A few weeks back I decided to take a day off and go to a Twins game on a weekday. It was a 12:10 start and I figured it would end late afternoon with enough time to get home before dark. It’s about a 90 minute or so drive for me to the stadium. It really was the perfect setup. I’m lucky enough to have a job where I can take a day off about once a month if I want. This is something that really helps my mentality and staying away from negative spirals and depression. Knowing I have some time set aside for myself, self-care, really helps. It gives me a chance to slow down and pause and focus on something fun. It’s akin I think to Google’s policy of having employee’s use 20% of their work hours for any project they want. It gives one permission to relax, to dream, and work on moving that dream forward. Or to get your mindset right. For me it’s more about the mindset and recharging. For me a day at the park does wonders. It was like this for me as a kid and still is for me now. Something about baseball must trigger the calm mindset, letting me truly relax and pause and embrace the now.
Since I was a kid I’ve added photography to this. I’ve also realized that to me photography is a form of meditation. It helps me see the world as it is right now. To find moments of joy, emotion, and beauty in an ordinary day or a regular baseball game. With my sports photography I want to focus on the joy in baseball, the beauty of it, the emotion and grit in it.
Originally this game didn’t really stand out on the schedule. It was just a chance to see the Blue Jays, a team I don’t see often, and try to get some autographs. I debated about trying for the Jays but have heard they don’t sign well as a team. So instead I switched gears and found a second row seat in section 104 on the Twins side. I’d never sat that close for an MLB game. It was everything I’d hoped. The players were close enough that I could hear them snapping out instructions to each other, though I couldn’t quite make out what they said. The crowd noise was just enough to take that clarity away. So was the perfect breeze.
I was actually able to get up to the game right as the gates opened. I only had a few minutes to wait. Since it was a day game the crowd was smaller and I didn’t have to deal with that many people this early. A good spot in the first row awaited me and I settled in. The atmosphere felt relaxed and easy instantly reminding me of when I was a kid in Seattle, going to Mariners games in the Kingdome. We of course were indoors but it was the chill attitude of the fans around me that took me back. It somehow felt different from a night game on a weekend. This felt like a different crowd. These were fans here to enjoy a baseball game. There was a student promo, I think, related to tickets, so there were a lot of students there as well, simply enjoying the fact that they weren’t at school on a weekday. That was it. We were all there to just enjoy the day. The gorgeous, near cliché picture perfect weather.
We were also lucky enough to be there for the debut of Fernando Romero, a top prospect for the Twins. I will admit that although I’d gotten his autograph at TwinsFest in January, I still didn’t know much about him. He was in the back of my mind though at this point as I just chilled and watched the players warmup. They were right in front of me. A lot of them were relievers – Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rodgers, Zack Duke, Phil Hughes, and others. Max Kepler and Robbie Grossman joined them later. It was just fun watching them toss a ball and stretch out. This was the game I remembered from being a kid. Players out warming up. They were relaxed as well, it seemed. More in the moment, perhaps. There’s definitely a different attitude around a day game that I was feeling.
Of course I’d brought my autograph notebook (can be found at Target for $5) and hoped to get a signature or two. I wasn’t that optimistic – I hadn’t had much luck at Target Field. Today would prove otherwise. In the end I got five and just had so much fun with it. I was a kid again. Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rodgers, Matt Maghil, Fernando Rodney, and Max Kepler. I still had my old skills and philosophy. Always be polite, never push, and let the kids get their autographs first. Help them if you can. I always like to have an extra pen or a card on hand in case someone needs it in a pinch. At the previous game I went to this year I was able to give a kid one of my blank MN Twins auto cards, and he got Jim Brower. There were a lot of kids and students near me today so I was extra careful not to be aggressive. It paid off – players can see this, and I’ve seen them stop signing or not come over because of poor attitudes. This is really important and I can’t stress it enough.
