February 2009

Drive’s Navarro gets a shot with the big club

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Yamaico Navarro, who played with the Greenville Drive last year, hit a solo home run yesterday in the Boston Red Sox’ opening Spring Training game.
True, it was against Boston College, but still, he was in a Sox uniform and had six total bases with a double and 2 RBIs. Another half dozen or so former Drive players also got into the game. Now the big test will be how they do against much better pitching.
He’s not on their 40-man roster, nor is he a non-roster invitee, so my guess is that he got a shot at playing for the big club because most of the starters would be playing Minnesota later in the day.
I shot both of these photos of Navarro last April in Greenville. He went on to hit .304 during the year between Greenville and Lancaster, both Class A teams.

Baseball America picks Wieters as top prospect

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Baseball America has come out with its Top 100 Prospects for 2009, and catcher Matt Wieters of the Orioles organization is their pick for No. 1.
I photographed Wieters last June when he was still in Class A with the Frederick Keys, just before he got the call up for Double A.

I take this picture every year, and here’s why

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I’ve shot this photo before, and God willing I’ll shoot it again.
A fellow photojournalist recently sat in on the judging of a national photo contest and declared that most of the entries were cliche images that all the judges had seen over and over. Well, phooey. Add this to that group. Guilty as charged.
It’s opening day of the Clemson baseball season, and it’s my own Spring Training. I haven’t shot baseball since Sept. 1, and to say I’m rusty is an understatement. Anything you do requires practice, and I try to shoot Clemson’s opener every year — and I always shoot this image.
Clemson head coach Jack Leggett has a tradition where he runs into a pile of his players right after going over the ground rules with the umpires before every game. The players get wound up as Leggett plows into the scrum. They jump on the pile and slap each other around. It happens every year and every game.
But to me, taking this photo is like the starting gun for the new baseball season. This cliche epitomizes the sheer joy of playing baseball. Click, snap, baseball 2009 is finally here.

Braves to remember pitching coach Dal Canton

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Got an e-mail recently from my P.R. friends with the Atlanta Braves, looking for some photos of Bruce Dal Canton. They’re planning a tribute to this longtime Braves Minor League pitching coach, who died last year, and I was happy to oblige.
Everybody in the organization admired “D.C.” He was a Major League star pitcher in his own right, but he’s probably best known as the pitching coach for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
He’s credited with helping move along the careers of many of Atlanta’s best picthers.
Here are a couple of the photos I sent along to the Braves. I shot the one below at Spring Training at Lake Buena Vista in 2001, using a borrowed Nikon D1, one of my first all-digital projects.
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Kelly Johnson signed to one-year deal

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Today’s news out of the Braves camp is that Kelly Johnson has been signed to a one-year deal.
I was going to post a photo of Kelly bunting that I took when he was in Double A, and tell the story about how much he disliked that photo – and then told me all about it — but why push my luck? Heck, Kelly might actually read this someday. (Hey, Kelly, I never took another photo of you bunting again! I swear!)
Anyway, I’m posting the top photo of Kelly because it’s my favorite one, taken March 19, 2007, at Spring Training. And I’m posting the bottom photo, taken March 16, same place, because I know he’d rather have a photo of him hitting the long ball . . . Way to smack it, there, Kelly . . .

The mayor watches his new team on the field

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I had fun looking up some of my favorite old Spring Training photos this week, so I decided to post two more.
In this one from March 6, 2005, Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, in the yellow shirt, watches a Washington Nationals game directly behind Manager Frank Robinson, left foreground. Williams attended his first Nationals Spring Training game at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla.
I covered the opening series, the first time the Nationals ever took the field for a game.

Another optimistic spring day in Florida

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I had fun looking up some of my favorite old Spring Training photos this week, so I decided to post two more.
This one of Jeff Francoeur was taken March 2, 2003, at the Atlanta Braves Spring Training camp in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. This was when I got my first pictures of Jeff in a Braves uniform. Spring Training itself is a lot of fun, but when you see it through the eyes of someone as excited as he was that spring, it was even better.
It didn’t take a genius to know he’d soon be a star, so I took a lot of photos of him. Plus, he wasn’t as swamped by fans as he would be later on, so it was easy to get close.

When Andruw was on top of the world

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In honor of pitchers and catchers reporting today, I’m posting a couple of my favorite Spring Training photos, as I contemplate finally getting back on the field in a few weeks to shoot and post some new photos . . .
In this photo from March 16, 2007, Andruw Jones was on top of the world, holding court by the batting cage with the likes of Albert Pujols, right. Andruw was a star at his peak. I was delighted to be able to see him displaying such joy in his face.
At the end of the year he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and in 2008 he hit exactly 3 homers and batted under the Mendoza line. Unbelievable.
This month he’ll report to camp with the Texas Rangers ona minor league contract and try to start all over.
So here’s to Andruw: may you rebound and have a great year.

One of my favorite Spring Training photos

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In honor of pitchers and catchers reporting today, I’m posting a couple of my favorite Spring Training photos, as I contemplate finally getting back on the field in a few weeks to shoot and post some new photos . . .
This is probably my absolute favorite spring photo, showing Leo Mazzone, left, and Bobby Cox in the dugout Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla., during a game against the Houston Astros on March 5, 2005.
Mazzone, then the pitching coach, always had an interesting face, and I was just lucky enough to catch him and manager Cox in a funny moment.

The Royals found a gem, and so did I

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Pitcher Henry Barrera of the Royals organization is called “a hidden gem” in a new story from MLB.
The 23-year old turned out to be a sort of hidden gem for me, too. I was a little surprised to learn that MLB used one of my photos of Barrera with the story about his being added to the Royals’ 40-man roster. I usually remember images I shot, but names? Not always. Didn’t ring a bell.
Turns out Barrera was one of those grab images that I sandwiched in on a trip to shoot the Myrtle Beach Pelicans last July 7. That was a rainy evening and I wound up waiting out a rainstorm in the home dugout with photographer Randall Hill of the Myrtle Beach Sun News.
Before it started pouring I managed to get a couple shots of Barrera as he warmed up for the game (including this one). I also shot him pitching in relief late in the game, but as is typical of the late-innings at Myrtle Beach’s BB&T Coastal Field, the lighting was awful on the mound and I don’t particularly like the result. So you’re not going to see it here.