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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2009-04-02

WBC: An International Classic
Scott Rovak had a great experience photographing the World Baseball Classic in Miami.

By Scott Rovak

Photo by Scott Rovak / US PRESSWIRE

Photo by Scott Rovak / US PRESSWIRE

Team USA infielder David Wright (4) slides across home plate safely as Puerto Rican catcher Geovany Soto (18) attempts the tag at the 2009 World Baseball Classic at Dolphin Stadium.
When I walk onto the back fields of the St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training facility in Jupiter, Florida each year, I stop for a minute to take in the scene: the smell of freshly cut grass not yet dry from the morning dew, the sight of gloves, bats and baseballs waiting on the warning track, dozens of ball players working through their morning stretching routine.

The coaches stand on the side, reading through their morning's schedule. Which player goes where? For how long? The players rise and pair off. They play catch, just like I did when I was a kid. This is my favorite time of the year. The baseball season is about to begin. I shot my first St. Louis Cardinals' game 26 years ago and I was hooked. I have been very fortunate to turn something I enjoy into a career. Not many people can say that.

I went down to Florida this year with a lot of questions about which players would eventually travel north with the team. An outfielder was being converted to second base, an injured third baseman was leaving a position that needed to be filled, no set closer appeared in the bullpen, and there were no guarantees about the bench.

As a photographer I had to be ready for any pictures that showed the competition among players, and players being coached on how to adapt to their new position. The Cardinals share their spring training facility with the Florida Marlins. That means, when the Cards go on the road, I usually stay back and shoot the Marlins games for a wire service. The fun thing about those games is that I just photograph the action and don't concentrate on a certain player for added projects like the yearbook, a marketing campaign, or a stadium giveaway.

This year I was fortunate to cover several games of the World Baseball Classic in Miami. One of the cooler things was that the fans were so vocal during the entire game, not just after a big play.

Fans brought their own instruments, which filled the stands with Latin music. At least four sections had these impromptu bands playing around the stadium. The games took on that international feel which is what MLB is hoping for.

I especially enjoyed how excited the players would get after every big play. Not only did I have to watch the players on the field but also the players in the dugout, who would scream and jump up when their teammate got a hit or made a nice play. I couldn't believe how many times the pitchers would pump their fist or yell after they retired the sides. But when a hitter admires his home run, watch out!

Photo by Scott Rovak / US PRESSWIRE

Photo by Scott Rovak / US PRESSWIRE

Team USA infielder David Wright (4) is mobbed by teammates after getting the game-winning hit against Team Puerto Rico at the 2009 World Baseball Classic at Dolphin Stadium.
Someone will get beaned. It was an interesting experience, very much like covering an All-Star Game. In my opinion, shooting this type of game is more difficult because there is so much more to pay attention to. When one country's All-Star pitcher pitches to an All-Star hitter from a different country, it's important to watch both of them. You have to decide whom to key in on during every at-bat.

I was happy to have a decent spot to shoot from, which also helped me cover the game without missing the action. For my first game I walked around and shot elevated for a little while, which gave me a nice angle on a pivotal play at the plate.

For my next two games I was on a three-foot riser outside of the third base dugout, and I also got to shoot through the screen behind home plate for one inning during each game. In the Puerto Rico vs. USA game I ended up with a great angle on another play at the plate, which I really liked because no other photographer was in the same position.

When David Wright hit his game-winning single he hit it to the opposite field and watched the ball the whole time. I never saw his face, but I stayed on him. When he turned towards his teammates, I captured a great moment. Then the mobbing began. I just watched for Wright and stayed on him. I was happy with my coverage of the three games and felt it was a great experience.

This year is off to a different start. The 2009 All-Star Game will be here in St. Louis, so things will be a little hectic. There will be lots of signage around the ballpark and patches on the players' uniforms - all those extra little things to shoot that we normally don't have to worry about. Even with the added considerations it is still the All-Star game and it doesn't get much more exciting than that. Now I'm fortunate to be able to capture the experience with my camera.


(Scott Rovak is photographer for the St. Louis Cardinals and also the director of photography for St. Louis Sports Magazine. You can see his work on his SportsShooter.com member page: http://www.sportsshooter.com/srphoto and at his personal website: www.scottrovak.com.)

Related Links:
Rovak's member page

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