Elisa the Meteorologist (Day #36) reported that it was the 6th coldest November recorded. Kudos to all the catch-partners who braved the ridiculous weather. I watched light flurries landing on the windshield of the Bryan Family Millennium Falcon on the drive to Hammons Field.
December doesn’t look much better.
“My whole life has been about baseball,” Mark said.
A Springfield native, Mark cheered for Lou Brock and Bob Gibson as a kid, then Johnny Bench and Hank Aaron.
Mark drove in the first two runs in Kickapoo High School’s baseball program.
“We played Nixa, and it was in weather pretty much like this. No batting gloves. No heaters in the dugout. Just cold.”
I can sympathize.
That first year, he had the team sign a ball and held on to it for years. That baseball is now in a KHS time capsule, which I think is incredibly awesome. Mark was also a classmate with St. Louis Cardinals beat writer Rob Rains. Mark took photographs in the journalism class and Rob was the sports editor.
Since 2005, Mark has been the official photographer for the Springfield Cardinals.
“Ever since the first pitch of that first game. That was the day Stan Musial threw out the first pitch. Back when Mike Shildt was the manager, he’d let me shag fly balls during batting practice.”
I’ve watched Mark at work over the years, taking pictures of the Little League teams during the pre-game ceremonies, running around to get in position for various game-day activities, visiting with him while he sat in the well of the third base dugout.
His favorite picture is hanging in the Cardinals clubhouse, a photo of two guys sliding into home plate almost simultaneously.
“I’d seen a play like that on TV a couple of times. That was the only time I’ve seen that play in person.”
Being a team photographer is more than a full-time job. Mark’s work isn’t finished when the game is over.
“When I leave the stadium, I head straight for the computer and start editing. If it’s a day game, that means sorting through about 1,000 pictures. If it’s a night game, only about 300 or 400 pictures. A couple more hours of work.”
But then you hear his story of snapping pictures of Luke Voit tracking a foul ball and landing in a trash can.
“I can’t believe no one came over to catch him.”
Or the story of when he happened to take a picture of a player for the opposing team and that player turned out to be Mike Trout.
“He reminded me of Mickey Mantle.”
Or the story when Joe Mather about took Mark out with a foul ball.
“His agent asked for a particular photo of his follow through. Against my instincts, I stayed in the well for the picture, even after I heard the sound it made on the bat. I ducked and the ball grazed the back of my neck. I regret that I gave the ball away, but at least he signed a copy of the picture the next day.”
While the Bears were taking batting practice, Mark and I threw between the last cage and the wall. One of the hitters appeared to be timing Mark’s throws, which made for interesting sound effects during our game of catch. Mark is a southpaw with ridiculous movement on all of his throws.
“I played shortstop in a softball league one year. The first baseman complained about my throws.”
Again, I could sympathize.
After 15 years behind the lens in the minor leagues, Mark has thousands of behind-the-scenes stories.
“To tell you the truth, what I’ve learned is that everyone is human. Celebrities, athletes, everyone. We’re just fully human, and that’s a good thing.”