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Photographing Baseball is A Lot Like Fishing

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With very little baseball to go out and photograph over the course of the last year (thanks to COVID-19), it has been a good time for me to reflect on the games I have covered over the last 15 years – everything from house league T-Ball, Mosquito (9-10 year olds) right on up through elite high school leagues, to our summer collegiate team – the Victoria HarbourCats – to the 2017 World Junior Championships and finally to the MLB level, covering the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field, as well as in Spring Training in Arizona.

I have been fortunate to stay busy photographing the game I love, at all levels, including the Seattle Mariners and Ichiro Suzuki, at the MLB level.

I am apparently a rare breed here in Victoria, in that I REALLY, REALLY enjoy shooting baseball.  Some of our local press photographers don’t like baseball assignments mainly because they have a limited time to shoot a game and always want the “big play” images to happen in the first inning – double plays at second, plays at the plate – plays that do NOT always happen early in a game, if at all, or at least by their deadline.

Plays at the plate can be relatively infrequent at most baseball games, but when they happen you need to be ready for them.

I tell them that shooting baseball is a lot like fishing….you sit quietly and patiently for long periods of time, waiting for that big nibble, or the fish to take your line, and when it does, you have to be ready to reel it in (i.e. snap away and capture the big play) before it is gone. Sometimes those nibbles come early and rapidly, sometimes they don’t come at all.

When plays at bases happen in baseball, be ready for them so you can land a nice “catch”

Fortunately, I like fishing, and with most of the work I do with the HarbourCats or with other on-line media agencies, we rarely have to worry about hard print deadlines and can stay for the full length of most games, allowing for more time to catch that big fish, and capture a key image or series of images from a particular game.

Sometimes the best image of the game happens on the very last play, like this example of a celebration after a walk-off base hit won the game.

And just like an expert fisherman who knows where and when to get the big fish, anticipating and understanding when that big play is going to happen in a baseball game is key.

While sometimes it can be obvious, I find that because I have played and coached the game, and am a connoisseur of baseball’s finer points, there are times when I can anticipate what is going to happen and set myself up for a better angle and photo.

For example, knowing a bunt situation and turning to photograph the player bunting, or knowing a certain batter’s tendencies and focusing on a fielder that he has a high percentage of hitting the ball to.

Knowing when a player might be called upon to bunt can often lead to nice photos of the play if executed.

This latter example worked out well for me in the image of the diving third baseman shown below. Three previous batters, including the guy at the plate this time, had all earlier scorched line drives down the line. So this time around, I focused on the third baseman and sure enough, the same batter hit another down the line and I captured the resulting image.

With a little knowledge of a batter’s tendencies and a pre-focus on an infielder, you can capture shots like this.

Or stealing signs from coaches or infielders and being in position (with my lens) to capture a pick-off attempt or a player stealing a base.

Plays at second are also big on a baseball photographer’s hit list, especially when a shortstop or second baseman attempts to turn a double play in the face of a sliding runner. Ideally you want to capture this from the first base side, with the defensive player leaping over the sliding runner and at the same time releasing the ball toward first. Of course, given how infrequently double plays happen (well at least at the level of games I have been covering) and when they do, the fact that sometimes you are on the third base side, capturing such an iconic image can be difficult.

Quite often you can be on the third base side when a double play attempt at second base happens but with a little luck and the right timing, you can get acceptable results.

Fortunately for me, one time when covering the Blue Jays at Seattle a few years back, the “perfect storm” occurred in the very last game I shot of the three-game series, and I got TWO such images in the same game, the second of which (below), is probably the best such photo of this type of play that I have ever captured!

One of my best double play images ever, came in the very last game of a three game series in Seattle, showing how rare the “perfect” double-play photo can be and illustrating the patience one has to have when shooting baseball.

In lieu of the big plays, one often has to resort to other ways to capture images that make the game interesting for the readers and viewers of the images. One way I like to do this is by using close-up shots of, for example, pitchers as they deliver the ball to the plate. With the right lighting and background, these can be very powerful images, especially if that pitcher ends up throwing a good game.

With the right lighting and background, close-up shots of pitchers like this can be quite dramatic.

Another good sight line I like is from behind the plate. Either a close up that really captures the exertion on a pitcher’s face, or in the case of the first photo below, the stress on his arm, or in the case of the second photo below, shooting a bit wider to give the viewer more context for the game and situation.

Shooting pitchers from behind the plate in a close-up mode can really emphasize their effort and exertion (top) while shooting a bit wider (below) can add more context to the situation.

