Waiting on Pegula

For the first and last two weeks of the season the hottest topic around Dwyer Stadium that every long time and new fan alike are begging for an answer to is simple, will we have a team next season, are we done, is this it, is the longest serving team in the NY-Penn League disappearing with the likes of Utica, Oneonta, St. Catherines and all the rest who could not keep up with the big city markets?

The answer is simple yet worrisome, nobody knows.

Batavia is not only one of the only two remaining teams of the original six in the league, the other being the Jamestown Jammers owned by Bob Rich of Rich Products who also owns the Buffalo Bisons along with other affiliated teams, it is the birthplace of the NY-Penn League.  Yes, the league was formed at a hotel that has long been torn down, and now fans wonder if the team is also going to soon be a faint memory of what was in this small city in between their Triple-A counterparts in Rochester and Buffalo.  Looking at where the team will end up means you have to take a look at where they currently sit and how they got here.

SAVIORS:

The fact the team still exists is thanks to the Rochester Red Wings, Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins and neighbors about thirty minutes north, who took over operations of the team just before the 2008 season trying to make due with a newly hired general manager that quickly was shown the door leaving questions of not only what he did in the months leading up to the season, but how he was ever hired in the first place.  Though many are not fans of how the Red Wings operate the Muckdogs and the belief single-A can not be run like triple-A, there is a simple fact that without them the team would probably be long gone.

To that extent, fans owe the Red Wings a huge debt of gratitude.  The Red Wings will leave with more than just a thank you however, they stand to make a nice profit the day the Muckdogs are sold.  Rochester is owned by local stockholders, so a long term commitment to a team that is struggling is out of the question, the patience and money is not there.  So with that the question becomes who is the right fit, who would keep our team in Western New York, and not only that but make it profitable?

PEGULA TEST:

Yes, the Muckdogs can be profitable in the city of Batavia!  Fortunately we have someone just up I-90 who we can create an evaluation of the type of person needed based on Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula; unfortunately though he has absolutely no interest at all in owning a struggling baseball franchise.  Let’s face it, our beloved Muckdogs are a tough sell, they can not skate very well, most have some nice teeth, and if you say drop the gloves there’s at least a minute of confused silence.  However, it does not mean we can not use what he has done and compare, in other words a new owner should pass the “Pegula Test”.

Mr. Pegula is an owner who came into Buffalo and noticed immediate things that needed to be updated for both the fans and players, he spent enough to buy the Muckdogs on locker room improvements alone, he knew the history of the Rochester connection and purchased the Amerks as well to rekindle the old fire, in other words he was not afraid to invest and make the game of hockey better for the cities of Buffalo and Rochester.  Considering how many Western New Yorkers share the hockey passion it is common sense that this is exactly the type of owner we need in Batavia, but for baseball.

Simple fact is the Muckdogs have fell behind and ownership has nobody to blame but themselves.  As a minor league lifer spending the last fourteen years traveling the country from big cities to small rural towns, it’s clear why the team is struggling and showing losses year after year.  No it is not a former General Manager as is often the scape goat by some, no it is not the community who does not support the team, no it’s not the Red Wings, it is all at the top and has been since at least the mid-90’s when the stadium was built.  That is why Batavia needs an owner that can pass the “Pegula Test”, one that can see the problems and fix them, not pass blame or expect someone else to fix it while they watch and take credit.

9th INNING:

From the outside looking in the Muckdogs problems are troublesome to a potential buyer who would want to keep the team in town.  The team loses money each season, attendance is low, the stadium needs upgrades, the market is smaller than most others in the league, there’s just no guarantee of success.  Looking deeper though, this could actually be more of an opportunity than a let down, let’s explore…

Sale price could be very friendly to an owner who will keep the team in Batavia.  The Red Wings have insisted they want to help the sale of the team to someone who will commit to keeping them the Batavia Muckdogs, not someone who wants to pack up and move to West Virginia.  In other words, motivated sellers.

