The Reuters global sports blog
from Photographers' Blog:
By Steve Nesius
As a photographer you often don’t know what to expect when covering MLB spring training baseball games - especially covering the Yankees.
After several games of being crammed into ridiculously tight photo wells at other stadiums with still photographers, TV crews and team interns shooting videos of batters and pitchers, it was nice to be assigned to a game at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Florida. Most photographers choose to shoot on the walkway behind the seats with clean fields of view. I wanted to shoot in the third base well, which is low to ground level, during the first inning to get the starting right-handed pitchers before heading up to the walkway.
It turned out to be a good decision. The Yankees batted first. Lead-off batter Eduardo Nunez singled, then stole second base. Brennan Boesch, in his second game since joining the Yankees after his release by the Tigers, was batting second. Boesch broke his bat on an infield single. Nunez advanced to third and scored on a throwing error. Kevin Youkilis batted third and hit a two-run homer, scoring Boesch. Yankees were up 3-0. Good action to start the game.
I felt I had some decent frames but couldn’t see the back of my camera very well to "chimp" (edit images in camera) in the bright sunshine. It wasn’t until later in the game, as I was editing, I could see I made some good images. In particular, the frame of the barrel of the broken bat smacking the face of Boesch. In the six-frame sequence, Boesch’s bat cracked as he struck the ball. On the follow-through of the swing, the bat brook in two pieces, smacked into his face, knocked his helmet ajar and flew out of the frame as Boesch raced to first base with an infield single.
Cliff Lee threw his best curve ball of the year this week, freezing the anxious New York Yankees and Texas Rangers in their tracks by deciding to rejoin the Philadelphia Phillies.
The decision came out of left field, as the Rangers and Yankees did all the public wooing of the 2008 American League Cy Young winner, while the Phillies worked the back channels.
One might have expected a cordial meeting of the minds between a grateful Yankees ownership and the classy face of baseball’s bellweather franchise when it came to agreeing one last contract for captain Derek Jeter.
One would be wrong.
The spendthrift Yankees, whose $200 million-plus annual payroll is far and away the most in Major League Baseball, are playing hardball with the 36-year-old shortstop.
After a World Series and San Francisco Giants triumph that fittingly capped a Major League Baseball campaign known as the Season of the Pitcher, the sport has barely skipped a beat before quickly beginning its next chapter — open season on free agents.
License to begin the hunt in a season of big spending has been granted 10 days earlier than in the past due to rules changes intended to make the wheeling-dealing easier.
In North America sports culture summer is the time for baseball. The MLB season kicks off in early April and for the most part flies under the radar for the first few months as fans’ attention is focused on the NBA playoffs, the NFL draft and to a lesser extend the NHL playoffs.
By the middle of June an NBA champion is crowned, (sorry LeBron, maybe next year with your new team) the NFL is as far removed from the ever watchful media’s eye as it ever is, (thank you Brian Cushing, OTA’s were still a few weeks away) and the NHL playoff run receives unprecedented media coverage…in Canada.
The past five days have been a microcosm to why sports are so compelling. It is the dramatic stories that draw fans in, the underdog prevailing against insurmountable odds, that has viewers sitting alone and screaming in ecstasy at the television just as loud as fans in attendance.
The story goes that shortly after baseball great Babe Ruth had settled into the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo while touring Japan in 1934, there was a knock on the door. He opened it to see a Japanese man in a kimono. ”Sign baseball,” the man said.
As soon as the Babe autographed that baseball, the man pulled another out of his kimono. Then another. And another. And another.
Homegrown talent and store-bought superstars — the Yankees formula for success for their 27th World Series championship claimed Wednesday with a Game Six victory over the Philadelphia Phillies that returned the team to the winners’ circle for the first time in what seemed to Yankee Nation like an endless nine years of waiting.
Sportswrap is back with a bang, as we take in Hideki Matsui’s heroic performance for the New York Yankees, Usain Bolt bottle-feeding a creature that will one day outrun him and Rafa Benitez trying to invoke the spirit of You’ll Never Walk Alone only to come a cropper in the Champions League.
from Raw Japan:
Eleven years ago I sat near a high school-aged Daisuke Matsuzaka as he used field glasses to watch a Japan-MLB All-Star game at the end of both leagues' seasons.
I wrote a story based on that image about Japanese wanting to know "How good are we?" It was a question encompassing more than sport, as the same doubts existed for Japan in terms of corporate or diplomatic might, while the way the nation usually measured itself was in comparison to the U.S.
The 2009 baseball season, which began with Matsuzaka and Ichiro Suzuki leading Japan to its second World Baseball Classic title and ended with Hideki Matsui winning the World Series MVP in helping the New York Yankees to the crown, hasn't ended that self-assessment. Instead it has widened it to "How good can we be?"
Matsui, whose decision to leave the Yomiuri Giants at the end of the 2002 was broadcast live across the island nation, hit a grand slam in his first New York home game but has been hobbled by injuries in seven seasons that may have made his Series heroics a Yankees coda.
Ichiro, who set the record in 2009 for most consecutive MLB seasons with 200 hits and delivered the winning RBI in the WBC title game, is the greatest baseball export Japan has produced so far, but his zen approach to hitting and perceived statistics orientation have not always resonated with fans or teammates.
Matsui, meanwhile, nicknamed "Godzilla" in high school for his power display at the national baseball championship, is less polished and a little more rough and ready. But he's a player that nary a cross word has been said or written about, rather a "slugging salaryman" portrayal whose team focus is absolute, who even hit his sixth game Series homer to the Komatsu banner in rightfield.
An MLB-insider told me after Game Six of the World Series: "Ichiro Suzuki will be elected into the Hall of Fame, Hideki Matsui will not. But Ichiro will never achieve what Matsui did last night."
Ichiro may not, but another Japanese player may, as the once distant fields of dreams across the Pacific have grown closer thanks to the countrymen's feats in 2009, with Japan's questions about how it rates becoming easier to answer.