June 2011

Homestand Highlights: June 27-29 vs Cleveland

Text and Photos by Jordan Megenhardt

First off, we’re trying something new! Within the text of our posts, you’ll find that some words, sentences or phrases contain hyperlinks to related material. Feel free to try them out and recommend them to your friends!

Earlier this week, the D-backs completed a three-game homestand against the Cleveland Indians. Even though it was a very short stint of games at Chase Field, there was plenty of action, highlighted by Wily Mo Pena’s walk-off home run on Tuesday night.

When we wrote about Pena in Spring Training last week, we knew we’d be in for a treat when the team made it back home. Though, he was only used as a pinch hitter, Pena made an enormous impact and gave us plenty of great photo opportunities.

On Monday before the game, all anyone could talk about was Wily Mo Pena. Everyone couldn’t wait to see what he could do at the plate, and in the batting cage. During batting practice, we went down to the field to catch an up-close glimpse of Pena underneath the turtle shell.

Despite the deafening sound of cracking bats, I mustered up the courage to go right up to the mesh fence of the cage, reach around with a wide-angle lens and snap some photos of Pena in action.

While we we’re out there during batting practice, Chris Young and Gerardo Parra couldn’t help but watch and smile as Wily Mo belted baseballs deep into the bleachers. But, Justin Upton was clearly inspired or provoked and capably put on a show of his own.

As team photographers, we have the privilege to get this close to the action. It’s something that we try to take advantage of as much as we can. And, as team photographers, every once in a while we get requests for help from visiting teams asking for special coverage. When Cleveland called up prospect Lonnie Chisenhall before Monday’s game, we were asked to get some photos of his Major League debut.

As a baseball photographer, and a baseball fan, I love seeing guys make their debut (even if it’s a guy from the opposing dugout), it’s a very special moment and I consider it an honor to cover that kind of event. You never know who could end up becoming a legend or Hall of Famer.

That same game, Ryan Roberts gave us another chance for some unique photos. For the first time in his D-backs career, he donned the high socks and short pants. It might not seem significant, it’s not really, but it’s little fun things like this that catch a photographer’s eye.

Also during the homestand, a few roster moves were made. Relievers Alberto Castillo and Yhency Brazoban were called up from Reno for the first time. When new guys are called up to the team for the first time, we make sure to get photos of them as soon as possible. It’s important to do so for a couple of reasons. Part of our job is to document the history of the team, and when a guy makes his debut with the team, that’s a very important historical moment. Also, we use images of our players in many different outlets. Whether they’re used on the scoreboard or a billboard, we need to have the most current images possible.

The photo wells at Chase Field are on the inside of either dugout, near the on-deck circles. Those wells are where we shoot from most of the time. But, sometimes we roam out into different locations. This past homestand, the dugout suite on the third base side was empty, so we were able to capture some images from an angle that we don’t see very often (as you can see in the photos of the pitchers above and the ones below).

The biggest highlight of the homestand was Tuesday night’s game. Daniel Hudson pitched an amazing game and gave his all out there on the mound, and at the plate. Hudson is another guy who makes it easy for us to get some nice images. For a pitcher, he gets on base a lot, which makes things interesting for everyone, especially a photographer.

After getting on with a nice double, Hudson was caught off-guard on a pick-off attempt and just barely missed making it safely back to the base (as you can see in the photo below).

One big difference between an American League team photographer and a National League team photographer, the American League team photographer won’t have too many images of a pitcher in a dirty uniform.

Unfortunately for Hudson, J.J. Putz couldn’t lock down the save and the Indians came back. But, fortunately for us, that meant we might have the opportunity for a walk-off win. And a walk-off win is exactly what we got when Wily Mo Pena belted a pinch-hit, two-run, walk-off homer to end the game in dramatic fashion. Another one of the great privileges that we have as team photographers is covering a walk-off win. During the regular season, we’re the only photographers allowed on the field when a walk-off happens (and for more, look for our post next week when we discuss how we cover a walk-off victory).

There aren’t any more games (besides the All-Star Game) at Chase Field for another two weeks. But, we’ll be making a few posts between now and then. As mentioned, we’ll be talking about how we cover a walk-off victory, as well as a behind the scenes look at the Roland Hemond D-backs Insider cover shoot.

Until next time, here are some more images from the Cleveland series:

(Re)call-up: Wily Mo Pena

Photos and Text by Jordan Megenhardt

In honor of Wily Mo Pena getting called up from Reno and going yard in his first Major League game as a D-back, we are taking a little look back. During Spring Training, Pena made an extremely compelling case for himself to make the 25-man roster. He hit .341 with three home runs and seven RBI in 41 at-bats during spring and then went on to hit .363 with 21 home runs and 63 RBI in 237 at-bats at Triple-A Reno.

