung a bat in about ten years, yet he still went deep twice. He reacted like he won it all and had a great time in the process. That was fun, but in the end Stratton may have surprised everyone with the win. Then again, he took the crown in the 2003 Triple-A home run derby in Memphis so maybe this wasn’t such a shock.
Once night set in, a strong wind shifted to blow in from right field so left-handed hitters Griffin and Brazell had to change their approach and wound up belting most of their drives to left field. It worked pretty well for them. After Stratton launched three in his last round, Brazell made four quick outs before putting two over the wall to create some last-minute drama. His final swing had the distance but the ball sailed foul down the left field line and Stratton was the champ.
Tuesday was a batting practice/media day and Isotopes season ticket holders had the opportunity to get autographs from the players up on the concourse. Team photos were taken near the grassy hill in center field, dubbed the ‘Tope Slope. A few of us inspected the challenging twist and personally, I love it. Some people hate quirky things like that but I enjoy seeing things that are unique to a ballpark. It’d definitely take some getting used to, though.
After his round of batting practice ended, I caught up with the lone Sacramento River Cats representative, 1B Daric Barton, in the Oakland A’s system. My interview with him can be read here. It was the first one I’ve conducted with a professional athlete and he gave some excellent answers. That’s the best anyone can ask for.
Wednesday, of course, was what we were all there for: the game itself. The first few innings saw lots of scoring, with the International League on top 7-5 after just 4 innings. Hessman and Brandon Moss hit back-to-back homers in the top of the first to help stake the IL to a 4-0 lead, but local favorite Pascucci cut the deficit in half with a blast of his own in the bottom of the inning. Unexpectedly, neither team would score again the rest of the night after the 4th as the pitchers took over.
Timo Perez took home game MVP honors, while Manny Acosta and Pascucci were also recognized. I stuck around to pick up the end-of-game stats, listened to the managers being interviewed about the game, then it was back to the hotel to get ready to fly back home the next day.
The whole experience was great. I had the chance to meet people like Tony Perez and Andre Dawson, I got to see Steve Garvey and Tommy Lasorda toss out ceremonial first pitches and best of all, I was able to see a nice mixture of talent – ranging from a few players with more time in the majors than the minors, others who have had a brief appearance at the top, and some yet to make it to the big club – play in an entertaning game, and I came away with some pretty nice photos out of the whole thing. There are a few shots I’d have done a little differently, other things I would’ve focused on more than I did but that’s all part of getting used to doing things from this side, from down on the field.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that the game was played in a real gem of a ballpark. Albuquerque’s got a winner in Isotopes Park and their staff helped make everything run smoothly from my point of view.
On scout.com, you can see an initial gallery I put together Thursday night, and there will be more shots of all the players made available to each team site within the network for them to pull from. You’ll also be able to see the rest of my work here, starting with Monday night’s home run derby.
After the fun (and game), all I can say is I can’t wait for the next one.
Putting a few things together before my flight to Albuquerque tonight, I’m taking a moment to think about a word:
Wednesday night the Albuquerque Isotopes play host to the 20th Triple-A All-Star Game and I’ll be there as a photographer for scout.com thanks to a couple people going to bat for me.
Over the last year I’ve had the opportunity to step up a little and work a few minor league games in San Jose and Stockton, and the experience alone is a thrill. As someone who loves baseball and photography, just being able to work a game and know I’m doing it because someone else thinks my work is worth it – that’s a good feeling.
A couple weeks ago, one of my friends and I found out at the last minute that we’d be working the Single-A All-Star Game in Stockton. That was a one day event and definitely a lot of fun.
Now, I’m about to spend a few days in New Mexico working the game featuring many of the top prospects in their last stop on the road to the Major Leagues. This game includes the likes of Daric Barton, Clint Barmes, Adam Jones, Delwyn Young, Mike Hessman, Shelley Duncan, Chad Harville, Jim Brower, Craig Brazell and Luis Rivas, people who have either had major league experience or are knocking on the door. Sometimes, as is the case with Matt Garza, a player is selected but winds up being summoned to the majors prior to the game. For some in Stockton, one of the first things they learned after the game was that they were being promoted to the next level.
In that sense, a minor league All-Star Game can be very different from the one at the major league level. It’s still an Event, it’s still big for the players, team and city hosting it, but it’s on a smaller scale and while it’s a highlight for a player, they’re not at the top of the mountain yet. There are over 150 minor league teams in the United States but outside each area, the amount of attention paid to them pales in comparison to the teams in the majors. Still, attendance has been on the upswing and minor league baseball gives fans a fun and inexpensive option, especially in areas that have no major league club.
It provides opportunities to players (obviously), but also members of the media. Not many people have the ability to do something like this. Even fewer ever get the chance to do it at the highest of professional levels. This will be a lot of fun for me, definitely the highlight of any sports photography I’ve done so far, but it’s not just fun and games. It’ll feel like it, though. Being able to enjoy a game from where I’ll be, there’s not a whole lot that compares to it. I’d like to think that if I’m still doing anything like this twenty years from now, I’ll feel the same way I do about it today.
Bring on the game!
On the technical side, I’ve been in the process of getting my own webspace together to host a blog and my photo galleries. While the gallery page, Last of the Ninth, is not yet up and running due to unexpected delays, the old galleries – ie: the stuff not yet moved over – can still be accessed here. Think of it as Last of the Ninth, version 1.0. The new and improved (but similar) version should be here soon, reachable from this blog or on its own.