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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2010-11-11

Remembering Rosenblatt
Photographer and S.I.D. create documentary about the final College World Series held at Rosenblatt Stadium

By Mike Greenlee, Cal State Fullerton media relations

We wanted to go and catch a game we didn't have to cover. We wanted to eat some of the food the stadium had to offer. We wanted to sit with the people and experience Rosenblatt Stadium one last time as baseball fans. We even wanted to see a forest just a few miles south of the park, but none of that would ever end up happening.
Photo by Matt Brown

Photo by Matt Brown

Photographer Matt Brown and I had made plans more than a year ago to attend the 2010 College World Series even if Cal State Fullerton didn't make it. We wanted to see Rosenblatt one last time before the Series moved to its new home a few miles down the road. It has, after all, been the home of the College World Series for the past 60 years.

Ideas floated through Matt's head about the kind of side projects we could dig into once we got there. Would we work with the Titans in mind, or not? Would he use his traditional tools of the trade or experiment with a video camera? Or both? A light painting of the stadium and a time lapse were on the docket going in, as Matt wanted to capture it from any and every angle. There was a good chance that the Stadium would be a parking lot the next time we saw it, so Matt wanted to shoot it from every vantage point.

Our original travel party included Matt's 17-year-old son, Grant, and friend/fellow photographer, Jordan Murph, so we were going to have plenty of hands on deck. But by June, we had lost Grant to summer school obligations, and we eventually lost Jordan to the NBA Finals. Even up to the last minute, Jordan tried to make it, but it didn't work out. So it ended up just the two of us.

On June 13, Cal State Fullerton, despite being an out away from advancing a day earlier, was eliminated by UCLA, leaving us to navigate the College World Series on our own.

++++++++++++++++++++
Part I: First Memories - http://vimeo.com/16468626
Part II: Memorable Moments - http://vimeo.com/16356576
Part III: The Move - http://vimeo.com/16354093
Audio Commentary - http://vimeo.com/16455890

Remembering Rosenblatt Album (all four videos): http://vimeo.com/album/1465452
++++++++++++++++++++

Neither of us recalls the exact moment when we decided we were going to shoot a documentary, but it was sometime before we packed our bags. The plan was to go for four days, a couple of days into the two-week tournament. In addition to his personal effects, Matt was in charge of the gear. He packed a JVCGH100U HD video camera, a tripod, his Nikon D3, a boom mic, a couple of wireless mics, a pair of hard drives, a MacBook Pro, and a full set of hot lights with stands.
Photo by Matt Brown

Photo by Matt Brown

"Why I thought we'd have time to unpack them and set them up, I have no idea," said Matt of the lights that made the 2,700 mile round trip without ever getting unpacked.

We formulated our final plan of attack for the documentary on our flight to Omaha. The plan was to interview people within three radiating rings of the stadium: the people inside the stadium working and covering the College World Series, the fans in and around the park, and the people of the neighborhoods surrounding Rosenblatt.

Going in we had a list of specific people and businesses we wanted to hit up. Using my media relations contacts, I had touched base before we left with a couple of national baseball writers, as well as some of the ESPN talent, like Kyle Peterson and former major leaguer Robin Ventura.

Once we checked in, we headed over to the park and hit the ground running… or walking. For the better part of the four days, Matt and I, with back packs, cameras, a tripod and a boom mic, circled the stadium on foot looking to catch people willing to talk about Rosenblatt. We probably logged 5-6 miles a day in search of people.

Kyle Peterson set the tone as our first interview. He grew up and still lives in Omaha, he pitched in the College World Series twice with Stanford, and is now a sideline analyst for the CWS with ESPN. We had a set of three questions that we were going to ask everyone, and Kyle knocked each one out of the park.

From there, we moved in and out of the stadium. We talked with fans in the parking lot, most asked, "Are you with ESPN?" Usually in unison, we would answer "no" with a smile and give them our spiel about being two guys from Cal State Fullerton, there on our own dime, to shoot a documentary about what people thought about the CWS moving away from Rosenblatt. Almost everyone we asked wanted to be interviewed.

We hit up the two most famous local businesses in Zesto (an ice cream stand) and Stadium View Sports Cards (a sports memorabilia store) and hit up some folks at a tailgate ritual, a flamingo funeral held for each of the eliminated teams.
Photo by Matt Brown

Photo by Matt Brown

"I'm still shocked as to how many people actually said 'yes' when we asked them if we could have a few minutes of their time to talk on camera," Matt recollects.

Our most prized interviews came from the Omaha residents themselves. The people that live in the area. The ones that have seen the stadium built up to what it is now, and will watch it disappear over the next 12-24 months. All of our walking led us to a few groups that made the whole trip worthwhile.

"My ideal interview was going to be with a woman who, for the last 40 years, had washed dishes while looking out her kitchen window at the stadium," Matt said. "And we got pretty close."

We first found Don Swotek and his wife as we searched for a scenic spot to take pictures of the stadium. He was a bit upset to see the CWS move out of Rosenblatt because he purchased the house six years ago with the College World Series in mind. The Swoteks were parking 20-30 cars on his front lawn at any given time each day, earning the family nearly $5,000 dollars a year in parking income alone. He had already paid for his house with the money he had made from using his land for parking.