– New investments can lead to new opportunities.  It’s no secret that Dwyer Stadium was built in the mid-90’s where boring and lifeless were the key ingredients, they took a historic yet falling apart stadium and replaced it with new but drab.  Though a new stadium with a historic feel would best fit Batavia, much of what needs to be done is minor and could improve the atmosphere immensely.  New stadiums routinely increase attendance 30-40%, offers many opportunities for naming rights that the team currently does not have, basically investment sparks interest from fans and businesses alike who want to be part of the action.  A new owner who will make that up front investment can work backwards, the opportunities are there almost untapped.

– Batavia is almost like a new franchise, yes that’s hard to believe given they are the oldest team in the league, however the gap of people who are clueless about the Muckdogs or who they are is astonishing!  For the past fifteen or so years the approach has been to announce the team is there and hope people show up, community outreach is minimal, ties to schools and kids is non-existent.  If you ask around most high school players think the team is made up of local players, not professional athletes.  It’s a fresh market but with the benefit of already having a loyal fan base and one of the most marketable names and logos.

– Currently the only draw at Dwyer is the games themselves, including collegiate and high school games.  There’s no meeting rooms, one office, no indoor batting cages to rent in the cold winter, they are almost literally locked down for at least five months out of the year.  Stadium improvements and additions could fix this problem making it a location that can be used all year long which increases revenue.

– New ownership can send the message loud and clear, the old days are over!  New ownership that invests in the team, the community really, sparks interest where the message can be crafted to fit what they plan to do with the team.  This of course should be making the Muckdogs an integral part of the community!  No, the Muckdogs will never draw 5-6,000 fans per game, but 2,000-2,500 is within reach along with increasing revenue from other improvements and marketing in a virtually untapped market.

LAST AT BAT:

The Batavia Muckdogs are on deck for their last at bat with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.  Nobody knows when that final out will be recorded, nobody knows if going into 2013 is the symbolic final walk to the plate, for all anyone knows the Muckdogs could be watching that final out from the on deck circle never getting a chance to step in the box and take their final hack under new leadership.

When it comes down to it the only word that can be used to describe the situation is sad, it’s sad to think the team may end up with the likes of Hornell, Bradford, Niagara Falls, and Olean – original NY-Penn League teams that no longer exist.  What’s sadder though is the fact that it was not the community who failed Batavia, it was the last fifteen years of ownership that did not see the changes around minor league baseball failing to keep up with the times, it was their conscience effort that let down the community.

We will never know when that last swing will take place, or if it already has, so for now Muckdogs fans sit patiently in the on deck circle wondering if there’s a chance to take that one big hack to knock it out of the park.  Yes, it’s sad that unless enough to buy the team and improve the stadium is found in my seat cushions, a new owner comes along that passes the “Pegula Test”, or someone has a direct line to Oprah, we may never find out, that fans will be the saddest of all, never having that chance!

So in the end it comes down to if the Muckdogs will limp away with head down held low because of poor decisions made the last fifteen or so years, or if someone new will emerge and put a shot in the arm to not only save the team but help the Western New York community, the Batavia community, to make the team a center point of a small city that so desperately needs the pick me up, question remains where is our Terry Pegula?

———————–

Want to help? Head on over to www.muckdogs.com and pick up some new threads or other merchandise, soon the Booster Club application will be online, or for business owners look to sponsor the team as they can work with any business, any size, in any capacity!

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Mike Janes is the COO of Four Seam Images LLC – a minor league image wire and partner of AP Images; CEO of Resolute Images – a WNY based sports photography service; Owner of Mike Janes Photography LLC covering sports all over the country for several media outlets; contact him at mjanes@fourseamimages.com

REWARD: Missing – Two RBI’s

Perez, Audry 71110-009(Janes).jpg

Strange thing happened to Batavia Muckdogs catcher Audry Perez (above) on the ride home from division foe Auburn on Thursday night, apparently the bus driver took a hard turn leaving town and two of his RBI’s from the nights 8-3 victory fell off along the way.  

