Tag: Texas League
Mine, that is.
As you probably know, I do a lot of photography at different levels of the minors and the occasional MLB game as well from the POV of a fan.
This year I believe I uploaded nearly 1,600 photos from a little over 30 different games or events. A whole lot of it is just getting various players in typical hitting/pitching poses for Scout.com but that still leaves me the chance to pick out a lot of favorites whether they be candid, action or otherwise. That’s what I’m doing here, sharing my favorite shots along with why they stand out to me. There are 16 within.
Here we go!
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.
I’ve had a lot to keep me busy so far this season, covering ten games in the first two months. I’m keeping it to an average of about one a week but there will be times where it picks up. One of those will be the end of the month to coincide with maximizing the rental of a 200-400mm, f4 lens. I’m strongly considering buying a used one after that because I believe it will really help me get even closer to the action. You get to see the end result but there’s some cropping that goes into it first and the closer I can start with, the better the overall quality should be.
That week I’ll be at least covering a mid-morning game in Stockton that MLB Network will be showing, then flying the next morning to Midland for the Texas League All-Star Game. Around that I may do a game in Sacramento as well. Definitely looking forward to that week.
A few more games to point to since the last entry:
From Raley Field in Sacramento. The River Cats won, 8-3. Steve Tolleson went 3-for-4 with two solo homers while Chris Carter also went deep to go along with a double. Matt Carson, Josh Donaldson and Adrian Cardenas also had two hits apiece for Sacramento. Brett Anderson worked 3 innings in an injury rehab appearance (6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 SO before Travis Blackley went 3 more (2 H, 1 BB, 3 SO) for the win. Nashville’s Chris Waters didn’t make it out of the 4th, giving up 8 R (7 ER) on 8 H and 5 BB.
From Raley Field in Sacramento. The Rainiers won, 9-7. Sacramento blew a 6-3 lead late thanks to home runs by Tacoma’s Mike Carp and Jack Hannahan. Carp had 3 RBI while Hannahan and Brad Nelson had 2 each. Chris Carter homered for Sacramento and Matt Watson drove in a pair with a double. Neither Tacoma starter Andrew Baldwin nor Sacramento starter Graham Godfrey factored into the decision. Henry Rodriguez took the loss, allowing Carp’s homer.
From Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton. The Ports won, 9-8. Tyler Ladendorf capped a 4-for-4 night with a game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth after the Ports blew a 3-0 lead but came back from 6-3 and 8-5 deficits late. Grant Green and Stephen Parker homered on consecutive pitches in the first and Ryan Ortiz also went deep in the seventh. Mike Bianucci and John Whittleman homered for the Blaze. Neither Paul Oseguera nor Michael Schlact figured in the decision. Schlact made his first start since coming back from shoulder surgery and rehab.
Michael Schlact is an interesting story that kind of helps justify the use of social sites like Twitter, which he’s active in along with Facebook. Through a writer I know with Scout.com (Jason Cole, who covers the Texas Rangers organization), I ended up following Schlact during the latter stages of rehabbing from shoulder surgery. As it happened, this game in Stockton was his first since returning to starting so I figured it’d be fun to go watch and shoot the game.
The truth is, thanks to Twitter I’ve ended up paying more attention to a player I wouldn’t have otherwise had much of a reason to think about, and it makes me more interested in watching how his career progresses. I’ve already done that in some cases with certain players I’ve seen play at lower levels and know they’ve got a shot at the bigs (such as Daric Barton, Kurt Suzuki, Ubaldo Jimenez, Andy Sonnanstine, Brandon Wood and more at the High-A level) but this is a little different. I never thought I’d use Twitter but it’s been great for keeping up on breaking baseball news along with following various baseball players to see what they’re talking about, and I also use it to try sharing my photography better.
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.