Walking around the neighborhood behind Rosenblatt's first base line, Matt spotted an older man, Hank Busse, sitting alone in his front lawn looking out toward the stadium. From his yard, you can hear the roar of the crowd, the ping of the bat and the faint sounds of the stadium organ. In front of his house was a sign advertising parking spots available on their land to raise money for his grandson's college tuition. Little did we know we would also get to talk with Hank's son, Ken, and grandson, Justin, who just happened to live next door. Ken grew up riding his bike in and working at the stadium and was more than willing to sit down with two strangers and a camera.

On our last day, we went back to the street where we found the Busses and, this time, stumbled upon an Omaha family of tailgaters that had rented a house for the week much closer to the Stadium than their actual homes. The Troia tailgate was a group of 10-15 people sitting out front in lawn chairs, cooking up a storm. We told them what we were doing, and nearly everyone was eager to sit down and talk, even a couple that were in Omaha for the very first time, and had just arrived from New Hampshire just hours earlier. They hadn't even seen the stadium yet. We spent a few hours with the Troias and again got what we needed and more, including some smoked chicken and pork they had been working on all day.

The Troia party ended up being our last set of interviews. In all we talked with more than 30 people over the four days. We also took numerous hours out to get supplemental footage (b-roll) and photos along the way. Unfortunately, none of the b-roll would contain game footage because NCAA rules prohibit recordings from inside the park 30-minutes prior to each game until its completion.

Overall it was an amazing experience, but our project didn't come without its challenges. For example: Finding suitable places to conduct interviews was sometimes challenging. For instance when the ball girl interview we shot happened to overlap with the public address announcements and national anthem. Flat out, bad timing.
Photo by Matt Brown

Photo by Matt Brown

Or the "wind tunnel" we shot Steve Pivovar (Omaha World Herald sports writer) in behind the press box. We had limited time to talk with him, and he was one of those "must have" guys, so we set up just outside the back of the press box, where the wind was whipping and popping in the microphones. We were also getting interference in the wireless mic, probably because of all the communication antennas set up just a few feet from us.

There were also the interviews we shot from inside the press box. Not only were the sound and visuals different up there, but also it was a working press box, and we were there just trying to get interviews while others were working. So we battled with people storming into the booths we were borrowing, others slamming doors, and people just doing their jobs.

But the biggest problem we encountered was when we realized we had a corrupted video file that contained nearly 6 hours of interviews and b-roll and a brilliant lightning storm over the stadium. The best we can figure now is that shooting in the lighting storm is what caused the corruption. The loss of the file proved very costly in editing.

Once we made it back to Southern California, we returned to our separate realities. We wanted to have the finished pieces done on Aug. 1. But with the start of the new Cal State Fullerton school year, and other paying jobs, neither of us was able to hit the self-imposed deadline. I worked on the graphics in Photoshop, and looking for some help from my SID colleagues in regards to photos to make up for the lost b-roll. Matt worked alone in Final Cut Pro, watching the hours of footage and making cuts. We met numerous times to cut the pieces down to acceptable viewing lengths for an internet audience, often times after our wives and kids had gone to bed.

We tried three times to get the right voice over sound. We even tried recording it ourselves, but failed miserably. Finally we enlisted Joe Martinez and invited him into our makeshift sound studio in my spare bedroom. He read the lines spot on. A consummate professional.

After numerous revisions, edits and uploads, we released "Remembering Rosenblatt" on Nov. 3, five months after setting out to do who knows what.

For a couple of guys who had no idea what they were doing, or what they getting themselves into, we think we got what ESPN was unable to with their unlimited budgets and resources at Rosenblatt's final College World Series. We were witnesses to real emotion from real people, and it was all about a baseball stadium that has been a part of the Omaha community for a very long time.

Even though we didn't get to light paint the stadium, shoot a time lapse, or enjoy a game in the bleachers sampling fine Rosenblatt cuisine, we ended up with so much more.


About the guys who put this together
Matt Brown is an award-winning photographer who has shot every major sporting event over the past decade including, but not limited to, the College World Series, Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals, the World Cup, the Olympics and the MLB World Series. His artful eye can be seen regularly in Sports Illustrated and ESPN the Magazine as well as with MLB.com. Brown is also the Cal State Fullerton team photographer and has made six trips to Omaha with the Titans' baseball team for the College World Series, and one with the Titans' basketball team during the first round of the NCAA postseason at the Qwest Center Omaha. Brown has led workshops for Nikon and the Sports Shooter Academy, and has also been the keynote speaker at many university and media events. Brown resides in Fullerton, Calif., with his wife, Antoinette, and their three sons, Grant, Malcolm and Willem.

Mike Greenlee is in his seventh season as the Cal State Fullerton baseball sports information director (SID), and is starting his 14th season overall working with the Fullerton media relations staff. Greenlee is in a unique position as an SID, having also been coached by three of the Titans' four Div. I head coaches: Augie Garrido, George Horton and Dave Serrano. He was an All-Big West Conference relief pitcher for the Titans in 1997 and a redshirting member of the 1995 national championship squad. Greenlee did not get to Omaha until 2006 as a university employee, but is now a veteran of three trips to the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium. Greenlee resides in Buena Park, Calif., with his wife, Alexis, and their daughter, Lauren.


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