Capturing shots of batters is always another dilemma for baseball photographers. Many like to capture the batter at the time of impact, when the ball hits the bat. These are called BOB (bat on ball) shots and many photographers seem overly elated to get them, but for me, I don’t like them because in most instances you don’t see the face of the batter.

My preference is to capture the batter as he comes out of his swing and his eyes begin to follow the ball as he follows through on his swing and begins to move toward first base. Most times, such shots are best from the third base side, photographing right handed batters who pull the ball, but lefties from this side will also work well. Cropping closely in post (like the Jose Bautista shot below) is another way to add variety to the shot.

Outfielders are another challenge for baseball photographers and often get ignored, unless you are using a fairly long telephoto lens and are specifically shooting them. Fortunately, there are times when turning to shoot an outfielder works out OK, especially if you are using a newer camera with sufficient megapixels on the sensor to allow close cropping of the image in post-processing. The images below are such examples and can be nice catches (pun intended) if you get them!

Finally, sometimes the biggest fish can be caught off the field of play. Look for shots of fans or other promotions happening during the game that can make compelling, interesting or just plain weird photos. Depending on the game and the level of action, these may be the best images of the evening, so try not to ignore them!

And when in doubt, if there is ever a coach – umpire argument, be sure to capture it!  They can be priceless!

More of Christian J. Stewart’s baseball photography can be found at: https://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/baseball

 

Summer Collegiate

Victoria HarbourCats – You’re Invited!

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Please join us at the office on Thursday, December 1, 2022 from 12 Noon to 7:00 pm for our annual Christmas Open House!

Join us for some Christmas cheer and to grab Christmas gifts for all the HarbourCats fans on your Christmas list!  Renew or purchase 2023 season tickets, grab some 10-game flex packs, or purchase single-game tickets for 2023 which also go on sale that day too!  Plus ALL MERCHANDISE on sale for 40% off – ONE DAY ONLY!

2023 Single-Game Tickets Also on Sale!

 

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Summer Collegiate

2022 Christmas Flex-Pass Special Now Available

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2022 Christmas Special is here! You can buy a 10-Game Flex Plan for the 2023 season. Similar to a season ticket but more like a discounted Northpaws Value Card, a Flex Plan is a way to buy early and at a discount.

Purchasing Flex Plan tickets will give you the option to choose the games that you would like to attend, along with the seats that you would like to choose.

Flex Plan holders will be able to use our ticket portal to choose games for the season. Seat and game selection will be done on a first come, first served basis. Flex Plan holders will be able to choose their seats before Game Day tickets go on sale.

Spend $150.00 (plus tax) for a 10-game Flex Plan and receive credit to purchase 10 seats for the games you want.

A receipt is issued upon purchase and your account will have a balance you can use to buy future tickets.

Please contact info@northpawsbaseball.ca for any inquiries.

https://tickets.northpawsbaseball.ca/events/23828-christmas-10-game-flex-plan

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Victoria HarbourCats – In 2023, HarbourCats celebrating 10th Anniversary

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Above: Nick Pivetta throws the first pitch in HarbourCats history on June 5, 2013 (Photo David Nicholls)

For immediate release

November 22, 2023

VICTORIA, B.C. — It’s the first truly major milestone for your Victoria HarbourCats, and it’s well worth celebrating.

The West Coast League team will be marking 10 years since inception, that first season in 2013, when the team takes the field in June of 2023. And the HarbourCats will do it while both harkening back to the roots of the baseball club and officially recognizing part of what has become the fabric of the ‘Cats, along with welcoming a new twist.

“No one can say these 10 years have been boring, that’s for sure,” said HarbourCats Managing Partner/GM Jim Swanson. “From that eventful first season including hosting the All-Star Game, to setting attendance and win-streak records, to an ownership shift and welcoming new partners, to making regular trips deep into the playoffs — the list of accomplishments is very long.

“The league is now in an official partnership with Major League Baseball as well. Cap that with three of our players making the MLB level (Nick Pivetta, Andrew Vaughn and Alex DeGoti), and the HarbourCats continue to be a success in Victoria in every way.

“We look forward to the next 10 years at Wilson’s Group Stadium at RAP, and beyond.”

The team is proud to unveil a 10-year anniversary patch, that will be used on uniforms and merchandise this year — one that takes the team’s traditional HC cap logo and adds an intertwining twist with the letters. The traditional HC will remain the primary cap logo, the historic foundation, with the new twist a look to the future and another sharp option.

