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Extra Innings

The local baseball season has ended and as we move onto football and volleyball, I can't help but look back at the spring and summer of baseball. By virtue of scheduling, I ended up shooting a lot more baseball than I ever had before in my short career. I've never been shy about my aversion to covering baseball, a point I wrote about earlier this year, but as I said before, just because I don't like shooting something doesn't mean I’m satisfied with making boring photos. My quest for improving my baseball portfolio fell short of a triumph this year, but I'm not too disappointed either.

My photo of Kennewick catcher Tyler Morfin tagging out Hanford's Josh Oslund at the back end of a double steal during Kennewick's 13-3 win over Hanford snagged me first place in the National Press Photographers Association’s Region 11 April sports photo category:

But, oh, how I wish I was a couple steps to the left to minimize that white butt dominating most of the frame.

I also played around with a technique I first saw in Karl Merton Ferron's award-winning photo, though I didn't execute it nearly as well:

While I intentionally did not want to copy the other photo, I should have worked harder to either have the ball in a better location or to time it so the pitcher had a more interesting pose. In case you're wondering, the photo was made by prefocusing somewhere between the pitcher’s mound and home plate and trying to time the shutter release for when the ball hit that focal plane.

Another first was capturing a Steve Bartman-esque situation, although there was much less riding on this game and Tri-City’s Ben Paulsen was not as close to catching the foul ball:

One goal I had this season was to get a good diving outfield catch. Too often, because of time constraints, I spend a good deal of time shooting down the second baseline because a play at second is the easiest action photo to get aside from a pitcher or batter shot. I always ended up on the wrong side of the field when these uncommon dives happened, however.

This photo was doubly unfortunate because the Bandits won both games of the doubleheader.

My other chance this year came at a Dust Devils game soon after leaving my outfield-watching position to cover my ass with some pitcher shots. I snagged a shot, but it’s at a bad angle and had to be cropped drastically:

Aside from that, I was able to capture some rundowns:

And dynamic plays by shortstops:

Though the second shot unfortunately didn't run because we had featured the Dust Devils' Joey Wong the previous night.

Another disappointment was not fully utilizing the pockets of golden light at Gesa Stadium. In my defense, no action really took place in a sweet little spot that would appear for up to 10 minutes a night at third base. The best I could manage was a leading off shot:

And this inadvertent ad for Fluor negated any interest the dusky light provided:

One thing I do like about Dust Devils games is the promotions. Of the three pro teams we have in town, theirs are the most consistently entertaining. Sure, the Americans will do the giant hamster ball race on ice, but simple games like Erik the Peanut Guy's self-proclaimed favorite, the reverse tug-o-war, are always fun:

And then there were Kamiakin High seniors and cousins Shawn O'Brien and Kody Young. My scheduled meeting time with them came after a long and fruitless feature hunt. Deflated and numb from hours of searching and nothing to show for it, I was looking forward to the portrait session. Because the story was about how Kamiakin had hit a rough patch mid-season and these two were trying to lead the young team to a strong finish, my idea was to have them wearing rally caps in the photo. Their hats, however, were too stiff to turn inside-out, but I noticed something written on the underside of their bills. It said "Date Skinny Hit Thick," which I thought was funny in a tasteless sort of way. I also thought it was informative about the mindset of a high school kid, and I said something about how it was too bad we couldn't get that in the photo still. Young offered to wear it high on his head and after a couple frames of him tossing the ball (he's a pitcher), I suggested that O'Brien act like he was going to hit his cousin with a bat.

I'm not quite sure what prompted that suggestion. Maybe the combination of failures I'd encountered that day sparked violent thoughts in my head, but the one thing I do know is that I ended up with a pretty ridiculous picture of these guys:

I honestly didn't think the slogan was that offensive and sent the photo through, but my sensibilities once again failed me and we received a number of angry calls, most of which were directed at Sports Editor Jeff Morrow, who was none too happy with me. Young apparently also got into some trouble at school and the team was no longer allowed to write anything on their hats.

Nearly three weeks later, I went to photograph some Richland seniors who had played together since Little League:

Throughout the shoot, the players kept joking about making sure their bills were up for photos. "Date skinny hit thick!" they said in mocking voices. The funny thing was, none of this was directed at me. Most people don't pay attention to the photo credits and I seriously doubt any of these kids knew it was me that made the photo, just as I doubt many high school students regularly read the newspaper. Maybe they flipped through after hearing about the questionable photo and decided that the possibility of "date skinny hit thick" was enough to get them to subscribe.

Well, that's also doubtful, but if it did, that would be the silver lining of my 2009 baseball season.


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