Inside (and around) the Portfolio-Part 7

 

SPRING TRAINING IN NASHVILLE

     A while back at a time when I was shooting minor league baseball cards and also the program covers for the Nashville Sounds (and the Nashville Express…we had TWO minor league teams for a year or so)…AND the cover portrait for Larry Schmittou, the Sounds owner’s book, I found myself in the dugout at Greer Stadium quite often. I was a BIG baseball fan, so I couldn’t have been in a more enjoyable ‘spot’….unless we had had a Major League team…

     The Minor League players and games are much more accessible to the fans and to photographers, and these guys KNOW the struggle. (Many players in small ‘single A’ towns have to ‘room’ with the locals…Sports is not ALL glamour)  The downside, for a fan, is that just about the time you really get to know a talented player, he’s off to the ‘Bigs’ for good…or, sometimes just for a ‘cup of coffee’. It’s a bittersweet thing…you want him to do well, but you also miss his contribution to the home team.

     The Sounds announced that 9 big league teams would be coming to Nashville for 3 days to play games as the Sounds hosted  ‘Spring Training In Nashville’.  I suggested to my family that they imagine I would be out of town for those 3 days because I didn’t want to miss one inning. I mean, for a baseball fan in Nashville, it was the rare opportunity to see Ozzie Smith, Pedro Martinez, Juan Gonzalez, Will Clark, Frank Thomas, Tony LaRussa, Eddie Murray, and on and on, even some Hall of Famers who were broadcasting or managing…George Brett, Al Kaline, George Kell….. (I have been around many Country Music stars and legends, even in some of their homes, and NEVER felt as nervous and ‘like a little kid’ as I did around these guys)

     I had always heard that the photographers and reporters who covered the Major Leagues considered it a big “No-No!” to ask for autographs.

     I, on the other hand, told myself, “I may never have the chance to be in the dugout or on the field with these players again….SO WHAT if I embarrass myself.?!”

     I filled my film bag halfway with film and the other half with baseballs, baseball cards, and a Cardinals hat (for Ozzie Smith). I was NOT embarrassed, and no one even suggested that I was out of line. Actually, all the players I approached were very accommodating. (Tony LaRussa signed and gave me his Cardinals line-up sheet after one game)

     At the end of the third day, I was too tired to unload all of my equipment at home, so I just locked the car and went to bed. The next morning I found that the back window of the Jeep was gone…shattered! My first groggy thought was, “Oh wow, I must have taken a foul ball through my window!” But then it dawned on me that I probably would have noticed THAT on the drive home last night. As I surveyed the situation, I became aware that all of my camera bags had been opened, though nothing seemed to be missing….then my heart sank as I saw my film/’autograph’ bag lying there, upside down.  Camera equipment can be replaced by insurance, but… a St Louis Cardinals cap autographed by Ozzie Smith…?!

     Again, much to my delight, nothing was missing…I guess I just didn’t have what the creep was looking for! (Obviously NOT a photographer OR baseball fan…!) Needless to say, I don’t leave anything of value in my car overnight any more!

     The biggest disappointment in my baseball card days came after I was asked by Fleer ProCards if I would photograph Michael Jordan during his stint with the Birmingham Barons.

Would I ????!!!!

     After shooting, sending in my picks, and waiting, I finally called and asked which shot they had chosen. My stomach turned when I was told, “Oh, we couldn’t use ANY of them.”

     After doing my best Jackie Gleason stutter…”hummina hummina”…and, “I thought there were some pretty good shots!!!”, I was told, “Oh, no, the photos were good, but we have just been handed the “Michael Jordan Photographic Rules” which is a book about the size of the Manhattan Yellow Pages.” Apparently the only photos that had clearance to be published were ones shot by certain photographers, from certain angles, at certain times of day, with a specific camera and film, after certain meals, under certain barometric conditions, etc, etc…

Oh, well…At least I have the photos.

     For what it’s worth…Anyone who imagines that baseball is easy should keep in mind that one of the greatest athletes in modern history, couldn’t ‘cut it’….I’m just sayin’….

 

     The opening picture is of Carlos Perez. He appears to be a mite pensive…he had just injured his arm in what, I believe, was his last major league game… We didn’t talk much…

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~ by rkpowers on April 26, 2010.

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