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|| News Item: Posted 2000-10-31

On the Blue Road
By Jon SooHoo, LA Dodgers

Being a "Sports Shooter" for about fifteen years I have done my fair share of travelling for games in other cities via commercial vendors. I still travel to as many football and baseball games on spec I can get into. I have battled enough times with Southwest Airlines flight attendants over getting my Domke 600 bag on the plane to a point that I consider myself a weathered traveler. I've had my share of being number 127 and having to sit backwards next to some passenger who also needed most of my seat to fit while having to hand hold my 600 on my lap. I still eagerly anticipate my bag of ten honey-roasted nuts and my 3 ounce plastic cup of some watered down soda.

The other side of life is travelling with a major league baseball team.

Photo by
I have been fortunate enough to work for a team that believes professional photography is an asset and is important enough to have me travel. There aren't many teams that have their team photographer shoot all home games let alone road games.

Due to television the Dodgers home schedule ends up with an average of eight to ten home day games total per year. Our Publications Department wanted more images than what could be produced in two home day games per month so on the road I went. My road schedule would be determined by the amount of day games I could get on a trip. So I mostly went to Chicago, San Francisco and New York.

But this year due to the purchase of a Nikon D1, I have been asked to document the entire season for the team web site. Since spring training began in February I have been downloading images daily to the photo album section of the Dodgers web site.

Flying with the team is so beyond what I normally go through to get to an event.

The point man for a smooth trip begins with the team travelling secretary that in the case of the Dodgers is Billy Delury. Every trip comes with a detailed itinerary for the when and the where.

All major league teams fly charters. The Dodgers are no different. There used to be a "Dodger Plane" but the cost to own and operate it was more than it would be to charter. This year we have used airlines that have hubs in the city of our destination so airlines change with every trip.

The beginning of the trip is the only time we have our carry on luggage zapped. It is something I have to remind myself every time my three bags are individually hand inspected. I've tried to cut down on what I carry but what for? I'm going to get on a charter which allows me to have all of the overhead space I need.

Seat selection is pretty straightforward. Upper management gets all of the first class section and the players get the back of the plane. Everybody else gets the middle. My seat has been the first row past first class. The entire row is yours unless the flight is designated a family trip. I have an extra three feet of leg space. (This is the same seat I can't even get on this waiting list for on most commercial flights.)

My luggage has been stowed with a destination of the hotel. My Lightware case with my 400mm, 300mm, bodies and other misc. equipment is headed for the ballpark. Once I drop it off at our clubhouse at Dodger Stadium the Equipment/Clubhouse Manager David Wright takes care of its destination. This is quite a difference from how I normally travel. Usually I have to lug my suitcase, Lightware case and camera bag, laptop bag and my collapsible luggage cart to the counter where I can only hope it makes it to my destination.

On team charters I can carry on as many bags as I can hold. I don't need a luggage cart because the equipment man has taken care of all of my big cases. Overhead space is always open because no one else wants to carry anything on either.

Once on the plane all staff is handed an envelope of cash totaling $71.00 per day of the trip. So for a 10-day trip an envelope of $710.00 in cash is handed to you. It is reported as income so I still have to get receipts for everything but who cares?

Flight attendants are in your face every two minutes to ask if they can feed you something. All meals are first class airline food. This really only means the food is a little better than most meals on coach. Usually steak, chicken and salad plates are offered. Then comes the Dove Bars and then big size candy bars. (I won't mention the freshly made chocolate chip cookies served on board)

Most of the flight is pretty casual with everyone up visiting most of the time. Most of the players watch movies on personal DVD players while there is always a high stakes card games going on in the back of the plane (It is only high stakes in my mind because to them nothing is really at stake).

After landing we exit out the side door of the walkway directly on to the buses waiting on the tarmac which delivers us to the hotel.

At the hotel a table of envelopes with room assignments and room keys await the entire travelling party. This saves on having to wait in line to check in. Luggage will arrive to the lobby of the hotel and a bell man automatically delivers it to the room.. With luggage dealt with along with transportation and hotel arrangements set up this form of travel has saved me a total of about three hours.

The team bus arrives at the hotel to pick up whoever hasn't already gone to the park. This usually includes radio/television personnel along a few position players and the starting pitcher. I do my best to cab over early because if I get a chance to shag during early batting practice I will. It also gives me a chance to relax for a few hours prior to game time.

I have not had any problems with photo positions in other cities mostly because I am usually the only one shooting evening games. Day games are sometimes more difficult but most likely the team photographer of the home team helps me out. Most areas that photographers are restricted from are usually fine for the team guy. My NL CLUB pass makes everything simpler.

I don't usually eat press box meals because the visiting clubhouse has a healthier variety of food. At the end of the last game in each city I usually tip the visiting clubhouse attendant around $20.00 to $40.00 depending on how much I have depended on them. I tip the most to the visiting clubhouse attendant Arizona the most because they have a whole extra room where I can edit and email everything I do along with having a place to change and shower if I workout that day.

With this season coming to a fast end due the bowing out of the Dodgers I have already begun to travel for football via commercial means just like everyone else. You know what? It really sucks

From my "Never to be Published Memory Book" By Jon SooHoo:

Seeing how all "Sports Shooters" get screwed at some point by someone in television, such as front line NFL sound dish person or cameraman, I wanted to tell of a situation I enjoyed while travelling with the Dodgers back when Eddie Murray was with the Dodgers.

It was the first day of our road trip to St. Louis during the early nineties. I know a lot of photographers have had many a run in with Eddie Murray over his career. I haven't and we are friends off the field as well as on but I understand how many of you would not get along with him

Now I usually mark myself a spot with tape when I arrive at a ballpark like everyone should. I usually get a read as to how many feeds are going because I will make the best of what is available after televisions huge tripod is set in place. This night there would be only one feed

This particular cameraman decided to place his camera at the second spot at the end of the dugout platform. I decided to set up a chair and take a low position in the first spot so I wouldn't block the television camera (how considerate am I?).

Five o'clock comes around for the 7:05 start and this cameraman is in my face telling me that I am not allowed to be in the same "photo well" as him. I told him I was lower than his pod and that he would still be able to turn into our dugout when he needed. He said he knew it wouldn't be a problem because I wouldn't be in his well. So after a couple of minutes and me backing down I decided to engage in a little revenge of my own.

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So I went into the clubhouse and visited with Eddie "I Hate The Media" Murray and I asked him for some help. I told him the situation with the Dick Head in the well and I asked if he could do me a huge favor and completely block his camera into the dugout during the game. Because he had the night off he agreed to help. Taking the position in the outer photo well I could see the cameraman getting completely frustrated because anytime he would make a move to the dugout Eddie would pop up and block the camera. The cameraman wasn't bold enough to tell Eddie Murray to move so it lasted all game long. It was my happiest nine innings I have ever experienced.

After the last out I walked up to the cameraman and told him to know who he was fucking with before being disrespectful and if he would like a repeat performance the next day, I could gladly have it arranged.

Of course the next day there were two feeds.

Don't give up "Sports Shooters". Win whatever battle you can because the war is almost lost.

(Jon SooHoo has been the Los Angeles Dodgers team photographer since 1995.)

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