Candid Camera: Insider view of spring training offers rare and unique ballplayer photos
Updated: Jul 4, 2021
BEFORE YOU START SCROLLING, please absorb this overriding point: Spring training is serious business for Major League Baseball players.
For many, it’s the most important time of the year, a roughly six-week period when they're either preparing for the rigors of a 162-game season or competing for an Opening Day roster job that pays a no-chump-change minimum salary, this year $570,500.
But spring training isn't all work and drills.
It's also a time for players to unwind and relax and have a little fun -- from juggling baseballs and goofing off with their Photo Day name tags to playing with remote-control cars and offering Oscar predictions.
I saw all of that and more in 15 years as a Miami Marlins beat writer. And, to the occasional consternation of those on the observed end, I captured some of it on my smartphone.
(That’s Jeff Conine pelting me with sunflowers seeds when I attempted a selfie with him in 2012. You'll see him again, in a video below, as he takes a bat to my camera lens.)
Since the COVID-19 pandemic is putting the kibosh on traditional interactions between players and fans and reporters this month and next, I'm dumping my files and sharing the best of my Spring Training photos.
What follows are some favorite images, including spontaneous shots that, despite being blurry or crooked or missing half a face, represent a unique moment in baseball time.
Also included are cameos of my colleagues, along with people who worked anonymously behind the scenes at the ballpark -- Joan, Roger and JW, to name a few.
Don't expect to read stories behind every frame. This gallery is a flash of images, some depicting subjects or inside jokes that will likely be lost on the viewer: An unfinished cigar (placed in a hiding spot by its owner, Marlins manager Jack McKeon). Infield coach Perry Hill drawing a cartoon of a leg bone on a piece of masking tape (a respected defensive strategy tool.) New York Post reporter Kevin Kernan with a great catch (a wayward lizard in the Mets' Port St. Lucie media room). The orange traffic cones blocking access to the two parking spots (belonging to the Marlins' owner and team president) closest to the clubhouse entrance.
Or one of my all-time favorites, Miami Herald reporter Clark Spencer lowering the Canadian flag at half staff outside the clubhouse in Jupiter on a February morning in 2010 (to tease a few Canadian-born Marlins staff members mourning their country's loss to the United States in a Winter Olympics hockey game a day earlier.)
You'll also see cameos from Sandy Koufax, Joe Namath and Will McEnany (actually, you only see McEnany's fingers, holding the modest championship ring he earned as a pitcher for the 1975 Cincinnati Reds next to the Marlins' gaudy 2003 championship ring.)
Enough of my rambling.
See for yourself.