Saturday, April 17, 2010

Foul play

Twenty five years into shooting sports as a newspaper photographer and I finally take my first foul ball in the face during a game. Covering a Tracy High baseball game a left-handed batter rips a nasty foul ball down the third base line which hits the ground and ricochets into my head. Call it an occupational hazard.
Going up in a private airplane just barely big enough for one person, covering a blaze in a pallet company it figures the only assignment to draw blood would be at a baseball game. This is one of those things I have always dreaded, the impact from a foul ball off one of those aluminum bats nailing me somewhere.
It's my own fault, I always shoot from the playing field sign of the fence. I hate trying to shoot through chain link fences, I have done it but the results are never good. I'd rather take my chances on the field. What are the odds I will get clocked by a foul ball, they must be pretty slim? There have been near misses, I have been able to side step a few through the years but shooting Friday's game I saw it coming. I was photographing the Tracy High game from along the third base line near the dugout standing against the fence line. I had the batter in the viewfinder when he made contact sending the ball skidding into foul territory I squeezed off a few frames and then pulled the camera down as I was losing sight of the ball that I saw heading my direction. I gave it a half hearted turn away and then bam! It hit just above my right eyebrow knocking my glasses off.
Lucky for me it hit in an unimportant spot, my head. First thought was is the camera gear OK? Next thought was did I somehow interfere with the play, as that would be bad. Next thought was why is my head feel wet? Blood. A stitch in the baseball cover must have cut me a little and I tried my best to look cool, wipe blood away and continue shooting the game.
The third base coach gave me a quick look and confirmed no major damage, just a small cut and small knot. Back to business of shooting the game and not flinching anytime a bat made contact with the ball. I stayed for a few innings more and prayed I had photos in focus. The good thing was I could blame a poor shooting performance on getting hit by the ball.
As it turns out it was actually one of my better jobs shooting the game. Back at the office as coworkers laughed at the bruise on my head as I said I should get hit in the head more often at a game, I seem to do my best work then.

What a fun way way to end the week. Processing my photos with headache, getting asked why I just didn't move out of the way and taking requests to sock me in the head for the next game I was actually relieved to get out of the office to cover a pallet fire burning to the south west of town. Never a dull day in my job, I can hardly wait for the next game.


Geoff said...

The pictures are fantastic! I've been on the first/third baseline snapping pictures at the Tracy Express games, and I've had a few close calls too. Someone in the dugout was telling me how the last photographer lost a few teeth and smashed his camera lens on a foul ball. Hmmm. Maybe I should back up a bit!

Jeffery said...

Really sorry you got hit on the head, but you have some really good photos too. I hope that helps you forget the bruise on your head.