Did the pink bats help Braden’s perfect game?
Posted on May 19, 2010
Pink bats sit in the bat rack in the Tampa Bay Rays dugout before the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland Athletics on Sunday, May 9, 2010, at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Athletics defeated the Rays 4-0. (Photo by Brad Mangin/MLB Photos)
Last week I wrote about the amazing opportunity I had to photograph Dallas Braden’s Perfect Game on Mother’s Day. It was easily one of the most thrilling and nerve-wracking events I have ever shot on assignment. It gets better and better as time goes on and I look back and realize how lucky I was to be able to witness one of only 19 perfectos to be thrown in Major League history. Much has been written about this special day, but one thing has not been mentioned in writing until now. Did the pink bats have anything to do with the Tampa Bay Rays feeble ability to muster any kind of offensive attack against Braden?
The other night I was at the wonderful memorial service for legendary rock and roll photographer Jim Marshall in San Francisco when I ran into my friend and terrific young visual story-teller Brian Pollzzie. Brian was shooting the end of the perfect game near me on the first base side of the backstop and we started to talk about the special day and the excitement surrounding it. Brian was a terrific ballplayer in college and knows the game as well as anyone. I love talking ball with Brian because I always learn something new from him. While we were chatting we talked about the distraction involved with swinging a pink bat in the big league game. Could this have messed up any of the Rays hitters? After all, it would have taken just one good swing to break up the perfect game and rob us all of witnessing history.
2010 marked the fifth year in a row that hundreds of Major League ballplayers stepped up to the plate during games on Mother’s Day wielding pink bats to call attention to breast cancer and raise funds for breast cancer education and research through the Major League Baseball Cancer Initiative. This is a wonderful cause and every year the number of pink items that ballplayers use and wear during the day grow in numbers. Besides the bats this year the players wore pink batting gloves and wristbands.
On Mother’s Day I was on assignment for Major League Baseball. My main objective was to shoot tons of stock images of the Rays, since they had the best record in baseball and they are a dome team that plays very few games outdoors in the sunshine. I was also directed to cover the heck out of the pink bats. Major League Baseball gets a lot of use from these photographs as they use them year-round to promote this special cause. I love having a specific assignment so I was ready to shoot everything involving the pink bats that I could see before and during the game.
There was no batting practice as it rained in the morning, so I was ready to be all over the Rays dugout before the game when the players came out with their pink bats to get ready for the game. The players were loose before the game, especially Willy Aybar and Evan Longoria. I shot pink bats in the bat rack. I shot guys holding their pink bats. By the time the game started I was ready to shoot everyone using the pink bats in the game.
It wasn’t til the top of the 6th inning when I realized we had a perfect game going on, and that is when I abandoned the original assignment and turned my attention to Dallas Braden. Up til that point it seemed that pretty much every hitter in the Rays lineup had used the pink bats, and they continued to do so til the 27th out had been made by Gabe Kapler. Braden finished off his Perfect Game with ease. He had complete command of all his pitches and deserves all the accolades he has received. I still wonder though, how comfortable were the Rays hitters standing in the batter’s box wielding brand-new shiny pink bats?
I know both teams used the pink bats on this day and the A’s seemed to have no problem putting some hits together against Rays starter James Shields. I know it would freak me out if for one day a year I switched t0 a bright pink Canon EOS-1D Mark IV camera body with a matching pink 400mm 2.8 lens. Sure the camera and lens would have the same controls and function the same as my regular gear, but it would definitely take some getting used to and take me out of my comfort zone.
No one asked the Rays after the game if the pink bats might have thrown their offensive attack off kilter at all. It would also be bad form for the Rays to come forward and complain about the bats for many reasons. On a day like May 9, 2010 it was best for everyone to heap praise on Braden for the masterpiece he threw. But you have to wonder. Did the pink bats help?