Let's Get Physical

June 24, 2010 

While I love baseball highlights, I’ve never really cared for the sport. And though I’ve gained appreciation for it while working on the story of the Burgess Brothers over the last couple months, it’d be a stretch to call myself a fan. What I’ve always appreciated was the amount of skill needed to play baseball, even if major league physiques don’t always project an image of professional athleticism. There is a level of physical conditioning required to play the sport, and as I recently learned, a certain level is also sometimes needed to cover it.

I was surprisingly excited when I saw that I would be covering a couple games at the Bandit Bash last weekend. I hadn’t shot much baseball this season and Saturday’s game started at 7 p.m., so I was banking on some sweet light to work with. Rain clouds ruined that dream, but I did manage to get a couple serviceable jubes after the Kennewick Bandits defeated the Columbia Basin River Dogs 2-0 to advance to the semifinals.

So when I arrived at Southridge the next day to see if any local teams had made it to the finals, I was excited to see the Bandits playing, and once again up 2-0. After all, if they had been that stoked for a quarterfinal game, winning the championship would surely end up in a frenzied dogpile. I grabbed a couple CYAs and then spent most of the game around the Bandits’ dugout along the third base line.

I wasn’t that interested in mixing up my angles to get a good variety of action shots, though I did manage to snag a couple that I like:

The positioning was more about getting the players used to my presence in the hope that they would ignore me when I swarmed them for the end-game jubes. Plus, I had shot the previous celebration from the first base line and wanted some shots of excited players sprinting back to join their teammates by the dugout. So when head coach Bryan Winston told Dallas Jones to head home and score the first of two runs off of Drew Loftus’ triple play in the bottom of the sixth, putting the Bandits up 7-2, a home victory looked inevitable:

Inevitable, maybe, but not quick. The top of the seventh dragged on as the Bandits were unable to get the final out. Loftus walked a batter home, so Devin Westermeyer relieved him for that last out. After finally ending the game, Westermeyer sarcastically cheered as he walked off the mound:

I switched to my wide and looked for hysteria, but it never happened. Here’s the most jubilant frame I got:

which looks like they’re celebrating the discovery of a heads-up quarter on the ground, not a tournament championship. Deflated, I stuck around for the team pictures hoping something else would happen. Then I noticed a player not-so-sneakily grabbing the cooler. I spotted coach Winston about the same time he spotted the cooler, and he used me (and the expensive cameras I was carrying) as a shield, so they turned their attention to assistant coach Evan Wells, who took off running. He escaped to center field before somebody suggested they use the Gator to chase him down. I hopped in with them and off we went:

I had to hang tight after that last sharp turn nearly threw me, so I stayed wide and tried to keep shooting. It was frantic and fun, but as the uncropped photos in this next animation show, my composition and focus were definitely lacking as I kept part of my attention on not hurting myself in the process:

After a successful tackle, I hopped out along with the rest of the Gator passengers and sprinted to where I thought would be a good spot:

I rushed into a squatting position, which I like because I can shift my position and adjust my composition as a fast-moving scene develops, forgetting that I had hurt my knee a couple weeks prior while playing ultimate frisbee.

A sharp pain resurrected and I fell into a seated position as Wells tried to stop Tanner Leatherwood and Bryce Jackson from dumping ice water on him:

While I like the shot we ran in the paper:

The layered elements are messy and, had I been healthy and mobile, I might have been able to make the rightward adjustment so it doesn’t look like Brian Bowe, left, is eating his teammate’s head. Getting Wells’ facial reaction could have added to the frame, as well.

It’s always frustrating to come away from a somewhat unique experience filled with emotion, only to look over your take and realize all the mistakes you’ve made. What’s even more frustrating is knowing that you could have done better if only your damn knee hadn’t given out. It wasn’t the first time I’d gotten hurt while shooting sports, and with as close as I like to be to the action, it probably won’t be my last either.


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