In the 5th inning the St. Louis Cardinals prospect hit a fly ball to left field where Auburn outfielder Yeico Aponte lost the ball in the deep sky, letting it drop at least 10 feet away, which in turn allowed Colin Walsh and Nick Longmire to score on the play.  Initially for those of us following along online and on the radio it was scored a hit with two RBI’s.  The final box score gave Perez 5 RBI’s on the night….until Friday when it was changed to 3 RBI’s.  
Official rules state an error can be given on a fly ball when the fielder does not touch the ball, as long as“the fielder could have handled the ball with ordinary effort”.  

The question then becomes, what is ordinary effort?  

No fear, the rules state it “is the effort that a fielder of average skill at a position in that league or classification of leagues should exhibit on a play, with due consideration given to the condition of the field and weather conditions.”

So, with these definitions a fielder losing the ball in a deep sky should classify as weather conditions, after all he was giving an effort to catch the ball and just lost it in the sky – similar to Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner who had the same thing happen during his at bat, except he was awarded an in the park home run.

The official scorer thought it was a hit…or so he thought.  

Somewhere in the hours following the game the scoring was changed, and from all accounts from those that made the trip to Auburn for the game, it was an unjust change in the statistics.  By giving Aponte the error they are officially saying he did not make an effort to catch the ball, as per the definitions.  

This is the second case for a Batavia player to lose out with a change, with the first instance being a hit.  During the Tri-City series Batavia’s Jonathan Rodriguez legged out an infield single and advanced on a throwing error.  During the game he was awarded a hit, however, after the game the ruling was changed to an error and Rodriguez hit was erased.  

There has been no explanation of where the hit and RBI’s went or why the scoring change occurred.  The Muckdogs can, and should, ask for clarification from the MiLB stats team so that it’s clear as to why Perez was stripped of a hit and 2 RBI’s on the ride home…

…or of course return them to their rightful owner.


Don’t have to travel far to see a prospect

Stepping down from coaching after last season has left me with a lot more time to cover players ranging from 8th graders moved up to the JV squad to the major leagues, with every stop in between including Junior College, D1, D2, D3, Independent and Minor Leagues.  So far over 2,700 players have been photographed from all over the country.  One simple pleasure in all of this baseball is covering the local leagues including Genesee, Livingston, and Monroe County on days off from pro teams.  Last night was not only a chance to see two very good teams, but to see Chris “Cito” Culver of Irondequoit who came into the season ranked as one of the top 100 prospects in the nation among high school players according to Baseball America.  

Now, photographing a player and trying to evaluate them at the same time can be difficult.  While looking through the viewfinder you miss all the key points because that’s what you’re trying to capture, you hope your shutter is closed at those points in time.  In an old sports photographers saying, “if you saw the play – you missed the shot”.  However, it is very simple to notice when a player sticks out, especially at the amateur level where they’re a step above the rest.  As a photographer you have to pick up your speed a bit as well, know his reactions are quicker, etc.  So take the below as is, a photographers limited view through one game.  

Let’s lead off with talent.  Arriving for infield/outfield the first thing that jumped out was Culver’s hands – fast, quick exchange, with the foot work to back it up.  His arm strength has never been a question as he pitches in the low 90’s – though he won’t see the mound past high school, it’s always a good option for a player to have in his back pocket.  From the left side he has good bat speed and the back hip explodes through that gives him power to all fields, at least in this game where he got a triple to left before pulling a home run out a few innings later.  When speaking on just talent it’s obvious why he received a 10/10 rating from Perfect Game.  

However, baseball is a game of more than just talent.  This is a game where everyone who is lucky enough to work, be it as a player, coach, team staff, umpire, writer, photographer, etc., will tell you the speeches in Bull Durham about respect for the game are no joke.  With Culver it was blatant to see what type of player he is, and a week after being sorely disappointed with a player who signed a major league contract and how he carried himself, it was refreshing to have the faith that is baseball reinstalled by a local player.  Culver carried himself in every situation just like any coach wants, be it a big home run, an error, a bad bounce or just simply having some fun in the dugout he passed every test with flying colors.  

