We recently attended a professional baseball game for the first time in literally decades.  We had cousins visiting from Japan for a few days and when asked what they would like to do during their visit to San Diego, they responded with a very specific request: To attend a game between the San Diego Padres vs. the Los Angeles Angels.

I purchased tickets online months in advance and thought no more about it until later, corresponding with a Japanese friend who lives in Tokyo.  When I mentioned that I would have cousins visit from Japan in August, she immediately guessed what motivated their request:

Did your cousin and his son ask you for tickets of SD Padres vs LA Angels?  Shohei Ohtani, a young star player from Japan, is in LA. He is so popular. He is adorable! I’m sure they would like to see Shohei.

It turns out, Shohei was exactly why they wanted to see this particular game. As for us, we wanted to see the park itself, lauded for its architecture by Antoine Predock.  

Petco Park, designed by New Mexico-based architect Antoine Predock, has an impressive downtown presence.

Of course, to a photographer, every excursion is a potential opportunity for photography.  I googled “photography at Petco Park” to see if there were guidelines but didn’t come up with much.  I guessed tripods wouldn’t be allowed but took a monopod with me.  To keep being encumbered to a minimum, I wore my Fujifilm X-T2 on a Black Rapid cross-body strap with a wide-angle 10-24mm lens and carried my 100-400mm lens in a tote bag. From the guidelines I did find, it was clear a photo backpack might be problematic.

At the gate, my long lens attracted unwanted attention as a “professional” lens. To the gatekeepers, this was defined as any lens longer than eight inches. I was allowed to take it in with me but admonished that if caught using it, that would be the end of my photography for the evening. The monopod also was initially disallowed as an extensible device. Eventually, they relented when I pointed out it also functions as a cane (not that I actually need a cane). I do understand the rationale for this policy, essentially outlawing selfie sticks.

I had to be satisfied with using my 10-24mm lens for images of the stadium and overall scene. I waited until the game went into a tie-breaking 10th inning AND Shohei came up to bat (after not playing in the starting line-up due to an elbow ligament injury) to risk a few hand-held shots with my long lens. Of course, I had to shoot through the netting, but there was plenty of light to hand-hold. I put the camera into continuous high mode and blazed away, capturing Shohei’s athleticism as he danced his way from base to base, scoring one of the four runs that decided the game definitively for the Angels.  

A wish granted in an overtime 10th inning: To see the “Babe Ruth of Japan” play. Recovering from an elbow ligament injury, Shohei Ohtani wasn’t in the starting line-up but came up to bat in extra innings.
Shohei Ohtani, playing for the Los Angeles Angels, up on his toes at the ready, between first and second base, in a game at Petco Park.
All concentration and determination in the face of Shohei Ohtani as he heads to home base, scoring one of the winning runs in an overtime inning against the San Diego Padres.

I even employed my iPhone, capturing my cousins sitting in the stands.  After uploading it to my Instagram account with the hashtag #SDinHD, they were thrilled to see themselves up on the big scoreboard in a rotating line-up of other social media savvy patrons in attendance.  

 

My Japanese cousins, Kenny and Yoshi, enjoying a baseball outing to Petco Park in downtown San Diego. This image, uploaded to Instagram with the hashtag #SDinHD, soon appeared on the big scoreboard pictured.
With every shoot, my thoughts turn naturally to what I would do “next time.”  In this instance, I’d look for a lens that wouldn’t exceed the “eight-inch long” professional rule.  My 100-400mm lens actually does measure just over eight inches in length, just barely, at 8.3.”  I’ve already picked out what I would take next time, my Fujifilm 50-140mm lens, which measures a mere 6.9” in length.  My 2x teleconverter will be tucked separately in my tote bag, of course.  At 1.2” in length, this combination will give me enough reach, while still nearly satisfying the no “professional” lenses guideline.

In the meantime, enjoy your summer and play ball!