When the original dates for players to report for Spring Training past due to the lock out I wasn’t sure the 2022 MLB Spring Training would happen. Like most fans and people who work during the season, we waited every day for the two sides to come together to work out a deal. Days flew by like a Jacob deGrom fastball, but still no baseball. Until one day they agreed to end the lock out and then two days later I started my MLB Spring Training season.
Since this MLB Spring Training was so condensed and teams were only traveling locally in their little region, I really had to be prepared for every and anything. I was assigned the Eastern Florida region with five teams. What worked in my favor as far as knowing players and teams is that I covered a lot of these several times during the season so I had familiarity with them.
This was the first Spring Training really back to somewhat of normalcy because of the Covid. Fans were allowed to interact more, I had more access to players as well. Photographing things like MLB Spring Training is so much easier when you have more access to the players and in the facilities. Shooting through fences and nets from a distance is now my ideal situation to be in as a sports photographer.
New York Mets
My first assignment for the 2022 MLB Spring Training season was with some of my old friends, the NY Mets. I’ve always enjoyed covering this team when they come to Miami to play, but with the addition of Max Scherzer to go along with perennial Cy Young Winner, Jacob deGrom, they became instant World Series contenders from the NL. When I pulled up to their spring training facility in Port St. Lucie at 7am, fans were already lining up by the parking lot fences to get a look of their favorite players. News media outlets were setting up for their shot and I was thinking, “Yup. Baseball is back.”
I walked in to the media room slash break room and Mets legend Keith Hernandez is there just chatting it up with reporters. I quickly dropped my bags off and headed outside to get a glimpse of players making their way out to the practice fields. I saw a gaggle of reporters and video guys waiting around the practice mound area and figured if everyone is here then there is a good reason to be. A tip for anyone wanting to know or get the scoop on teams or players is to make friends with the beat writers for the teams. They know most everything. I ran into one I knew and was told that both deGrom and Scherzer were going to be throwing. As it worked out, I was able to get both Cy Young winners together which found it’s way onto the social media accounts for both the Mets and MLB which is always a nice ego booster for me.
Spring Training is a great time for teammates to forge bonds. Veteran players showing the prospects how it’s done and new guys trying to fit in. I enjoy capturing those moments more, the laughs, high fives than I do shooting routine drills. The Mets have a lot of personality on their team and with guys like Francisco Lindor around there is always smiles and laughs to capture.
I covered the Mets only one other time, besides Mets Media Day, and that was when Scherzer threw a simulated game. There is a reason why he is called, “Mad Max.” He was throwing f bombs around more than he was throwing his fastball. He talks to himself a lot and it’s quite audible. Not to mention he is very particular with his routine and how he likes to be caught. When things don’t go well enough for Max, it can get pretty interesting. Still one of my favorite players to cover.
I’ve never covered the Astros before and having them come off being in the World Series I was curious to see the players. Lucky for me I got to cover a few of their games as well as practices. I quickly noticed they’re a tight knit team and they enjoy being around each other which made for some great interaction photos. Not too mention they have some of the best colored Spring Training uniforms as well.
The story around the Astros this spring was the loss of Carlos Correra and Justin Verlander returning from injury. Verlander was like Scherzer in that they would both drop f bombs if the pitches were going as they would like. I was also able to shoot a game he pitched in and being able to shoot in the dugout it was cool watching how he was during innings.
Probably my favorite aspect of covering the Astros was seeing Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson. He was there as an instructor as was former Astro Jeff Bagwell. Reggie was all smiles every time I saw him. Always talking with the guys, giving tips etc. What really blew my mind was how fluent in Spanish he was. I didn’t see that coming when was cracking jokes with some of the pitchers while he waited around with Bagwell for practice to start.
The Nationals are another team, like the Mets, that I know very well. Hell anytime you get to photograph Juan Soto, it’s going to be good time. While he is still so young, Soto is one of the best hitters in the game and genuinely a really great guy. I was around the Nationals quite a bit this spring from their Photo Day to shooting a few of their games.
Besides shooting Juan Soto my favorite part of covering the Nationals this spring was a tunnel to the field from their training facility. It was a dark tunnel, but it had enough lights on the wall that if you timed it just right you have the players emerging from the shadows into the light almost like a natural gradient. Every game I covered for them I was in various spots in the tunnel trying to get the players with different light and shadow combinations.
A beneficial aspect of covering a team enough is that they remember you or your face. As the players and coaches would walk out they would stop and say hi, fist bump or pose for me in the tunnel. Most of my favorite photos of the Nationals were from inside that tunnel.
St. Louis Cardinals
So the day before I go to cover a Cardinals game, they re-signed the Machine, Albert Pujols. He started his career with the Cardinals and he was about to end it with them as well. I had no idea he was going to play as he just signed, but as I was driving up I was getting emails from the Cardinals media staff and from the League telling me that Pujols was going to show and play and that they needed me to cover his at bats with video since their team photographer was there, but they had no video people there.
As I get to the stadium I see a lot of fans already. I show up to games 3-4 hours beforehand and I can’t remember seeing so many fans eager to get in to rush down to the field to try to get his autograph. Once he made his way through the right field gate the whole place erupted in cheers. Players from the Nationals stopped to greet him as he made his way to the dugout. He just has a presence to him when is in the dugout.
I’ve photographed Pujols with the Angels and with the Dodgers before. Come to think of it I shot him in both uniforms last season so it was awesome to get him in a Cardinals uniform. The one that he will have etched in his Cooperstown plaque when gets there. It was also great that he gets to retire with his good friend Yadier Molina. Watching them two together, it was like even though it’s been 10 years since they played together, it was like they never stopped being teammates.
Another reason I love covering the Cardinals was Nolan Arenado. The guy is a defensive wizard at third base. Rarely does a ball gets past him. When I’m shooting from the third base side I usually had my camera fixed on him just because he makes spectacular plays routinely.
It’s crazy to think that all the years covering the Marlins that I’ve never photographed them during Spring Training. Not a practice nor a game. That’s wild when you think about it. So when I did get to shoot a couple of their games it was great not only seeing the players I’ve known but also other team employees. It was almost like a homecoming of sorts.
I had a night game for the Marlins at their field, Roger Dean Stadium, and it was so dark that I had my ISO at or above 10,000 for the majority of the game. A normal game at loanDepot Park I shoot around 2,000-2,500 ISO, but I never in my life shot at 10,000 ISO. I was glad it was a Spring Training game and not some important event where I found out that my photos at 10,000 ISO were unusable.
Shooting the Marlins during Spring Training gave me a chance to cover their two big offseason signings, Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia. Soler was just coming off being the World Series MVP and Garcia was signed to be their big bat in centerfield. Of course those two signings were overshadowed by the color sunglasses Jazz would wear to games and practice. Watching Jazz this Spring Training you could see that 1. He is quickly becoming a fan favorite and 2. he was looking at a breakout year numbers wise. Lets see if those predictions come true.
Below are just a few of my shots from my 2022 MLB Spring Training coverage. More videos and photos can always be found on my Instagram page.