It’s almost painful to look at.
I took the picture of Major League Baseball’s top prospect, Byron Buxton, crashing into the center field wall during a game against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on August 16th. The photo editors at Minor League Baseball (MiLB) have deemed it one of the top twelve photos captured during the 2015 season and have nominated it for MiLB’s Photo of the Year consideration. Needless to say, I’m thrilled and honored! Fans will have the final say on whether it’s the best photo of the year by voting on MiLB’s official website, www.milb.com/news/awards/y2015/?category=photo. Voting ends on October 27th. Please vote and vote often!
My game plan on that hot summer afternoon was to focus on Buxton exclusively. I wanted to photograph him playing center field mostly, so I shot behind home plate, high in the press box with a 2x extender on my 400mm lens. I knew I had captured him slamming into the wall but then as I was editing, I noticed that his sunglasses had popped off and were suspended in mid-air along with his hat in this particular frame. This element gives the picture a little extra “wow” factor.
With RailRiders’ Kyle Roller at the plate in the top of the 2nd, he launches a ball deep to center field. Buxton gets on his horse and heads for the warning track. Without taking his eye off the ball, he leaps up to catch it and in the process, hits the wall at full speed like it wasn’t even there. Quite a painful introduction to former Red Wings owner Morrie Silver, who’s honored by having his name painted on that section of wall. Oh, and the 8,222 - it represents the number of shares Mr. Silver sold in 1957 which made it possible to purchase the Red Wings from the Cardinals, insuring the team remained in Rochester for future generations of baseball fans.
So there he was, Byron Buxton, the multi-million dollar Major League Baseball top prospect squirming around on the warning track as our trainer Larry Bennese and manager Mike Quade ran out to assess the damage. The Twins had just sent him to the Red Wings for a rehab assignment on August 7th and Rochester fans were excited to finally get a chance to see him in a Red Wings uniform. Me, along with the 6,000 other people at Frontier Field, were probably all thinking the same thing at that moment: that he was heading back to the disabled list. But to everyone’s surprise, he was helped to his feet, dusted off, and remained in the game.
And what a game he had that day! Three hits, two runs batted in - including a home run - and a game winning walk-off hit which drove in Jose Martinez in the bottom of the 12th giving the Wings a 3-2 victory. It touched off one heck of a celebration on that beautiful Sunday afternoon.
Yeah, I guess he was okay after meeting Mr. Silver out in center field during the 2nd inning.