The HarbourCats are also officially adding the colour red to the team’s palette, something that grew out of ongoing work with Rawlings Canada in 2016 and the unveiling of the wildly-popular red CATS jerseys, originally planned to do little more than recognize Canada Day — but became such a smash with players and fans alike, they kept making their way to the field. The adoption of red replaces a spot colour of yellow that was supposed to be part of the original uniform options, but outside of one small run of caps, was never used.

The team will continue to proudly wear the Canada-tinged RED CATS jerseys both home and away, as that popular eye-popping alternate. White home jerseys, the highly-acclaimed all-baby blue set, the road navy HC jerseys, and the VicPD Forces Friday version will help celebrate the 10-year mark on the field in 2023. The white home jerseys are planned for the annual Odlum Brown Jersey Off Your Backs giveaway set, so a new white version will be revealed in 2024. (Early plans are for the red Cats set to be given away to fans late in the 2024 season, with a new replacement set in place for 2025.)

The HarbourCats red jerseys are being officially incorporated into the team’s colour scheme in 2023.

The bright addition of red — shown so prominently by co-owner Helen Edwards everywhere she goes, in her red/white HC cap — is also joined by the official recognition of the V-Cat hat logo as a secondary logo. The on-field cap for 2023 will be the Expos-inspired tri-colour fitted New Era cap with the V-Cat emblem (see below), a nod to HarbourCats Head Coach Todd Haney, who made his MLB debut with the Expos in 1992. Haney is the longest-serving manager in team history, in charge of the lineup since 2019 and signed through the summer of 2026.

“This is an important time to plan and get ahead of the curve, and we are excited about some of the new things that will thrill fans in 2023 — the two years away due to the pandemic have rekindled our energies, both at the field and with our online platforms,” said Swanson.

The HarbourCats have a number of special promotional days lined up to help celebrate the 10th Anniversary season in 2023.  Some of those special events, the Top 10 of the HarbourCats 2023 promotions if you will, include:

1. 10th ANNIVERSARY OPENING NIGHT, Friday June 2, 2023, 6:35pm against the Kamloops NorthPaws

2. FIREWORKS, with The Wilson’s Group of Companies, Saturday June 3, 2023, 6:35pm against the Kamloops NorthPaws

3. SCHOOL SPIRIT GAME, with Mayfair Optometric Clinic, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, 11:05am against the Walla Walla Sweets

4. FATHER’s DAY GAME, Sunday, June 18, 2023, 1:05pm against the Yakima Valley Pippins

5. CANADA DAY FIREWORKS, Friday, June 30, 2023, 6:35pm against the Bellingham Bells

6. CANADA DAY MATINEE, Saturday, July 1, 2023, 1:05pm against the Bellingham Bells

7. HARVEY’s 10th BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION, Saturday, July 15, 2023, 6:35pm against the Wenatchee AppleSox

8. BARK IN THE PARK, with Bosley’s on Yates, Sunday, July 16, 2023, 1:05pm, against the Wenatchee AppleSox

9. 10th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION FIREWORKS, Saturday, July 29, 6:35pm against the Kelowna Falcons

10. 10th ANNIVERSARY JERSEY OFF OUR BACKS NIGHT, with Odlum Brown, Wednesday, August 2, 6:35pm against the Nanaimo NightOwls

2023 Season Tickets
Season ticket renewals and new season ticket sales are now underway for 2023, the HarbourCats 10th Anniversary season!  Lock in the best seats in the house by the end of November prior to single-game tickets going on sale. Existing Season Ticket holders should also renew their seats by the end of the month!  Contact chris@harbourcats.com or call the office at 778-265-0327 for details or to renew your existing seats!

2023 Flex-Packs
2023 10-Game and Season Ticket Equivalent Flex Pack vouchers are also now on sale! These can be purchased at the office in-person or by phone and can also be ordered on-line via The Cat Shop at https://victoria-harbourcats-official.myshopify.com/products/10-game-flex-pack-general-admission.    All flex pack vouchers will be eligible to be exchanged for games in the 2023 season once single-game tickets are available (see below).

2023 Single Game Tickets
Single-game tickets for the HarbourCats 10th Anniversary season will be available both on-line and in person at the HarbourCats office starting at 10:00am December 1, 2022. At that time, 10-game flex pack vouchers will be eligible to be exchanged for games in the 2023 season.

Stay tuned to all of our social media for updates and details as they become available.

Web: www.harbourcats.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/harbourcats
Facebook Fan Community: https://www.facebook.com/groups/harbourcats
Twitter: https://twitter.com/harbourcats
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/harbourcats

 

 

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