Well, it’s time to catch up on what’s happening in my baseball world before I head back to the ballpark in an hour. Since my last post, I’ve been to Target Field in Minneapolis, Busch Stadium in St. Louis and of course U.S. Cellular Field and Wrigley Field in Chicago as my baseball assignment work has been fast and furious.
The weather up to this point in the season has been absolutely terrible here in Mid-America. Cold, cold, and more cold with a generous helping of rain, mist and dark clouds piled on top and you get an idea what I’ve been up against during the early portion of the 2011 schedule. With that, I’ve had more than my fair share of dugout heaters and their dreaded companion, heat waves to contend with too. Who said life is fair!
My travels took me up to Target Field late in April to cover the Indians and Twins for my first look at the red-hot (and still red-hot) Cleveland Indians. I caught them on probably their two worst day stretch in a month, as the Twins came back from the dead and took both weekend games from the Tribe. What was fun for me, besides catching up with my Twin Cities friends, was seeing Justin Morneau back in action after being sidelined for nearly a half-season due to complications from a concussion.
Even though my loyalty is with the White Sox, I thought it was great for the game to see a talent such as Morneau back on the playing field. His power numbers aren’t back to where they were pre-concussion, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they are.
Another treat was being able to get back on the “Thome watch” as big Jim approaches career home run number 600. Unfortunately Jim was kept in the yard all weekend so I was deprived from recording history, but hopefully this coming weekend against the Jays will prove different.
Then there are the Indians. Grady Sizemore was back in action after also being out of commission for an extended period which was good news for Tribe fans. And just who is this Carlos Santana, anyway? The only one I knew before my trip plays a mean lead guitar, but evidently there is another Carlos Santana to reckon with, especially if you play in the American League Central.
I found it interesting that the Indians are already alternating Santana between catching and first base in an obvious effort to reduce the wear and tear a catcher typically endures in order to keep him healthy and in the lineup. One just had to look across the field at the Joe Mauer situation to see how tough it is to be a full-time major league catcher. The Twins are still waiting for their former league MVP to return to the lineup as he recovers from leg issues, although his latest stint on the DL appears to be non-playing related. With his recent history of leg problems however, how much longer do you think Mauer will be behind the plate on a full-time basis? It would be sad to see Mauer moved out from behind the plate if health issues force the issue.
Back in Chicago, the White Sox played host to the Orioles and Twins before heading out on an extended west coast trip. The weather mirrored the play on the field as my White Sox struggled at home against both teams, even succumbing to being no-hit by Francisco Liriano of the Twins. Taking nothing away from the exceptional play of the Indians through the first month and a half of the season, it seemed to me that the AL Central standings were upside down as May began. How could the Twins and the White Sox be on the bottom? I wish I had the answer.
On to St. Louis for a mid-week matinee between the Marlins and Cardinals at Busch. It was my first visit back to Busch Stadium since the 2006 World Series, believe it or not. I love shooting there. Any ballpark that has both inside and outside photo positions ranks high on my list, and what is cool (and different) about the inside positions at Busch is that although they are inside the dugout, they aren’t as close to home plate as they tend to be in many ballparks. So, unlike most of the other ballparks with inside positions, decent batting pictures can be made from Busch’s inside wells.
As a matter of fact, I much prefer shooting in these inside locations for batters such as Albert Pujols than from the outside position. Nicer background, in my opinion, plus better angles for everything else that happens on the field. My trusty Nikon 200-400 was the perfect focal length for pretty much everything except obviously the outfield. A tele-converter was required from the outside positions, but I didn’t spend but an inning or two in the outside third position before returning to one of the inside wells.
Fun in St. Louis comes with a price, however, that being the 536 miles round trip drive and a 5am start. The 5am start was no problem since I set my iPod to crank out some of my favorite morning melodies, thanks to Metallica, Judas Priest, AC/DC and a few others. The only pain was felt at the gas pump. I hope it’s not five more years till’ my next visit.
Another pretty good team from Ohio finished out my latest round of baseball back in the Windy City as the Reds made there way to the dull Friendly Confines. Why dull? As I alluded to early on, this spring has been horrendous, and that said, the trademark ivy that gives Wrigley its warm and comfy feel is no where near being green, warm and comfy.
Their dead like appearance give Wrigley a cold, winter-like feel to it, even on sunny days. Last year at this time the ivy was in and looking great. This year, at the rate we’re going, I sense it might be July before the ivy greens up. Just in time for it to turn colors and prepare to go right back into hibernation.
My weekend games were right on course, weather wise. Cool with a chance of rain both days. Saturday was a noon Fox start that seemed more like a 6pm start by the look of things. You get an idea of the season we’ve had when you have to dial up the ISO beyond 1000 for a noon first pitch! Thank goodness I use Nikon D3s’s. Back in the film days, I would have used Fuji 800 color neg film and would have had it converted to slides by Dale Labs down in Florida. Boy, Dale Labs. In the 90’s, sports photographers kept that place humming sometimes 24 hours a day (during Super Bowl week or during the World Series) converting the Fuji color neg into slides. I wonder how they adapted to the move to digital and loss of all that neg to slide conversion work.
As sure as the weather is unpredictable, the Cubs fought back to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth just as a cold, wind driven rain began to fall. Thankfully, Kosuke Fukudome came through and delivered a walk-off single to send everyone for cover and keeping everyone happy (except the Reds) by avoiding the drudgery of playing extra innings in the rain.
Thank you, Kosuke! Wrigley Field is the worst ballpark to work in as a photographer when it rains. There is no protection whatsoever for you or your gear. Again, thank you Kosuke!
Two solid days of editing got me caught up so I can head back out for the Cardinals and Cubs match-up later today, then head back up to Minneapolis for the Blue Jays and Twins this weekend. And true to form, even though it’s 75 degrees today in the Twin Cities, the weekend forecast is one I’m unfortunately used to…
Cool, chance of rain both days with highs in the low 50’s.