Culver has signed a letter of intent with Maryland but given his skill and make up I question if he’ll ever put the uniform on as teams may want to get him in the organization quick.  At this time, Culver reminds me of a more athletic Pedro Alvarez, but obviously not as polished as the former 1st rounder was coming out of Vanderbilt – that could change over a few years of college ball.  His swing from the left is very similar and offers power, he could hang in the middle infield but given he will more than likely bulk up a bit a move to third or the OF is not out of question.  My prediction is not bold, he’ll be taken in the top 10 rounds, with my random guess saying the 7th. 

Along with other Section 5 galleries!

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Culver throwing to first during infield practice.

CAID 51010-237(Janes).JPGAttempting to turn a double play. 

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Hitting a triple to right.

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Home run to right field.

No photos for you…

It’s the start of the regular season so that means it’s the start of stocking up on images people will be asking for all year long, hopefully.  You’ll see them on trading cards, magazines, newspapers, web sites, programs, schedules, DVD’s, just to mention a few.  The great thing about that is all the places you will see my, or any Four Seam Images, images is that they will be paid for by the company using them – none of them will be handed over free.  In fact, if you check out our site it says no free usage on every single page so nobody will contact us asking for free images…right?

Quick and easy answer is no, they’ll keep asking and we’ll keep on denying them.  I get these emails often in every aspect of sports photography, be it baseball oriented with FSI, high school, college, or just stuff I shoot on my own and post to my PhotoShelter account so potential paying clients can find it.  Each e-mail is eerily similar like it was passed around as the how to on getting free work.  

Each of them contains all the basics…

1) It will be good publicity.  Well, the simple two words I want to say to this are not family friendly so I will go politically correct and just say that’s a lie.  Nobody is looking at the byline except friends and family, and they’re usually the first in line to ask you to work for nothing!  You talk to any editor and they could care less about where you’ve been published!  Good editors care about the work you do and if you meet their needs, not your tear sheets.  There’s a few photographers that are part of FSI that I can honestly say I have no clue where they’ve been published except for the usage that has gone through us.  There’s a few new photographers that started within the last week or two and I can not honestly name one publication they were in because we judged them off their portfolio and if they knew Photo Mechanic along with having the gear to shoot in bigger stadiums, not client list.  The publicity offered for a third party using my work does not exist.  

2) We’ll give you credit!   This of course goes along with the publicity factor.  I don’t know where in history this became something to trade images for but whoever first proposed it must be put away for life, if they’re still alive.  Of course you’ll give me credit, I created the work!  Since when is it a privilege to be given credit for something I created?  Watch any TV show, or movie, or buy a CD or DVD – all involved are getting paid and guess what, they’re all getting credit for their work!

These same people offering credit are the ones who put their name first in any creation.  Want proof, check out a teams program.  The SID or media director in charge is always first in the credits, and rightfully so.  Of course you should remember they were on the clock and getting paid for putting that creation together so they’re being paid while expecting us to work free.

3) We don’t have a budget.  Again I’d like to use those two simple words but will stay PC.  This is short term thinking by the person asking in two ways.  First is they didn’t think ahead to budget for the project the year before when they should have been putting in the numbers and planning.  Second is they want cheap or free and don’t think of the old saying “you get what you pay for”.  Cheap/free usually, not always, equals low quality – that in turn equals not as good products – that in turn creates less desire for the product – which in turns leads to less people buying.  The simple fact is another old business saying, “you have to spend money to make money”. 

Try this excuse with anyone else, seriously!  Walk into the car dealership and say you want the new Lexus but don’t have the budget; go down to the local sub shop and say you want a 12″ sub loaded but don’t have the budget; call the gas and electric company and tell them you want their service but don’t have the budget; tell the IRS you’d love to pay your taxes but don’t have the budget!  Good luck with it, honestly, maybe you’ll let me have a bite of the sub while driving the Lexus.  

