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|| News Item: Posted 1999-03-07

Grapefruit LeagueNotebook: covering spring training in Florida
By Tom Dipace

I had a dream last night. Mo Vaughn hit 5 homers on opening day for the Angels. I was there and I underexposed his face. That shows you where my mind is right now.

Photo by Tom DiPace

Photo by Tom DiPace
First game of the year in Vero Beach on Friday, packed and ready to keys. My son took both sets of keys to school so I was stranded at home. Something I would never factor in till my son was 16. So I stayed home and got caught up on all my paper work. I checked the paper half the guys didn't play...I didn't miss much.

On the second day of Spring Training I got a call to do an exclusive assignment for USA Today to shoot Mark McGwire. I had to be real secretive. I had to hide my equipment so no one would see me. I went upstairs and set up my lights. The writer and the PR guy said I would only get 5 minutes with Mac. I got two hours. What a great guy. My only disappointment was he decided to sponsor Starbucks on his t-shirt and rock radio station KLOS 95.5 in LA on his hat. There goes the stock...

I think Mac has overcome the fear of the attention he gets and he wants to be a regular guy. He wants people to know that he IS approachable and not a larger than life action hero. I would hope that this attitude is lasting and that he would keep this relaxed feeling. If he does he will have a successful year. In shooting him this spring he has allowed me to go places where he would normally shoo me away and say, "Get the heck out of here..." I saw a shot that was really cool to do and I stood on the tire on the batting cage
risking my head and equipment to get a shot of him taking BP and came off with a cool Spring Training image of a great subject.

Photo by Tom DiPace

Photo by Tom DiPace

This year Major League Baseball has laid an egg. They thought they had the marketing to every gang outlet they could by producing hats in every color combo imaginable. This year they took it a step further by introducing Spring Training batting practice hats. They are trying to sell the new hats by using the players as live models for their merchandising division.

I was at Dodger camp and they were wearing white hats. I was standing with Kevin Malone (Dodgers GM) and Davey Johnson (Manager) and candidly threw out, "Do you
really like these things..." They both loudly exclaimed, "Heck no....they're ugly!" Johnson said, "We all look like ice cream vendors." They actually stopped wearing them for workouts soon after that...go Dodger Blue!

It was a nightmare when I saw these hats. It's a waste of film...very short dated ugly pictures with not much resale value.

In the upcoming weeks I have to do a cover shoot with Roger Clemens and some of the Yankees for the Baseball Weekly season preview cover. I look forward to this shoot because the Yankees are a great bunch of guys and Rocket just adds to that quality. He is not gonna upset the apple cart in New York. I have worked with him many times and he is a class guy.

One of the greatest advantages and what helped me get my career off the ground 15 years ago was the fact that I live in South Florida and I can roll out of bed and shoot baseball every day. I can capitalize on Major League Baseball coming to my backyard for 6 weeks every year, and I can sleep in my own bed every night and not be away from my family. Because of that I will never's a real blessing.

(Tom Dipace is a freelance photographer based in South Florida who regularly shoots for Baseball Weekly, Sport, ESPN The Magazine, Sports Illustrated and many other clients.)

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