We are officially one-third of the way through the major league baseball season. As a photographer, it’s always a good idea to reevaluate and look back on your progress made. It’s a healthy routine to get into as I think it helps keep us all from becoming complacent and forces us to always be improving. There’s certainly no sense in making the same images at the same event, all year long. In order to have a diverse, yet complete look to your body of work, you need to explore all angles, light, etc. Approaching the same assignment with a different lens or focal length can make a huge difference. Having a little bit of luck fall your way is always nice too!
Take chances. For every image I’ve ever ‘made’, I’ve also missed some moments as well. That’s just the nature of the business we’re in. Of course we always hear the saying, “Go where everyone else isn’t”, but the reason we hear that so often is because it’s still so true. Sometimes it’s the only reason we have. Sometimes it works out. And when it does, it’s always worth it.
Obviously we all have jobs to do at these events. There are always clients to please and typically a small window to fit it all into on deadline. But get to your assignment early, explore, fulfill your client’s needs, then go and show the world how you see things. But be patient. Just like in the game of baseball, you may only find that unique picture once every few times you attempt to go after it. However, batting .300 is a really good statistic to have, even if it doesn’t include a home run.
Here is a small collection of my favorite images so far this season from PNC Park. Enjoy!
Opening Day. My favorite holiday. Well, it’s not so much a holiday for me as it is for a lot of kids who get to skip school for a baseball game. But it still brings the same sense of joy and excitement that it does for those kids playing hooky.
It also gives me an added reason to go out and mingle with the people and shoot some features. Some years it has been miserable, rainy, and cold. But yesterday topped 80 degrees and according to Dave Arrigo, the Pirates team photographer, it was probably the warmest he’s ever experienced. That brought everyone out, including one of the coolest parts about Pittsburgh – the Allegheny River boat tailgaters. What a better way to enjoy the weather, catch a ball game, AND avoid the busy traffic and parking that comes with it! I even met some folks aboard ‘JAWS’ who have been coming for over 30 years.
Now, every opening day is a bit hectic. It’s always packed full of media, no matter how good or bad your team may be that year. And there are surely many parts to the ceremony before the first pitch even gets thrown. But if you just take it in stride and enjoy the fresh smell of pine tar, the sights of the lush green grass, and the sound of the ball against the back of a mit, your attitude will help reveal those pictures that encapsulate the first day of baseball season.
If everything we asked for and chased after resulted in our ideal outcome, what fun would that be? As an artist, I’d never learn how to get better at my craft nor would we strive to become better people.
We would be stagnant and boring with nothing to surprise us.
Why am I bringing this up? Because my quality of life will soon be in a much better place: Pittsburgh.
This February I will be moving back home to the city of bridges.
I’ve been three years removed from the place that taught and gave me so much. And even in such a short time, it has changed a lot. Just ask my good friend and artist, Baron Batch, who is making things happen over at Studio AM in Homestead, a part of western Pennsylvania that is especially close to my heart. It’s where my grandfather, or ‘Pap’ as I called him, grew up and made his living for so many years. The same man who introduced me to the city, Three Rivers Stadium, and the Stillers.
Whereas Gerald Wickerham, or Pap, was executive director of the North Side Development Council working on constructing new offices and landmarks during the height of the steel industry, this generation of young creatives are finding ways to repurpose those same interiors with their own ideas designed for today’s world while still maintaining the blue-collar mentality.
One foot firmly planted in the past and the other proudly moving forward towards the future.
It’s exciting to have the opportunity to put my own stamp on a city that was molded by previous generations of my family. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my time in Boston. I met some really great people, experienced historical moments, both good and bad, and made some pictures that I’m proud of. And for those things, I am truly grateful.
But it’s time to come home to the place I truly belong.
Being back in Pittsburgh is a feeling unlike any other. It’s a combination of the tangible and intangible moments. There is certainly a general sense of feeling welcome in such a friendly part of the world. But there’s also a self-confidence that comes with being in a place that is open to change and taking chances. There are no limits to what someone can accomplish in such a progressive place.
Don’t get me wrong – nothing will come easily. There will be a new set of challenges that await. But with the support of friends (let’s face it, they’re really family at this point) like Jeff & Beth Swensen, Justin Merriman, Stephanie Strasburg, Mickey & Molly Miller, Andy Russell, Jasmine Goldband, Baron Batch, Sean Beauford, and the rest of the folks I’ve missed dearly these last few years, I can’t go wrong.
And not to mention all of the Pamela’s hotcakes I can eat!
See yinz guys soon…
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 06: Pedro Alvarez #24 of the Pittsburgh Pirates warms up in the on deck circle in the fourth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game Three of the National League Division Series at PNC Park on October 6, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
What a year! A Stanley Cup and a World Series in my backyard here in Boston. A 20-year playoff drought for my Pittsburgh Pirates finally ended. And I documented an awful tragedy that had the overwhelming healing and support of its community and the very sports teams I photograph on a daily basis. Immediately following that was an inspiring showcase of talent and determination of the Wounded Warriors Amputee softball team that was put on display at Fenway Park against the men and women who were among the first responders on April 15th on near the finish line on Boylston Street.
For many, I’m sure that looking at sports photographs is merely for entertainments sake. Some, because of the raw power, skill, and emotion it shows that watching on television or in person may not be able to convey. But for the few who reached out and called, emailed, etc, because they were moved by my pictures for whatever reason, that to me is the best feeling and what I hope to accomplish every day as a photographer. Those messages help solidify why I do what I do for a living.
And as always, I appreciate the ever-continuing support from the photo community that I’m so lucky to be a part of every day.
So, to recap the year that was, here are some of my favorite images from 2013. Enjoy & Happy New Year!
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 01: Jason Grilli #39 and Russell Martin #55 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrate their 6 to 2 win over the Cincinnati Reds during the National League Wild Card game at PNC Park on October 1, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Baseball has always been my favorite sport to photograph. The sounds of a season don’t get any more pure than a ball smacking the catcher’s mitt at 98mph or a hit that you know is gone without having to watch it leave the ballpark.
And when the leaves are changing and the postseason is here, there’s no better time for it.
Here are some of my favorites thus far through the AL and NL Wild Card games, the ALDS series between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays, and the NLDS series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St Louis Cardinals.
NL Wild Card: Pittsburgh Pirates vs Cincinnati Reds: