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|| News Item: Posted 2008-06-30

Covering a Cinderella Story
Matt Miller covered his sixth College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska

By Matt Miller, Omaha World - Herald

Photo by Matt Miller / Omaha World - Herald

Photo by Matt Miller / Omaha World - Herald

Fresno State celebrates winning the College World Series, 6-1 at the University of Georgia UGA Bulldogs against the Fresno State Bulldogs at the College World Series CWS at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb., on June 25, 2008.
Fresno State capped a Cinderella season when right fielder Steve Detwiler pulled in a fly ball in the bottom of the ninth inning and clinched this year's College World Series in Omaha. Players on the field and bench sprinted toward the pitching mound where they met for the traditional dog pile celebration. The team had triumphed despite low rankings and finished as champions with one of the most unique seasons in college baseball history.

Despite such a dramatic and unlikely finish, I mostly felt relieved that the season was over. You see, the 2008 Series was my sixth, and unfortunately, the dog pile celebrations more often than not seem like variations on a theme.

At times I struggle to find new ways to see and photograph the ballgames, and it's easily the most challenging two weeks of the year for me. Moments become mundane. Even though Cinderella stories like that of Fresno State are atypical, the moments on the field sometimes seem clich├ęd to me. The joy of photographing America's quintessential sport becomes a chore to finish.

The World-Herald usually sends four photographers to the park every day. The paper has five editions, so we are pretty much always on deadline. If we don't have an editor at the park, one of us will usually peel out and push pictures to the paper. We usually have a front-page element every day and a four to six page section on the games. The hardest thing for me is the grind. Our entire staff works many long days in a row.

Covering the end of the Championship with numerous shooters really helps because so much happens so quickly. We usually fan out and make sure most angles are covered at the end of the game. I was in the outfield, one shooter was in the first base box, one in third, one person was in the press box behind home plate, and one shooter was midway down the right field foul line. We all got nice images from the celebration and the dejection.

The great thing about covering the game like that is the freedom to shoot from different positions. Editing is a good break from the games (about 12 innings of shooting instead of 18 per day). The heat and humidity can be overbearing. The people from ESPN like to put a thermometer in one of the shooting boxes and photograph it during the game. I don't need a reminder that I am sitting in a concrete box, slow-roasting at 112 degrees.

But don't get me wrong. I don't totally hate it. There is part of me that enjoys being at the series. I love shooting next to great people like Damian Strohmeyer and Matt Brown. And I know that I take for granted the fact that I get to photograph the visual gems that can be found at the series.

My favorite parts of the Series this year were the rain delays. It was spontaneous. As soon as the rain turns from drops to sheets, people sprint for cover, wherever that may be. It sure was a nice change from ballplayers running counter-clockwise around bases.

When the rain did come, we found out that our little storage room/work room had become a water repository. In an effort to avoid electrocution, one of us would push the standing water out of our workroom each morning. With all the rain and the leaky pipes and cracks in the ceiling (which is also the seats in right field), water constantly accumulated.

For a shooter at a medium market, the event is a way to see how the "big guys" cover a game. As I mentioned, I have learned a lot by sitting next to people like Strohmeyer. Part of it is just making sure I point the lens in the same direction he does, but also watching how he handles himself at the park has been invaluable.

In the end, I am grateful for the Series because it makes me think differently. It affords me the opportunity to really stretch the way that I see. I want to make pictures that I can be proud of. Sure, I'd rather be photographing features in western Nebraska, but photographing the series helps hone my skills and makes my shooting better in the long run.

(Matt Miller is a staff photographer with the Omaha World - Herald.)

Related Links:
Miller's member page

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