It’s officially over…
My 2013 baseball season officially ended Wednesday night when the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in 6 games to win their third world championship in 10 years.
Preparing for a possible clinch game is different than preparing for a “typical” World Series game. Our MLB Photos leader, Jessica Foster, held a pre-game meeting to go over our individual assignments. As in the first two games, the photographers for Game Six were me, Brad Mangin and Rob Tringali.
We discussed potential post game celebration strategies, with the primary goal of getting a main celebration shot that includes multiple players (for potential use in post series publications, the official MLB World Series DVD jacket and other projects just to name just a few). Rob and I were positioned along the third base side, Rob in my Game Two “danger” spot down the line and me between the Cardinal dugout and on-deck circle. These two positions would give us the best chance of having the Red Sox face us as they celebrate while leaving the dugout. Brad was positioned in the inside first spot, seated next to a special photographer guest, White House photographer and mega Red Sox fan Pete Souza. In town for a fund raiser with the POTUS, Pete managed to get the night off and head down the street to Fenway to witness history.
Other responsibilities that were assigned to me was covering the trophy presentation. I would be positioned on a special riser erected over second base directly in front of the main stage. Only 6 still photographers were issued coded wrist bands permitting them access to this platform. My other assignment was as the sole still photographer to document the MVP trophy presentation and awarding of a Chevy Tahoe to the winner. Rob was assigned to participate in the post game field “scrum” while Brad primarily handled the inside the clubhouse mayhem and the champagne celebration.
Now the only thing we needed to have these plans come to fruition was to have the Red Sox win Game Six.
Game Six’s ceremonial first pitch(s) were delivered by the two heroes of the last previous World Series Game Six played at Fenway Park, Luis “El Tiante” Tiant and the one and only, the original Pudge , Carlton Fisk.
It was great to see Pudge honored before the Red Sox faithful. Of course, Fisk left a legacy in both Boston and Chicago while playing for both the Red and White Sox. I not only have had the opportunity to photograph him as a player but also to work with him personally after he retired, photographing him for his self promotion material prior to his election into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And, he rides a Harley too.. so we’ve got more than baseball and the White Sox in common. Congrats, Pudge.
The Carmine’s John Lackey was paired against young Cardinal ace Michael “Pac Man” Wacha, and the game started out as many anticipated, a pitchers duel. Lackey and Wacha matched zeros until the Wacha got into what appreated to be minor trouble in the third.
Mike Matheny finally decided to take the bat out of David Ortiz’s hand, walking him for the second time in as many innings (the first being what looked like a semi-intentional intentional walk). After a Mike Napoli strike out, it looked like Wacha might wriggle off the hook until he plunked Jony Gomes, loading the bases.
Up came Shane Victorino, who woke up the overflow crowd of 38,447 with a bases clearing double to quickly give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead. Fenway Park became electrified with anticipation as the Boston faithful realized that another World Series title was now within reach.
The scoring continued in the fourth inning as Steven Drew hit Wacha’s first pitch for a home run putting the Red Sox up 4-0. Two additional runs scored in the fourth giving the Red Sox a commanding 6-0 lead. The party had officially started.
Lackey was on cruise control through 6 and 2/3 innings, begrudgingly leaving the game to a standing ovation and handing the game over to the Red Sox bullpen.
The Cardinals ended up scoring one run in the 7th, but the Red Sox never lost control. My plans for capturing the ensuing celebration began to whir in my head. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit to being nervous. Like any athlete in the same situation, I’m sure every photographer assigned to the World Series feels a bit nervous as the outs tick off and the game approaches the final out.
I enjoy slowly entering my “zone”, filtering out all the noise and commotion and centering my thoughts and focus on only one thing, on this night, it was Red Sox closer Koji Uehara. To say Uehara is excitable is an understatement. I knew he would be rather animated, so I prepared to zoom out my 200-400 Nikon lens almost immediately after the final pitch in order to capture any jumping, as well as capture the ensuing team scrum I hoped would develop.
You never know how the game will end, and therefore, where the players will turn. If it’s an outfield play, or something of a defensive nature, the celebration could focus away from my camera. I focused on Uehara as he delivered a strike to Matt Carpenter to end the game and I immediately entered into my “zone”.
Sure enough, Uehara ran excitedly into the waiting arms of catcher David Ross, but in what seemed like an eternity, from my perspective, Ross’s arm blocked Udhara’s face as the team approached from behind, racing out of the first base dugout.
Finally, Ross’s arm started to retreat and I began to see Uehara’s face, but then out of the corner of my eye I noticed someone (it was Matt Carpenter), making his way back toward the Cardinals dugout.
I managed to get one frame off where I could clearly see Uehara’s face before Carpenter walked by, and unfortunately in my opinion, blocking what would have been THE best images…
Stuff happens that you can’t control. I can walk away knowing that I did the best I could within the circumstances I was presented. You can’t prepare for everything, unfortunately.
I then prepared for my next assignment, that being the trophy presentation out behind second base.
Being positioned on the riser presented me with a decent angle to shoot the ceremony. Then it was on to my third and final postgame assignment, that being the presentation of the Chevy MVP award. It was of course no surprise that the winner of the 2013 World Series MVP was Big Papi, David Ortiz.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the scrum/crush of cameras and insider “friends” that got “inside the ropes” in order to get so close to Papi that it made getting any shot difficult. I was pushed and elbowed pretty hard by one particular network cameraman, who had to be within a foot or so of Papi, this after coming “late to the party” and declaring “sorry fellas” as he began to elbow his way in position. You would think that since I was shooting for Major League Baseball and their marketing and sponsorship group (re: Chevy) that I would have been shown some respect.
Apparently respect gets tossed out the window during moments like these by these “pros” who think it’s all about them and they are the only ones that matter. I had to literally anchor my legs into a triangular position in order to keep from being knocked to the ground, with my left arm raised high to counter act the elbow being thrown my way. We locked into a “push” against each other the entire time. If I let up, I go down and miss my shot. Really? Working in situations like this isn’t for the inexperienced or faint of heart!
Thankfully, PR became vocal after witnessing the chaos and shooed away everyone but myself and the networks so that we could capture a few frames of David with his new Chevy Tahoe, along with some of Chevy’s executives. The scrum had subsided, I made my pictures, and the war that had started minutes before had ended.
And with that, my season was over.
Even after working though my MVP shove-a-thon, I have to admit, I really enjoyed working a great postseason. Following the Cardinals throughout October for MLB photos, culminating in working my 22nd World Series was a real thrill and honor.
As I like to say, photography might be my job, but I will never call it work!
I am the luckiest guy in the world.