During spring, Pena’s attitude was great. He worked very hard to fit in with his teammates and even harder to take care of business on the field.

He put on incredible demonstrations of power during batting practice before exhibition games began. Players and coaches would stop and watch in awe as Pena launched balls over the practice field walls and into parking lots. Many people, even teammates and coaches wondered if his home run derby-like display would continue outside of the batting cage.

Once games started, Pena’s bat just got hotter and hotter. He was given significant playing time and came through consistently at the plate. The only knock on him was his glove. He worked hard in the outfield but with his gigantic frame, you can imagine how tough it is to track down or charge fly balls.

Despite his minor shortcomings in the outfield, he was having fun with his success at the plate. You could tell that his teammates and coaches appreciated his effort and attitude. Not only was he having fun, he was fun to watch, and photograph.

During photo day, Pena (pictured with D-backs Team Photographer Jon Willey) enjoyed himself despite the demanding early morning schedule. He was very easy to work with and even joked around with a few of the photographers and staff.

As spring concluded, Pena and Gerardo Parra battled it out for the final spot in the outfield. Parra ended up nabbing the job but everyone suspected that Pena and his bat would make some contributions in a D-backs uniform eventually. Clearly, everyone’s suspicions were correct when he homered in Kansas City during his first game with the D-backs.

For more on Wily Mo Pena and his D-backs debut, check out the post about him over on the D-blog

Homestand Highlights

Photo by Jon Willey

Between a heated series with the Giants during the week and some close inter-league games against the White Sox this weekend, there was plenty of great baseball to cover this homestand at Chase Field.

We’ve been neck and neck with San Francisco all season long, vying for the top spot in the NL west. Every game against the Giants has been hard-fought and this three-game set felt like a playoff series, full of drama. Even though we came up short, losing two of three, Justin Upton’s exciting first career walk-off homer gave D-backs fans some hope and showed the Giants that we weren’t going to make it easy for them to repeat as World Series champions.

As for the White Sox series, Friday night’s game was one to remember and one of the best all-around games that I can recall this season. The stage was set for Daniel Hudson to take on the team that traded him away, and he’d even get the chance to show them their mistake against the guy that he was traded for, Edwin Jackson. Hudson ended up throwing a spectacular game and hurled his first career complete game.

Another plus for us was the television cameras being moved back so they weren’t hanging over the wall in the photo well. By doing this, it freed up a spot in between the cameras and the D-backs dugout. This allowed us to get some great candid shots, as well as some action from an angle that we normally don’t see.

Here are a few of our favorite images of the week.

Gallery Photos by Jordan Megenhardt

Behind the Scenes of the Ryan Roberts Cover Shoot

by Jordan Megenhardt

Photographs by Jon Willey and Jordan Megenhardt

During a rainy day at Salt River Fields this past spring, we set up a portrait for Justin Upton and Chris Young that would be used on the cover of the second issue of the D-backs Insider magazine. After the shoot, as we brought our gear inside, just as it started raining, Ryan Roberts, friendly as always, wandered over to us. “When’s my photo shoot? I want to do a photo shoot!” he said smiling.

Three months later, after Roberts helped lead the team to the top of the division, he’d finally get his answer with a cover shoot of his own.

Roberts is the kind of guy that we look forward to working with. He is enthusiastic, approachable, and genuinely gracious.  And, with his personality in mind, we began discussing what to with the photo.

During games, I noticed that Roberts was habitually on the top step of the dugout. Constantly cheering on his teammates or studying the opposing pitcher, Roberts was never idle.

Inspired by his habit, we decided to set up a shot that would pay tribute to his dugout routine.

The day we did the shoot, Greg Salvatore and I sat down for an interview with Robert and his wife at a restaurant in Scottsdale.  At the same time, Jon was at the ballpark, setting up and testing the lights for the photograph.

With the roof open and the dugout in shade, Jon had to deal with difficult variations of light. The sun would be behind Roberts and overhead, which actually worked out well because that meant that his face would be in shade and we’d be able to control the light with our strobes. And, as always, Jon’s setup needed little tweaking and when I stepped to model as he tested the light, it was basically exactly what we wanted.

We used three lights, two Alien Bees 1600 and one 800. One of the 1600’s was in front/right with a medium strip box; the other was behind the subject with an eleven-inch reflector. We used the 800 to the left with another medium soft box.

Dealing with ballplayers on game days gives us little room for error and time management is extremely valuable. It’s important to have everything setup and ready to go by the time the player arrives, so that we can get them in and out quickly.

By the time Roberts arrived a few minutes later, we were completely set.  He was excited and very, very easy to work with.

We shot a few different photos during the shoot but we ended up choosing this one to be the cover:

This is the unedited, original version of the photograph. We will post the actual cover of the magazine next week, but if you’d like to see it sooner, all you have to do is come out to Chase Field and pick up a copy of the D-backs Insider!