NEW YORK — I’ve never been the type to take a bunch pictures. But before this season started, I tried to remind myself to snap a few, especially now that camera phones make it easier than ever. All of the photos were taken with my iPhone camera. You can also click to enlarge any of them.
Countdown to 600
As Alex Rodriguez approached the milestone, I covered games from the left field stands, hoping to get a story about the guys in charge of finding the fan who caught the historic ball — and the process of bribing them for it. For these fans, it was a fruitless night. And for me, it was a fruitless story idea. After a week of watching from left field, A-Rod finally hit his 600th homer… into the netting above Monument Park.
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One of my favorite Grapefruit League stops is McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla., spring home of the Pirates. The ballpark is one of the oldest on the circuit, but I say that in a good way. The press box is so close to home plate that it’s pretty common for foul balls to come screaming back there, leaving craters in the wall, including this one by former Yankee Melky Cabrera. And sure enough, on this trip, one of the beat writers almost got smoked by a foul ball that crashed just inches from his laptop.
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The Yankees PR staff brought an old chalkboard from the original Yankee Stadium into the new place. The still use it to post the starting lineups before every game. But when we returned to the press box for the first time, the lineups from Game 6 of the previous season’s World Series were still written on the board.
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White House visit
Because the Yankees won the championship, President Obama invited the team to the White House, which meant the reporters got to come along. Most of us arrived early enough to kill some time, so we took turns standing behind the podium in the briefing room. But the coolest part of the trip took place under the briefing room. FDR had an indoor swimming pool put in down there which has since been converted into a storage room. But on the walls are the signatures of the reporters throughout the years who have been lucky enough to cover an event at the White House. My signature is on the tile above the staircase leading down into the room.
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One of the coolest perks to this job is getting to play in the annual games against the Red Sox media. I took this photo from my defensive position in right field. Sadly, I didn’t get a hit, though I did send a hard liner to deep left that the outfielder ran down. We beat them badly in this game, though Boston got their revenge, as my two stolen bases were hardly enough to keep us from getting blown out in the return match at Yankee Stadium.
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At the office
With so many new stadiums around baseball, most of the press boxes are pretty awesome. That said, it’s tough to find one better than the one in Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The press box sits just above the first level of seats and directly behind home plate, offering a pretty view of the Baltimore skyline and the park’s signature warehouse overlooking right field. Since the park opened, no player has yet to hit the warehouse on the fly during an actual game.
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Pages of cubes
The season runs from February to as late as November and the writers covering a team spend most of that time together. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to pick up some weird things about people. For instance, I have one colleague who is mortified of birds, another who carries hand sanitizer with him wherever he goes, and another who seemingly fills every dead minute of a baseball game filling his notebook with cubes.
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Anybody seen my helmet?
So, I’ve got a big head. Actually, my cap size is 7 1/4, which is pretty damn average. But I’m told by a friend on the beat that my head is simply misshapen, thus creating the illusion that it is much bigger than it is. Whatever the reason, it hasn’t stopped the guys from giving me hard time, which is why one of them taped my name to an oversized batting helmet that sits atop a trashcan in the Diamondbacks press box. About five weeks later, I got emails from a few friends on the Mets beat, telling me that the tape was still on the helmet.
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The Classic Ballparks get plenty of love. It’s hard to dispute the charm of Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. But Dodger Stadium, in its own way, has become a classic as well. The media entrance is high above home plate and offers a perfect view of the beautiful surroundings. It also helps that the Dodgers put in the time and money to keep the place looking good after all these years. The stadium was originally built so it could easily be expanded if needed. That would have turned the place into a concrete ashtray. Fortunately, it never happened.
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Another bonus that comes with covering the team is the annual stop back home in the Bay Area. Actually, this season, the schedule-makers were kind, giving the Yankees two trips to Oakland. I grew up about 30 minutes away from the park and always stay at my parents’ house. It’s a chance for me and my mom to hang out. The last couple of times, she has taught me how to make some of the traditional Filipino dishes she made for us as kids. Before I arrived, she made sure to stock the freezer with some mango ice cream (a personal favorite) She’s the best.
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Brick by brick
I have a thing for Legos, and apparently, so does one of the clubhouse attendants at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Several times this season, he has created mosaics made of Legos in honor of several players, including the Yankees’ Core Four. In this case, Jorge Posada was kind enough to autograph the work. The rest of this particular mosaic also includes Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte (though my iPhone camera couldn’t capture it).
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My first stop whenever we go to Kansas City is Gates Bar-B-Q. There are plenty of other great barbeque places in K.C. but Gates was the first place I tried when I visited for the first time about 10 years ago and it has stuck with me. I love the fact that when you walk in the person behind the counter is instructed to yell “HI, MY I A HELP YOU?” It’s intimidating if you’ve never been. Get the mixed plate. You won’t regret it.
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Happens once a year (at least)
Years of misspelled press passes have convinced me that I have the trickiest short name ever. Even my closest friends occasionally send me emails that begin with “Hey Mark.” When I check into road hotels, I get a kick out of hearing the people behind the counter call me “Mr. Craig,” only to look at it again and apologize for their mistake. Anyway, that Marc Craig fella had a pretty good seat at Tropicana Field.
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There have been some great ballparks built in the last decade though there aren’t many that top the Twins’ brand new Target Field. The ballpark has all the bells and whistles of the new parks, but it retains a cozy feel, especially when it’s packed. I love the high right field fence and the materials they used for the stadium facade. Unlike some of the newer parks in baseball, when you stand on the field and look out, there’s no mistaking where you are.
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