Opening Day at the stadium has been a rite of spring for as long as I can remember. It was akin to a holiday when my dad pulled my sisters and me out of school for the afternoon so we could watch the Orioles open their season on 33rd Street each season. Those are memories I wouldn't trade for anything.
Covering an event like Monday's ball game doesn't have much in common with a normal game. We rarely send more than two photographers to any event. But because of the scope and tradition of Opening Day, The Sun assigned me and five other photo staffers to provide comprehensive coverage for the newspaper and our expanding Web site.
While John Makely and Karl Merton Ferron worked on a video package for the Web, Liz Malby, Gene Sweeney and I spent the hours before game time looking for those fan features our editors crave. In the lower press box, imaging specialist Julie Ferguson was busy on our laptops, helping move images to the paper as fast as we could get compact flash cards out of our cameras. It's actually a fun time of the day when we get to roam the ballpark and interact with fans. We're looking to share some of the feeling and atmosphere you only find on Opening Day.
During the pre-game ceremonies, a stirring rendition of the national anthem was sung while a huge American flag was unfurled from the centerfield wall. Photographers love flags as backdrops. Check out Karl Ferron's image from Cal Ripken's retirement game with (I'm guessing) the same flag, plus fireworks, plus Cal. Talk about the ultimate photo trifecta. Now, the flag is in place as a backdrop as newly elected Hall of Famer Ripken throws out the first pitch. They forgot the fireworks.
With the preliminaries concluded, we were ready to shoot a baseball game.
From the field, Malby and I are responsible for most of the game action. Ferron looks for unique angles from around the stadium. Malby takes one of our basic positions on the first-base line just outside the end of the Orioles dugout. I pick a spot just down the line from the visitor's dugout on the third-base side. It's a location I almost never use when covering baseball, but I'm hoping to get lucky.
Sure enough, in the second inning, Detroit's Sean Casey uncorks a line drive that centerfielder Corey Patterson has to leap for. I'm tracking Patterson and catch him in midair as he attempts to snare the ball with his wrist, not the preferred method. The miscue nets the Tigers their first run as Casey winds up with what the official scorer rules a double. I'm already thinking it's a photo that should make the paper on Tuesday. In the third inning, a Miguel Tejada hit scores Melvin Mora from second on what looks a possible close play at the plate. I'm able to fire my remote camera in time to show Mora sliding past Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez. The throw was late but it was the closest thing we had to drama at the plate.
By the end of the third inning, Sweeney had finished uploading all the pre-game photos and Ferguson is is scurrying around the ballpark collecting camera disks from me and the other shooters. A change of disks and we're back taking pictures. By game's end Sweeney and Ferguson have sent close to 50 images to The Sun - by far a record for us on Opening Day. While most of the photos will not make the paper, baltimoresun.com will display a good portion of them as a photo gallery.
I'm most pleased with my photo of Patterson. It's a peak moment image that you strive to capture as a sports photographer. It actually looks better than I thought it would. Life is full of disappointments, however, and I had a hunch that the game's outcome might cause the Patterson play to be overlooked as designers at The Sun put together their pages. Sure enough, a well-illustrated section that captured the celebration of the day arrived in my driveway Tuesday morning - without my best shot. It's OK, though; I get a chance to show it off today.