The Boys of Early Summer…The Photo Version

Been tooling with the idea in my boggled brain cells over the past week as to if I should designate Sundays from today on to doing a small pictorial, or even small selection of unique and some times funny photos taken by photographers all over the cities of Major League Baseball.  Upon further rounding approval last night from the bottom of my Shocktop bottle, I am going to do a 1 week experiment and see how it all shakes out. Hopefully I can get a few people to chuckle, think or possibly even comment.

Either way, it is more of the evolution of my little blogging Utopia that change is inevitable, even in a baseball vacuum.  And I will not take pride or even credit if I happen to pick on certain teams, or players in the upcoming weeks if this segment becomes a weekly blog post. I think if I could draw, it would have materialized into a “Pushy da Broom” cartoon that I loved so much as a young Sports Correspondent with the “Evening Independent.” So without further ado, let’s get the 1,000 word photo extravaganza under way….

Seriously here, that little spun ball of twine and cowhide seems to sometimes have a mind of its own. It seems to pounce, dance and even do a twirl or two with the best “Dancing With The Stars” competitor some nights. Who in their right mind would consider a small white sphere could evoke and commit so many heinous acts of  physical manipulation of the human body to within stand its impact. But then again, a 95+ fastball can leave a menacing stitch mark bruise on your body for at least a week.

But the baseball is not the only some times seemingly self-possessed entity that surrounds this great game. Sometimes those wooden bats that Major League players depend on seem to just have a mind of their own. They sometimes seem to be self programmed to break, slip or simply self propel themselves towards the most unusual locations, and in the most unexpected moments. Pine tar was supposed to help eliminate some of this, but as Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach can tell you….The bat definitely has a mind of its own in the hitting zone.

No matter if it is made of Pine, Ash or even the dreaded Maple, the MLB bat recently has been on a collision course with catastrophe. Whether it is spinning end over end or tomahawking through the infield, one of these days someone on the field will look like a beef kabob after one of these missiles finally finds a human host.

Even with all the changes and instructions by MLB on the shaving and sanding of certain parts of these bats, still some end up hurling at high speeds towards the stands, dugouts or even just inches above the hairline of the Rays ace David Price seems to bring more action than a few gasps and thanks that it did not find a stationary stopping point that night.

But then there is also that breed of player within the Major Leagues who just seems “Super Human” at times, then fall quickly to their kryptonite. For some it is a 12 foot wall, for others it is that seemingly nice breeze caressing through the ballpark that suddenly makes the ball take a right turn just beyond the outstretched glove for extra bases.  Some consider these souls “Sam Fuld” wannabes, but they all have that one knack that separates them from the guy in the stands waiting for that first Home Run ball on live television. They have the confidence to stay perfectly vertical or horizontal in perpetual motion while the guy in the stands must navigate nachos, babies and even other overgrown “kids” wanting a $ 15 keepsake.

Still, the guys on the field seem to be taking more risks this season with dying quail fly balls and screaming white sphere that seem to break the sound barrier as they are hit towards the outfield gaps. More guys seem to be leaving their comfort zone, getting ” jiggy” with the ball and providing Web Gems for generation to emulate and remember. Willy Mays made an incredible catch way back then, but would it even make the ESPN Baseball Tonight Top 10 some nights?

Has the game evolved that much at times? That simple acts of human contortions from the past have become a bit commonplace now, or even mundane at times. I mean look at this picture of Mariner’s outfielder John Saunders. Ask yourself, is he asking for a bottle of water, the Home Run ball or remarking how high he cascaded on this wall, fishing for an M’s fan compliment? Seriously, I think he just wanted the ball back to throw to Ichiro.

Has the MLB  players changed so much that muscle is now being replaced by speed and agility when power and bat speed ruled the day for so long.  Take this photo of NBA legend Bill Russell as he paid a visit to SEattle and spent some time with M’s Third Baseman Chone Figgins. Think of the effect a guy like Russell would of had in a baseball game if he stretched, even into foul territory for a hit ball near the line. Makes you kind of wonder if Figgins might just dream of that same fantasy sequence tonight.

Seriously, the game’s budding stars do not have bulging muscles even in their eyebrows. Pitcher’s are hitting the triple digit mark with more consistency and clarity these days, even Texas Rangers President Nolan Ryan has impressed with the upward curve of flamethrowers in the MLB in recent years. Then the ” artistic” pitchers, those with a few years under their belts have redefined their own usefulness by finding exploding breaking stuff or even inventing their own twists and breaks to pitches that have come out of nowhere to be extremely effective. Some of the best pitchers right now do not even throw in the mid-90’s. Evolution, revolution, convolution…This game is in a constant  stage of eternal change… in a good way.

But still the mental errors and flaws of the human element that flow constantly throughout this great game can take a team out of a contest in a matter of moments. An unfortunate lean towards second base, an impromptu brain fart or even trying think a bit wiser and smarter than you are capable of can change the outcome with a booming hit, or a ball snaking up the middle.  It is this element that makes baseball unpredictable and always a challenge to prognosticate with any accuracy beyond mis-matching pitching set-ups.  Funny how the human element, not even within the emotional realm can change a simple play and turn it into a crowd pleasing, inning ending bundle of moves and propel “Uncle Mo” (motivation) back into your team’s favor.

But that is why we play 162 games and do not crown a Champion until the final 27th out of the last game of the post season. Physical, mental and emotional ties that bind this game together can make a winner out of any team on a given night. No matter if a guy is on point and throwing darts to the plate, a simple seeing-eye single can change the moment forever, and possibly send the contest into a different direction. That is the magic of this game, the thrilling unexpected moments that linger and get told to Grand kids and people sitting with you on barstool 20 years later. Sports photography doesn’t enter into the “picture is worth a thousand words” category because its pixels and colors can change generations, change mind and evoke everything from tears of joy to tears of saddness…. with the simple stroke of the bat, or pitching delivery.

God I love how this game never stops surprising and shocking me. Maybe that is why I can not get enough of it…..Maybe.


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