Monday 9 April 2012: All American
While I try to be a very diverse photographer, I realize that this image may be one which appeals to a very narrow group of blippers. Yet, I post it because the subject of it means a great deal to me. Today, I attended my first Major League Baseball game of the season. My father took me to my first MLB game when I was six and, for the last 40+ years I have been hooked. Over the course of the next five months, I will likely watch or listen to over 120 MLB games this season either in person or as a result of radio and television broadcasts. I really should not take the time to do this but it is passion for me. Luckily, the pace of the game allows me to to something else while I am listening to or watching the broadcast games, be it gardening, cooking, writing, or working in my home office. I know we are a nation of people who multi-task too a fault but, once baseball gets in your blood, it is there to stay. And, just as my Dad got me hooked on the game, my wife and children are silly for it as well.
I would venture to guess that more books have been written and more movies have been filmed about baseball than all other American sports, combined! Baseball is at the epicenter of American pastimes. For some, it is the players and the statistics that compel them. For others, the open air parks, the hot dogs and beer, and the sound of a baseball cracking off of the wooden bat. Even when they are not at a game in person, they can close their eyes and see it, feel it, smell it and dream that they are there.
I love all of the above and two other things. One is the physics of baseball. Of all sports in existence perhaps with the exception of Formula 1 racing, the physics of baseball defy the abilities of the human eye and mind. For example, the ball comes of the hand of the average MLB pitcher at 98 mph and crosses the plate at 91. The ball comes off the bat at 120 mph. and the batter has 1/400th of a second to decide whether to swing the bat or not and his decision must be amazingly accurate. If he is 1/100th of a second too early or too late, the ball goes foul or he swings and misses. And then there is the collision of the bat and the ball which lasts 1/1,000th of a second. How these athletes can consistently defy these physical absurdities is beyond me. It truly shows the power of the human mind and of physical conditioning. I also love to carry a camera to the park and attempt to capture these physics in an image. I started photographing baseball when I was in my teens and I find that it is one of the most challenging things to blip. I must admit, high ISO digital technology and burst exposures have made it a bit easier. But it is still one of the hardest shots to time correctly and no burst will do it for you if you do not start exactly at the right point. That is why, perhaps, only once or twice every couple of years I am able to time my shot to where the ball and bat are actually in contact with each other.
Today, California Angels player Howie Kendrick timed his bat perfectly. I was a bit late to the ball with my shutter button. Perhaps, I need to hit the gym some more.
By the way, my team lost horribly today but my wife, children and I still had a great afternoon at the ballpark. the skies were sunny and the breezes crisp and refreshing. Smiles were everywhere and laughs were heard often and loudly. It was pure and wholesome joy.
If you have time, please check out my daughter's panorama.
I hope you all have a wonderful week after the long weekend.