Response: It’s easy, I’m a professional photographer and my work is worth something.  If you want to use my work then you’re paying a fair amount for it – not over priced, but fair.   I like my job, though it’s not easy, very stressful, and only about 15% of the time is actually creating images, I still like it and would like to continue to do it.  You want me to work for free so I can’t pay my bills and that would leave me searching for a new job because your short sightedness left me unemployed.  NO THANKS!

Now, this is just for those emails asking for one time random usage – doesn’t even discuss the rates people ask photographers to work for, pennies on the hour that would violate any labor law if we were given such rights to begin with.  That I will add to this in the next few days to address some other issues that come up. 

Fittingly, I will not post any images this entry…

Spring Training winding down…

It’s going on week six of Spring Training and there have been over 60 teams covered in collegiate and professional baseball over that span, with still at least a week to go!  So far in post only a small percentage has been put online and things have gotten behind a good amount with no end in site so this post will be short and sweet!  

An extremely slow internet connection dragging tasks out along with a non-stop schedule have made this spring interesting.  The shooting aspect has been great, the colleges could not have been better, along with seeing those I get to see in the regular season down here has made it all worth it.  Put on top of being able to shoot along side some of my favorite photographers at some games/photo days in David Schofield and Tom DiPace it’s been a great time!  Both of them are reasons I got into photography some 12 years ago now.  I got to meet David my first year with the Batavia Muckdogs and he gave some great advice to a newbie, while Tom’s images in USA Today and several other publications were always an inspiration. 

Only problem is falling behind, so next year will make some changes and see if that can improve post time.  I knew before coming down things would be difficult and build up, however, even the priority games post work that needed to be done immediately dragged out a bit longer than expected for several reasons.  Hopefully a few changes will speed that up next year and be able to deliver quicker and leave some time to relax as well, which have yet to do this spring working almost all hours of the day, every day, in catch up mode.  Of course though would rather be busy than not! 

Randomly pulled some images with the who, what, where’s below…

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Long Island Blackbirds right fielder Julian Castro attempts a diving catch.
Lake Myrtle Park in Auburndale, FL (outside Lakeland) 

Hackett, Mike 32110-0001(Janes).JPGGenesee Community College pitcher Mike Hackett delivers a pitch.
Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL – former home of the LA Dodgers

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Former Indians/Mets organization pitcher Jim Ed Warden delivers a pitch
while playing for the Long Island Storm, an independent league travel team.
Warden and others will start with the indie leagues this year and look to
get picked up, the way several of them played/pitched there is good
opportunity for that to happen, hopefully not too long into the season!

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Comedian/Actor Jerry Seinfeld was on hand at some Mets games with
his family.  There was no sign of George, Elaine, or Kramer.  However,
the Soup Nazi did make several appearances over the loud speaker.

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NY Mets David Wright gets fully extended while playing an exhibition game
vs. the Michigan Wolverines in Port St. Lucie, FL at Tradition Field.

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Former Batavia Muckdog Colt Sedbrook getting extended on a hit
during an intrasquad scrimmage in Jupiter, FL

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Derek Norris sliding in during a game vs. Houston, he was safe on the play.

Back to baseball, waiting for regulation!

After a break from baseball for at least one night at the Dropkick Murphys show it was back to baseball, and since I have yet to create an entry focusing on the game it’s due time.  Yesterday was a college game with Central Michigan visiting Central Florida.  CMU came out on top by the score of 7-4 with the last inning a bit of a nail biter.  Today was back to professional baseball with the Twins playing the Orioles, who are now making their home in Sarasota after a move from Ft. Lauderdale.