The one player I really had hoped to get at the start of the game was Fernando Rodney. I had a phot of him I’d taken from the All Star Game in 2014, in a Seattle Mariners uniform. Luckily he did come out near us and warm up. I got my photo out and watched, hoping. I got a few other players during this time and ended up near a group of younger kids. This is where Rodney came over. I wasn’t in the front row, not near it, really, and hung back. I was just starting to think I’d miss out when a random girl turned around and asked if she could hand my photo to Rodney to sign. She seemed about middle school age (these years were not good for me as a kid!). I’ll admit it felt weird saying yes, but she was being super nice and I didn’t do anything to prompt it. So it wasn’t like I was paying her (I know this happens and can’t stand it) to get an autograph for me. So I handed her the photo and he signed it nicely. I am fairly sure he knew it wasn’t hers, but still signed it. I just want him to know I didn’t pay her to do that – that isn’t how I go about getting autographs. It’s not my way. But thank you Mr. Rodney for signing the photo! It’s going to be framed for my wall – it’s a favorite photograph I took, and from when you were a Mariner as well.
Getting my own photographs signed is something I really enjoy doing. It’s a big part of why I like taking photographs at a game. I challenge myself to get top quality photos for this. And today I was going to push myself – I was going to use the manual settings on my Canon Rebel T4I. I’d spent the previous weekend playing around with them and taking photographs of my kids and backyard. It seemed I’d found some good settings to try at the game, including taking shots in RAW format.
They did work well for most of the game. I found that they worked best for portrait type shots and less so for action. During the warm ups I focused on Robbie Grossman and Max Kepler and came away with some of my favorite photographs. I’ve always loved the reflection effect in players’ sunglasses and I actually managed to get this with Kepler. In this photo he actually seems to be looking right at me. Maybe he was – I was pretty obviously taking his photograph. I also never realized he had the 030 tattoo. Now I’m curious as to what it means.
I got some other fun pictures of the guys warming up. Including Fernando Romero in the outfield. I can only imagine the thoughts going through his mind as he stretched and began tossing the ball.
I love the next photograph of Romero holding up the ball and staring at it, as if he’s talking to it or just praying that it’ll obey his commands for the day. I wish the photograph was a bit clearer but the focus was slightly off.
There was one other moment in particular that caught my eye during warmups. When Gregorio Petit came out – he was just called up, this was his first game as a Twin, I think – he and Logan Morrison shared a close conversation. It seemed like the type of moment that good friends share, or even brothers. I really want to know the history behind it. It also was clear to me as I watched him throughout the game that Petit was thankful to be in the Majors. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy every moment of the game.
Clearly there is a friendship between Petit and Morrison. Soon after taking a few more warmup shots, I focused on Romero at the mound. I really wanted a “Topps Now” type first pitch photograph. But I soon realized this might be difficult. From my angle Logan Morrison set up to essentially block the pitchers mound! I managed to get some decent shots of Romero in his debut, but not one that really jumped out at me. I’ll have to try again at another start of his to get that one shot. The one I like the most in the slideshow below is of him raising his gloved hand to the sky.
Despite the odd angle toward the pitchers mound, I did find I had a great view of players running to first base. I was really able to capture some great shots throughout the game in this moment. The one I like the most is of Mr. Solarte just after he crossed first base, the look of frustration and intense emotion clear on his face. Somehow I even got a sun flare off the helmet. This is a moment that really shows the grit of the game how it can humble anyone. We have all had these moments. When no matter what you do, it just doesn’t break right.
It was fun watching players up close through the camera on the way to first. There were various expressions and emotions happening on each play. These are some of my favorite photographs from the day.
I was also in a good position to get shots of the base paths and some action at second base.
These are just some of the photographs I was able to take during the middle of a Wednesday. The entire day was just relaxing and good for the soul. It was a good reminder to take the time to pause and rest. Do what you need to do for your mental health. Take the time.
I know I enjoyed it. Whatever it is for you, I hope you do as well.