Watch the Sky

The Sky

On This Date: Photo taken 7/12/2007

Went to see the Whitecaps host the Beloit Snappers in (suburban) Grand Rapids a decade ago.

Watched a storm blow in….


They got the game in. I notice that the box score describes the weather as “Cloudy.”

Number of pix taken on various July 12ths: 783
Year of oldest photo: 2005

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 4
  • 2 Stars: 64
  • 3 Stars: 548
  • 4 Stars: 145
  • 5 Stars: 22

Gibby bunts

Gibby bunts

On This Date: Photo taken 7/8/2013

Cam Gibson–Kirk’s son–putting the ball in play for the Battle Creek Bombers against the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters. I’m pretty sure the WR pitcher’s Brandon Schmidt.

This was a Northwoods League game; these are college players using wooden bats and playing mostly in what used to be professional facilities. For some players it’s a summer lark; for others its preparation for the minor leagues.

The bunt worked, by the way; he got a single.


Cam’s among the most exciting baseball players I’ve ever seen. In some ways he’s a slightly smaller version of his dad–but I think he’s even faster, and he lacks Kirk’s astonishing power. The Tigers drafted him a couple years ago, and he’s working his way through the Detroit farm system.

Gibby played baseball for Michigan State for three years, at Battle Creek for one summer, and for West Michigan (Grand Rapids) in 2016 and 2017. So I’ve seen him play quite a few games. He’s worth watching. But he’s not the instant star his father was; that’s really asking too much of any youngster.

Cam was promoted to Lakeland a couple weeks back, when Detroit did their annual mid-June minor league player shuffle. Perhaps we’ll see him at Comerica in two or three years.

Number of pix taken on various July 8ths: 734
Year of oldest photo: 2005

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 0!
  • 2 Stars: 36
  • 3 Stars: 624
  • 4 Stars: 67
  • 5 Stars: 7

Revision History:

Brandon Mann

Brandon Mann

On This Date: Photo taken 6/28/2005

Midwest League action. Brandon’s pitching for the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays (a Rays affiliate, of course) against the Lansing Lugnuts (Blue Jays) in Lansing’s Oldsmobile Park. That’s Chris Nowak, out of focus beyond Mann, covering first base.


Posting two pix again today, because I’ve two photos I want to share.

Number of pix taken on various June 28ths: 720 [includes 3 by my father]
Year of oldest photo: 2003 [Dad’s are dated 1978]

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 1
  • 2 Stars: 47
  • 3 Stars: 538
  • 4 Stars: 112
  • 5 Stars: 22

Revision History:

Ankiel in Orange

Ankiel in Orange

On This Date: Photo taken 6/6/2005

Do I need to explain Rick Ankiel’s career?

Ankiel was signed out of high school in 1997 and was pitching for the major league Cardinals soon after his twentieth birthday in 1999. In 2000 he pitched brilliantly, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting and finding himself compared to Lefty Carlton and Sandy Koufax.

Then it all came apart. On October 3, in a playoff game, he lost it. And it never came back. He pitched a few games for the Cards the next year, and a few more in 2004, with poor results.

So he became an outfielder. He returned to the Cards in 2007, and played in the majors through the 2013 season, mostly as a center fielder, mostly as a spare part, with six different franchises.

Not the career we imagined for him in 2000. But a respectable, and truly interesting, adjustment to circumstances.


Ankiel had two stints in the Midwest League. He pitched in 7 games for Peoria in 1998, with a 3-0 won/lost record, a 2.06 ERA, and 41 Ks in 35 innings. This earned him a promotion to Prince William, where he went 9-6.

In 2005 he was playing for Quad Cities when I saw him at West Michigan’s ballpark, and took this photo. He had two plate appearances in that game, then left the game after a minor injury.

Rick’s recently written a book about his baseball career, The Phenomenon. Haven’t read it yet, but the reviews I’ve seen are quite positive.

Number of pix taken on various June 6ths: 569
Year of oldest photo: 2003

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 6
  • 2 Stars: 62
  • 3 Stars: 358
  • 4 Stars: 128
  • 5 Stars: 15

Revision History:

Jeff Housman to Rudy Guillen

Jeff Housman to Rudy Guillen

On This Date: Photo taken 5/26/2003

Here’s a Midwest League game between the Beloit Snappers (a Brewers affiliate at the time) and the Battle Creek Yankees. Beloit won, 6-0.

Beloit’s Prince Fielder would have the best major league career of those who appeared in this contest. I strongly recommend that you not watch minor league baseball with that question in mind, however. Just enjoy the darned game.


2003 was the first year I systematically photographed baseball. Most of the photographs were taken from my seat using my Olympus Camedia C-50; those usually looked pretty much like this. On days I brought the Nikon I tended to move around, and got more interesting photographs.

I was writing what amounted to a blog about the BC Yanks’ season (it’s no longer on line), and used the photographs to illustrate my commentary. But Mom passed away on April 30 and I lost the energy for regular updates, which ceased on May 20.

By this time I was in the habit of photographing baseball games. I’d continue to do that all summer. And beyond.

