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|| News Item: Posted 2012-02-26

What I Did Last Summer
Chris Covatta chased down 272 Big Leaguers in five cities.

By Chris Covatta

Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images/MLBPA

Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images/MLBPA

Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies poses for a portrait with Chris Covatta on June 22, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.
With the Super Bowl in the rear view mirror and the Boys of Summer working out in the Valley of the Sun and the Sunshine State I thought I would take a look back at a baseball project I was involved in last summer.

In April I received a call from my former boss, tormenter, and long time friend, Carmin Romanelli who asked if I would be interested in participating in a project Getty was putting together with the Major League Players Association (MLBPA).

The plan was to shoot portraits of every player on every team on three backdrops: white, black, and team color. Each player would be photographed on each backdrop first in their street clothes, then wearing a performance top and game pants, and finally in full uniform. In this way the MLBPA could create a library of photos quickly that they could market to clients. Two photographers would be hired for each shoot which would take place in the visiting team’s hotel. Players would be scheduled two at a time every half hour from 9:00 to 2:00 over a two day period.

I was lucky enough to participate in 15 shoots in five cities (Houston, Atlanta, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Baltimore) where I shot 13 teams, 272 players and got to work with some good friends and talented photographers including, Dilip Vishwanat, Layne Murdoch, Greg Shamus, Nathan Bolster, and Ned Dishman.

Representatives from the MLBPA were responsible for procuring the shooting location, getting the uniforms, gloves, balls and bats, as well as scheduling the players for the shoot.

To make the portraits more interesting, my plan was to shoot the serious portraits on the black backdrop and than get the players to go nuts on the team color backdrop. To do this I would request that the player take a bite of or kiss the baseball, bite the bat (an homage to V.J. Lovero), or have them yell at me “You suck!” or “F*** You!” while posing for me. Many times the “picture” was a player’s reaction to my request instead of what I requested them to do.

Because the shoots were for the MLBPA most players willingly participated. A few refused the PAs request and some complained but went through with it. For the most part, however, the players truly enjoyed the experience and some thanked us for photographing them.

Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images/MLBPA

Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images/MLBPA

Jose Reyes poses for a portrait on June 16, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Raul Ibanez of the Phillies loved the shoots and stayed to look at the photos afterwards. Nick Swisher of the Yankees was a force of nature who went nuts on the set allowing us to produce some great shots. His teammate, Curtis Granderson played along and gave us some great poses. Heath Bell of the Padres crammed a baseball in his mouth and went crazy. Former Met Angel Pagan posed like "the most interesting man in the world." Josh Hamilton of the Rangers danced with a bat in his mouth. The Red's Bronson Arroyo, who played his guitar while being photographed, stayed afterwards to regale us with some great baseball stories.

Each hotel location presented it’s own set of problems. Some did not have ballrooms available so we had to shoot in conference rooms and, in one case at the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta, the Presidential Suite, where the hotel personnel graciously removed all the furniture and took down the chandelier hanging in the dining room. Nathan Bolster and I crammed a 12’ white seamless, two 9’ seamless and our lights in an area made for, well, none.

The shooting space at the Ritz-Carlton wasn’t the only problem there. Although the MLBPA had what they thought was a simple plan to make this all happen, the weather during one shoot and a hotel laundry fire before another, made the plan anything but simple.

After shooting nine players from the Milwaukee Brewers the first day the game that night was rained out and a double header was scheduled for the next day. That meant the players needed to be at the stadium around 11:00 instead of 2:00. So on the second day instead of shooting the rest of the team we only photographed four players. This meant a reshoot had to be scheduled a few months later in St. Louis to capture pictures of the rest of the team.

The next shoot at the Ritz Carlton with the Washington Nationals had another surprise for us. This time we had great space in a large ballroom, but a half hour before the first players where scheduled to appear a fire in the hotel laundry caused the total evacuation of the hotel for almost two hours. A number of scheduled players attempted to cancel but to the MLBPA’s credit they hustled and persuaded the players to come in anyway. At times Nathan and I were shooting three or four players in various stages (street clothes, performance tops, uniforms) all at once.

It was a wild ride last summer with a lot of ups and downs. And like any great roller coaster ride that’s so much fun you want to do it again I was hoping for more photo shoots. Last week I got my wish as Getty dispatched photographers to various Florida locations to shoot players that have changed teams and teams that have changed uniforms. This week Dilip, Nathan, newbie Robert Binder and I head to Arizona to extoll Major Leaguers to look good. Because as we all know it’s better to look good than to feel good. And you, my dahling multi-million dollar young man, you don’t just look good you look mahvelous! Absolutely mahvelous!

(Chris Covatta is a freelance photographer and BBQ connoisseur based in Austin, Texas. In his spare time Covatta offers travel tips for photographers venturing into Canada. Covatta also likes bacon)

Related Links:
Covatta's member page
Covatta's website

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