VIERA, Fla. - If players are frozen like statues, posed in awkward positions while rapid-fire shutters whir, it must be photo day.
To hear Nationals tell it, this is one of the most dreaded days of spring training, when full uniforms are donned and players and coaches run the gauntlet of photographers snapping pictures for baseball cards, promotional campaigns and other purposes approved by Major League Baseball. Photo day at Space Coast Stadium, they say, makes a two-hour clubhouse meeting to discuss union business seem like a Sunday stroll through the park.
Photographers set up around foul territory between first and third bases. Some only tote a camera; others have an impressive display of lights and reflectors of all shapes and sizes to ensure subjects are properly lit by both natural and artificial light. Some use tripods to steady their equipment, while others just hold models worth thousands of dollars in their hands.
Think shutterbugs use high-speed cameras to catch players at 1/1000th of a second as they throw, run or swing?
Drew Storen’s photo session included about five minutes of standing - yes, standing - posed in mid-delivery, his right arm oddly angled. A photographer would click off a few frames and then carefully reposition the ball in Storen’s right hand, or the hand itself, making sure the stitches on the baseball were visible. Ian Desmond stood in mid-swing for a couple of minutes while reflectors were moved to ensure a correct exposure. Players moved from station to station, patiently listening to instructions from each photographer and each photographer’s assistant.
For young players in their first camp, the notion of their visage in full uniform on a baseball card might constitute an achievement of sorts. For veterans, photo day means arriving at the ballpark earlier than usual and more time to kill before that day’s workout. It’s a necessary evil, an occupational hazard.
And you thought all they had to do was show up and smile?
“Last year, I picked up a bat and held it the whole time,” said Storen. “I wanted to see if anyone would catch it - a pitcher holding a bat. They took their pictures and I went back inside. They ended up using a photo of me pitching from a previous year on the baseball card.”