Hockey was my sport of choice long before I ever knew the impact it would have on my life in the most polar opposites of ways. I make that pretty clear when covering the Penguins and when talking with subscribers in games and in Live Qs sessions.
Something else that I've made abundantly clear is that I honestly love shooting baseball more than everything else that I do at DKPittsburghSports.com.
Make no mistake about it, I understand that my role during the Penguins' season supersedes just about anything else I can do for the company. That's not a knock on our Pirates or Steelers work and my role within those beats, but our commitment to our Penguins coverage led me right into shooting 53 regular season hockey games in 2018-19. That's pretty close to the number of baseball games I shoot in a season with half of the home opportunities.
Building View from Ice Level all season, after introducing it last playoffs, has been just a wonderful experience and I've been brainstorming ways to put more photos in your hands and ways I can have a voice in our coverage when the puck stops dropping on the season.
One way is what you'll find right here. A familiar View from me ... just not necessarily after every game like you see when I shoot at ice level. But, when something happens during the game. Or, if I see something like I did a couple of days ago when I added an entry about Jason Martin smiling at his fiancée into our Live File.
I'll break those moments into a View from the Dugout.
Then, once a week, I'm planning on using "Sunday's Best" as a way to highlight some of the week's best images. It's something I'll be able to work on throughout the week, adding a couple images or anecdotes to my file as I shoot the pros. I love the idea of being able to recap some of the best action, but honestly, and mainly, the portraits and features I don't always have a place to use in our coverage.
For this first View from the Dugout, I wanted to explain ... again ... why I love to shoot baseball so much.
For me, it's all about the camaraderie within the sport. I love the playfulness of the players. I love the way that the English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, Korean-speaking, etc., all find ways to interact with each other beyond words.
I love the corny dugout antics. I love the autographs with the kids before the games. I love the Chris Archer fist pumps and Starling Marte or Gregory Polanco stealing the helmet from a teammate as they enter the dugout following a home run. I love Colin Moran playing with his beard as he leans into the light.
There's a game being played on the field, but the game between me, light and the players in the dugout is the one I prefer to play. I watch, all game, to see when Archer faces the proper direction with his cup of water as he flings the remaining sip into a rainbow of mist with the flick of his wrist.
I watch for Eugenio Suarez, all game, to chew bubble gum so I can capture one of his bubbles at third base. I try to watch for the moments away from the television cameras that make baseball so special to me.
My favorite example of the camaraderie side of the game on Sunday came when Suarez got playful with Marte after Marte smacked a triple off the wall in left center field. Marte took third, Suarez got the ball, pointed to the Pirates' dugout and then went for a fresh update on the hidden ball trick.
Suarez took the ball, peeled Marte's back left pocket away from his pants, slid the ball in and then stepped away laughing. There was no real intent to "catch" Marte with the trick. Time had already been called and a new ball had made its way to the mound. It was all for a laugh, and in a game that needed a bit of camaraderie after a lot of confrontation, but more on that in a minute.
The first photo up top is of Suarez's fun with Marte, and it kicks off a gallery of the game's best images.
ALL HANDS ON DECK
Derek Dietrich is a terror against the Pirates. He was on opening day in Cincinnati. He was again in the series finale against the same team. It's not so much the home run he hit in that opener. It's not so much the first home run he hit in the final game of the Pirates' homestand. It was the way he handled it:
Ok, yeah, the ball traveled forever. I joked on the Live File that it joined his Opening Day home run in orbit as one of Amazon's new internet-providing satellites. But, that wasn't the problem either.
Watch it again, and again. It's hard to tell when Dietrich ceased casting himself in bronze and broke free from his statued form to walk the bases, but he eventually did.
I don't mean to be a broken record about this, with both Hunter Homistek and Dejan Kovacevic writing about it in their respective coverage and column. But it did lead to a sequence of play I wanted to talk about.
Dietrich's next at bat, he was thrown at. That's baseball. Archer didn't like Dietrich showing him up and he said as much with a fastball to the back stop.
That sent Reds manager David Bell flying toward Archer and umpire Jeff Kellogg -- the latter walking toward Archer after warning him. Bell was surely fired up that Archer wasn't immediately ejected for throwing behind his player in retaliation.
The second Bell got close enough to the mound, the benches stirred. Yasiel Puig was the star of the altercation, and his effort to get out there and get close to Archer and Francisco Cervelli sent everyone in a Pirates uniform to the defense of their star pitcher.
Archer was pulled from the convergence of benches by Trevor Williams. Puig was pulled from the convergence of benches by Joey Votto. The two teams remained scuffling on the mound where it started.
Here's where it got fun.
Williams kept Archer company:
[caption id="attachment_803045" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
Votto, now joined by Melky Cabrera, kept Puig company:
[caption id="attachment_803046" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
Puig saw a moment to go back on the attack, evaded Cabrera, tossed teammate Tucker Barnhart to the ground and looked to go through Williams:
[caption id="attachment_803048" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
That's when I saw Barnhart clutching at the ankles of Puig, trying desperately to hold the right fielder back from anything further:
[caption id="attachment_803049" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
Poor Barnhart. Just trying to help.
This happened long before the interaction between Marte and Suarez. Long before the camaraderie. Baseball is a competitive sport in its own ways. It's so often the one-on-one matchups that make it so special.
Sometimes, though, baseball is a team sport as much as any. And when you see relief pitchers like Nick Burdi and Steven Brault galloping at full speed from the bullpen to beat players only running from their dugout ... it's a pretty special team game. This won't be the last time benches clear this season. We'll do this again when they do.