Courtesy of Moon Golf Club

Sunday’s Best: The boys are back

CINCINNATI — Something I shared candidly with Dejan Kovacevic as we ate before the 133rd Pittsburgh Baseball Club opener: As I laid in my Cincinnati hotel bed thinking about shooting baseball Thursday ... I wasn't ready for it to start.

I still have so much hockey on the horizon, even if the Penguins don't make a deep run in the upcoming playoffs. That's all I could think about, and shooting baseball just didn't feel right ... yet.

But, then I stood on the field at Great American Ballpark. I watched Yasiel Puig show his character with his new teammates in his new home arena. Yes, "arena" would be the proper term for Puig's ball park, and I mean that with the greatest admiration of his charisma.

[caption id="attachment_798092" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

I watched as Josh Bell took the field just to sit in the grass and watch the Reds finish their batting practice. I watched as the Pirates' own newcomer, Melky Cabrera, joked with Francisco Cervelli over who swung the bat with better results on a field without opponents.

[caption id="attachment_798093" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

I saw a photographer I admire, Aaron Doster, who has eluded me in consecutive trips to cover the Penguins in Columbus. His baseball feature work is phenomenal, and talking with him just helped put me in the mood to share a dugout with the Pirates for the opener.

All of that ... and then Johnny Bench took the field -- as a catcher, of course. Rob Manfred ceremoniously handed a ball to the historically sweet swinging Eric Davis, who then tossed it to Bench for the opening pitch. You know, just a couple of legends kicking off baseball in one of the most storied cities the game has to offer.

[caption id="attachment_798097" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

Davis even faked an arm injury after his quick toss to Bench. I laughed.

There's nothing 50 Cent about the first pitch when it's tossed by former players, by the way. And, I don't mean that referring to the accuracy of the pitch. Davis walked out there, Bench found a spot behind the plate to stand, and they tossed a quick one like they've done it a thousand and one times.

Yeah, I was ready for baseball at that point.

Luckily, it came soon after.

What you see above are a collection of photos from this game, and a few more than normal so I could work in a few from the pre-game ceremonies. My favorite was Francisco Cervelli celebrating Jung Ho Kang's two-run single after he slid home safely. As much as I wasn't rooting for either team, I sure was hoping the Pirates would win so that image could be on top of the site. They didn't, so I get to lead off with that. The rest of my day's favorites follow.

IN THE DUGOUT

This is my fourth Pirates season, third opener (all on the road). And, if you've followed during any of that time, you probably know of my ... obsession ... with shooting the dugout stuff. Players chatting, looking casual with sunglasses, stewing after giving up a home run, etc.

[caption id="attachment_798098" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

I shot a lot of those per usual. Including this photo of Bell, which was another favorite from the game. It wasn't the first baseman's best day. Not in the field, not at the plate. But, as always, he looked good in the dugout for the camera.

In that photo, Bell was looking out as his teammates batted. He didn't look happy. Plenty of time to shoot dreadlocked smiles in a 162 game season, though.

I've owned a Fuji X-T2 camera body for a while now, but I've never used it much for work purposes. It's my camera I use to photograph my cats, my dog, my Molly and whatever else I shoot away from the rink or the field. I take it mostly everywhere.

I didn't shoot that Bell photo with it, but I did have it on me all game. Things were tight in the photo well, as they typically are in an opener, which made it difficult to shoot the Pirates' side. But I plan to put this to use all season -- particularly to shoot the dugout. The reason? I recently picked up a Mitakon 35mm (52mm equivalent) that shoots wide open at f/0.95.

[caption id="attachment_798115" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

That will go over the head of a lot of people unfamiliar with camera lingo, but to summarize ... it's a paper-thin focal plane. I shoot it in full manual mode, and it makes me love photography again in a way that's hard to describe.

Paper. Thin. Take a look at those baseballs. I love it.

This section might seem out of place, but I just wanted to talk about it. In the future, I'll probably collect images I've taken using it and use them in a Sunday's Best. I just wanted to bring it up, show a couple examples and say you should expect to see more of them throughout the season. Especially because I've been asked in Live Qs at 5, on multiple occasions, about shooting mirrorless bodies -- as the X-T2 is.

[caption id="attachment_798117" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

I'm sure there will be a lot more of these mixed into the game images when shooting in the friendly confines of PNC Park back home. Let me know what you think of the style you get from shooting with that camera/lens combo, if you choose.

See you guys and gals in the comments.

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