Number of pix taken on various May 26ths: 513
Year of oldest photo: 2003

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 1
  • 2 Stars: 54
  • 3 Stars: 339
  • 4 Stars: 90
  • 5 Stars: 29

Revision History:

Billy’s Pissed

Billy's Pissed

On This Date: Photo taken 5/23/2006

Yeah, the picture’s crooked. It makes Billy look even taller than he is.

Dayton Dragons manager Billy Gardner, Jr, arguing with a replacement umpire (the minor league umps were on strike) during a game against the Southwestern Michigan Devil Rays at Battle Creek’s CO Brown Stadium.

I have no idea what the discussion was about. Frankly I took the argument as part of the evening’s entertainment.

My scorecard probably knows the umpire’s name (haven’t checked), but the box score doesn’t. The umpire’s strike lasted nearly half of the season, ending on June 12.


We folks in the stands were gigglin’, I’m afraid. Billy’d managed Battle Creek’s team in ’97 and ’98, and this is how we remember him. Billy bein’ Billy.

Gardner’s still managing in the minors. I see he’s still doing this.

Number of pix taken on various May 23rds: 851
Year of oldest photo: 2006

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 11
  • 2 Stars: 96
  • 3 Stars: 580
  • 4 Stars: 132
  • 5 Stars: 32

John O’Donnell Stadium

John O'Donnell Stadium

On This Date: Photo taken 5/19/2003

Josh Hill of the Quad City River Bandits pitches to a West Michigan Whitecaps batter.

While my sister was in seminary we regularly visited Iowa–to help her move, usually, but a couple times just to visit. In 2003 we followed the Mississippi down to Davenport and watched a ballgame.

The Whitecaps lost, but we had a good time. And enjoyed the extraordinarily scenic ballpark.

==========

This ballpark’s now known as Modern Woodmen Park, and was originally Municipal Stadium. But for most of its life it honored local sportswriter John O’Donnell; I prefer to call it JOD.

I’ve recently reread Pat Jordan’s memoir of his minor league career, A False Spring, which I heartily recommend to anyone interested in minor league baseball. It’s a painful and frustrating book, largely because the author and his subject have blind spots (yeah, the same guy, but separated by a dozen years or so). It’s also fascinating.

I was intrigued by his discussion of this stadium, where he pitched in 1960. He calls it “a vast, roofless warehouse”–not my impression at all, but perhaps Pat’s memory’s influenced by the ballpark’s facade.

Jordan’s comments on the facility don’t mention Centennial Bridge. An odd omission.

Number of pix taken on various May 19ths: 261
Year of oldest photo: 2003
How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:
. 1 Star: 0
. 2 Stars: 17
. 3 Stars: 179
. 4 Stars: 54
. 5 Stars: 11

VariZoom

VanZoom

On This Date: Photo taken 5/15/2012

The center field camera and photographer at Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne Tincaps.


This was the first game I photographed using my Nikon 1 V1. One thing I learned from the outing is that the V1 overheats–and shuts down–in direct sunlight.

The Fort Wayne ballpark, by the way, is absolutely delightful.

Number of pix taken on various May 15ths: 808 [includes one by my brother]
Year of oldest photo: 2004

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 36
  • 2 Stars: 91
  • 3 Stars: 631
  • 4 Stars: 45
  • 5 Stars: 5

Blondie

Blondie

On This Date: Photo taken 5/8/2012

She’s a member of the Lansing Lugnuts gameday staff, helping put on between-inning events–dizzy bat races, sing-a-longs, mascot races, balloon tosses, whatever. They keep busy.

Somewhere along the line the Lugnuts began putting nicknames on the backs of the gameday folks. Most are descriptive….


I went to two baseball games on 5/8/12. This one, in Lansing, began about 10:30 am; the second, in Kalamazoo, began about 3:00 pm. I’d not tried that before; I would do it again. But the parks since have been closer–Battle Creek & Kalamazoo, and East Lansing & Lansing.

My computer has a folder with several hundred photographs, some now quite old, just to make sure I’ve something to post every day. This one’s been sitting in that file for five years. Gone, now.

Number of pix taken on various May 8ths: 1335
Year of oldest photo: 2005

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 2
  • 2 Stars: 102
  • 3 Stars: 1053
  • 4 Stars: 159
  • 5 Stars: 19

Goodnight to Pierre

Goodnight to Pierre

On This Date: Photo taken 5/3/2011

That would be Mike Goodnight of the Lake County Captains pitching to Lansing’s Gustavo Pierre.

The heart of the game: Pitcher vs. Batter; Batter vs. Pitcher.


While there’s an element of luck in all photography, it’s more prominent when you shoot sports. You can anticipate, you can plan, but you don’t know what you’ve got until you see the image. A microsecond later the ball’s gone elsewhere, the second baseman’s in a different place, the goalie’s lost the pose, the athlete’s expression’s changed.

So you anticipate the next play. The action occurs somewhere else on the field, and you’ve missed it completely. Perhaps luck brought you someone’s head fake.

Number of pix taken on various May 3rds: 2236
Year of oldest photo: 2003

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 3
  • 2 Stars: 173
  • 3 Stars: 1854
  • 4 Stars: 184
  • 5 Stars: 22

Revision History: