If you are still deciding what to do with your vacation this year let me make a suggestion -- a major league baseball game.
Now some of you may be saying, well I don't really like baseball, and some may be running to your spouse saying look honey this article agrees with me.
My wife Kara and I always enjoyed going to see the Fredericton Canadiens. Not just for the hockey, but for the atmosphere. We liked the music, giveaways, and it is always interesting seeing how the audience reacts to the action.
Well on our week off in June we joined some family in the opportunity to go to Cleveland and see the Indians play the Chicago White Sox at Jacobs Field. Cleveland's modern open air stadium has endless atmosphere and comforts that add to the excitement of the game.
Prior to the start of the game there was a heavy rain fall. To my surprise I looked in the stadium to see an army of workers wiping down every one of the 43,000 plus seats by hand. Now that's service.
But the comforts didn't stop there.
We were fortunate enough to be on the second level in what is called club seating, and this gave us access to a large cafeteria style restaurant at anytime during the game. It offered fresh, hot, good food that was cooked right in front of you. We took full advantage of this prior to the game, and also the wonderful air conditioning, since that day the temperature was around 30 degrees with a 100 per cent humidity.
The game got started by diving into the traditions, the echoing sound of the announcing of the opening line up, the woman's beautiful voice that sang the national anthem, right down to the chosen one to deliver the opening pitch, (who happened to be Indians second baseman Roberto Alomar's fiancee, French Open champion Mary Pierce).
Now I had an advantage over some that will go to these games. I had a press pass. This allowed me to roam anywhere in the stadium, taking photos of whatever I liked. I took full advantage of this and spent the first three innings in the photographer's pit at field level by first base.
I definitely have more elbow room to shoot at Royals Field, but part of the atmosphere for me was to be jockeying for position inside that pit. In there was a full size television camera, two news video cameras and about 10 other still photographers, and that was just on our side of the field.
You may have noticed, watching a game on TV, that the lenses photographer's use to shoot these games are huge. Due to restrictions with carry-on luggage and the fact that I don't own one, I was left feeling a little under-equipped. With that said, I still felt I had the adequate tools I needed for the job. You know ... it's not how big the lens is, it's how you use it.
Still, I couldn't help feeling a bit of lens envy.
Conversation in the pit is at a minimum, unless you are in ``the group'' of regulars. Being a photographer for the last 12 years, I know photographers can be moody, territorial, and to gain their respect you have to prove yourself. So since no one knew me, I knew any conversation would have to be initiated by me. When a Sox outfielder landed flat on his face as he missed a catch, the trainer ran out on the field only to be met by the embarrassed fielder. I turned to the photographer next to me and said, ``I think the only thing hurt on that guy is his ego.''
The response I got was a small chuckle and a simple ``Yeah.''
That was pretty much my most positive conversation in the pit. At the beginning of the fourth inning I took this opportunity leave my new friends and roam around the stadium and take in the ambiance of it and the audience.
As I rode the escalator to the top level, I enjoyed the view and tried not to look over the edge as it climbed up and up. Behind the upper seats is a great open air deck, with concession stands, memorabilia tables, and monitors showing the game, and to top it all a great view of Cleveland.
After doing a little roaming and shooting I thought it's time for that famous ball park hotdog, so I headed back to my seat. Once there my nephew Peter and I shared in the experience of the ball park dog. Smothered with ketchup and with a cola chaser, it hit the spot.
Our seats were just above first base which gave a great view of not only the field and players, but the skyscrapers of Cleveland just outside the stadium. It was interesting to think that the number of fans in this stadium, was just shy of the population of Fredericton.
I found the first four innings a little slow. I came to cheer the Indians to victory, but they had been ahead 1-0 since Roberto Alomar scored in the first inning. Since then nothing was really happening, until the beginning of the fifth.
By the end of the top of the fifth The White Sox had scored three runs, and that changed the game and the audience. The cheers were there for the local team to make a comeback, but nothing happened until the bottom of the eighth, when Alomar and Fryman both scored. The 3-3 tie would continue through the ninth, causing an extra inning.
Disappointed Cleveland fans watch in the top of the tenth as White Sox's Ray Durham plowed one over the center field wall. With half an inning to go, the Indians just couldn't pull it off and Chicago won 4-3.
A win by the Indians would have been the icing on the cake for that evening at the ball park, but all the extras that go with the game and the fever of the audience makes you feel like a winner anyway.
As I sit here finishing this story, I wonder how long it will be before I receive that letter from my buddies in the photographer's pit, saying how much they miss our deep conversations. In all fairness, we were all there to do a job, and I did have a great time.
And now I know what Drew Carey has been talking about all of these years ... Cleveland rocks! .
Photos and Story by Stephen MacGillivray
Photo Descriptions: Starting at top, a sell out crowd fills Cleveland's Jacobs Field during a ball game between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox on June 13, 2000. Down and to the left, Jacobs field workers wipe down every one of the 43,000 plus seats after a heavy rain. Down at to the right, Peter Hall enjoys a ball park hotdog, and click on these three thumbnails to see the action of the players in the ball game. If you would like to see how this looked layed out in the paper click here.