For those that don’t know the Reds left Sarasota to a new home in Arizona for several reasons including the lack of updates to the stadium.  Well, for photographers a badly needed update is due in the construction of a photo well, any photo well!  The last photo in series below shows how photographers are situated on the field with no protection.  The dugouts are unprotected just the same leaving players in harms way as well.  Players for the most part are paying attention to every pitch, but not always considering the happenings going on around them at modern day games that provide a much different atmosphere than twenty years ago.  Photographers on the other hand could be focusing anywhere on the field to get the shot to do their job and not watching the ball every pitch leaving them unaware if a ball or bat is screaming towards them.  I cannot count how many close calls I see a season from either a photographer shooting the opposite direction or simply not paying attention.  You hear it on TV watching the games with announcers joking about how a screamer sends the dugout or photographers scurrying but one of these times may not be so funny. 

The tragic death of Mike Coolbaugh should have served more of a lesson to all teams at every level, but especially professional baseball where players are bigger and stronger than say high school or college.  The question is not if a player on the bench, or a photographer without a well, will get seriously injured, it’s when.  MLB should implement a rule that all dugouts must be protected with fencing like you see throughout most stadiums, and make sure it includes Spring Training sites.  With that dugout fence a photo well of some sort should be placed in each stadium at the end of each dugout, even a cheap make shift one would work better than leaving photographers exposed with nothing to protect them.  Need design ideas?  Ask a photographer, we have plenty!

Onto today’s game…

BaTw-01.jpg

2009 first round draft pick Brian Matusz makes the start for the Orioles.

BaTw-02.jpgBen Revere of the Twins slides into third safely on a triple.

BaTw-03.jpgBrandon Snyder gets the throw from the pitcher on a pick off attempt.

BaTw-04.jpgFormer first round draft pick Mike Hinckley delivers for the Orioles.

BaTw-05.jpgSteve Singleton turning a double play.

BaTw-06.jpgPhotographers are left without a photo pit to shoot from.

All Photos copyright Mike Janes Photography 2010 and cannot
be used without express written permission.  Unauthorized use of
images will be pursued to the highest extent of lickable laws😛

Dropkick Murphys provide a break from baseball!

The weather is changing, spring training has kicked in, colleges and high schools are starting their regular season in the warm climate areas, winter clothes are starting to disappear; we all know what that means, so what other way to welcome baseball season than getting your earn drums kicked in at a Dropkick Murphys concert? 

It’s been over two weeks straight of covering baseball with more than thirty teams in the books so a nice break is always in order!  When seeing the Dropkick Murphys would be in town on their warm up tour for the now annual St. Patty’s day concert series that is just important to Boston as the parade it was time to contact Ken Casey (singer/bassist) and get some shots for the band just like the old days. 

Starting in 1999 I had the pleasure of covering the band on several of their tours including the first St. Patty’s day gig.  Currently I’m having hundreds of old negatives scanned from those shows, and those of you who own their album “Sing Loud, Sing Proud” have already seen some of the images in the artwork.  They’ll be online someday in the future! 

Onto the show…

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Strung Out was the warm up band for the Murphs, unfortunately I missed the opening. 

DKM3410-04.JPGDropkick Murphys Al Barr spent much of the show with the crowd as has been a staple for years!  By the end of the show the stage is packed with fans singing along!

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Jeff DeRossa and Tim Breenan of the Dropkick Murphys.

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A fan records the Dropkick Murphys with his cell phone.

DKM3410-13.JPGKen Casey leads the crowd towards the end of the show.

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James Lynch performs with the stage full of fans.

DKM3410-15.JPGAl Barr holds the mic out for the fans to sing along!

DKM3410-17.JPGFans take over the stage as Ken Casey performs.

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Al Barr and Ken Casey finish the set in Tampa.

Images shot with a Mark III and either 24-105 f/4 or 70-200 f/2.8 at ISO 3200 or 6400 with various shutter speeds.  No flash photography allowed at these venues.

The Dropkick Murphys new album, LIVE ON LANSDOWNE, hits streets March 16th.  Visit their official website at http://www.dropkickmurphys.com to pre-order with the chance to win a trip to see the band in Dublin along with several other prizes!

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