2015 Season Off To A Good Start

By Rodger M. Wood

The Latin teacher whom I was subbing for nearly the past two school years did me and my baseball photography a hugh favor when she returned to her classroom April 7th with a clean bill of health.

Unlike the past two seasons when I couldn’t get started shooting my photos, except on weekends until mid-June, I immediately drove off on a Zebulon, NC junket to see the young Salem Avalanche and Carolina Mud Cats play a weekend series of day baseball.

Blessed with the likes of Boston Red Sox 21-year 5-tool outfielder Manny Margot, hard hitting 1B Sam Travis, 2013 1st Round pick LHP Trey Ball, RHP Teddy Stankiewicz, and 2B Wendell Rijo, Salem is loaded with top prospects, who are making baseball fun again in the Shenadoah Valley.

(Manny Margot Swinging a Bat at Carolina)

Carolina, a Fast A- Atlanta Braves affiliation, had 2012 #1 Round draft pick, RHP Lucas Sims, BA #8 Braves prospect Johan Camargo, and BA #14 Braves RHP prospect Maurico Cabrera on their roster. I also singled out Carolina quick outfielder Sean Godfrey for some attention from my camera. And even better yet, Derrick Lewis is their pitching coach, and Carlos Mendez., their hitting coach, both of whom were subjects themselves of my camera during their playing days at AAA Richmond in 2002 and Fast A Wilmington. In 1990.

(Johan Camargo, BA Braves #8 Prospect)

I followed up Zebulon with trips to Frederick MD for a Carolina League doubleheader between Cleveland Fast A Lynchburg Hill Cats and Orioles’ Frederick Keys, and to AA-Bowie, MD where I saw the the San Francisco Giants Flying Squirrels play the Baltimore Orioles AA- affiliate Bowie Bay Sox.

Frederick is blessed with the talent galore, namely BA #2 Orioles prospect, Hunter Harvey, BA #4 prospect catcher Chance Sisco, RHP Jon Keller, Brooks Robinson 3B look alike, 22-year Drew Dosch, RHP David Hess, SS Adrian Marin, CF Josh Hart, and 1B Trey Mancini. I always shoot many of my best shots in the comfort of Keys Stadium, and kept my camera busily focused on these future Camden Yards stars all afternoon.

(Drew Dosch Goes After a Bunt)

Lynchburg is blessed considerably with a pair of fast, hard-hitting, impressive young outfielders, Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier.

At Bowie, while I didn’t see Orioles’ BA #1 Dylan Bundy, I did see his older brother, Bobby Bundy pitch a shutdown 9th inning. Bobby has been out a couple seasons while he recuperated from injuries.

(Bobby Bundy Mows Down The Side in the 9th)

I also saw San Fran BA #12 Chris Stratton pitch 7 innings for Richmond. SF BA#3 Kyle Crick didn’t pitch.

The following day, April 22nd I traveled to Hagerstown, MD for the first tiime this season to see the young, Low-A SALLY League,Washington Nationals Hagerstown Suns play their Orioles’ counterpart Delmarva Shore Birds.

Hagerstown has some young pitchers to look at but Delmarva has a something else 3b Jomar Reyes, to whom I paid lots of attention .

(Jomar Reyes Guards the Corner)

The Sunday following, April 26th I saw Lynchburg again, this time at Potomac, VA where I started shooting photos back in 1985 when young outfielder Barry Bonds starred there, I once saw him make two errors in one game out there in rightfield, where the lights were dim. At the same time I saw him hit lots of rocket shots out of the ball park too.

Wilmer Difo was the hottest Washington Nationals prospect playing there at that time, and as a shortstop may give them insurance for free agent Ian Desmond moving on next season.

Wlmer Difo has since moved on to AA-Harrisburg, where I saw him play Sunday May 10th against the Pittsburgh Pirates AA-Altoona Curve.

(Wilmer Difo Steals 3B)

At Harrisburg that day, it was nostalgic time for me there as I saw two of my old favorites there, Altoona manager Tom Prince and hitting coach, Miquel Perez. Tommy taught me a new vocabulary in the 1980s when he played for Prince William (Potomac), Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh.

I first saw Miquel catch in the Pioneer League for the Cincinnati Reds – rookie league affiliate Billings Mustangs –at Ogden Utah in 2003 on an August day so scorching hot that you couldn’t sit comfortably or rest your camera equipment on a cast iron picnic table.

I was particularly happy to be able to see a 3-game Red Sox Low A – Greenville Drive/Hagerstown Suns series in early May to culminate the first month of the season, I’ve been a photographer since 1993 for not only Baseball America but also a super Red Sox fan must magazine, which is sold outside of Fenway Park, “Boston Baseball.” Unlike the past two seasons when I could only travel to the ball parks on the weekends until mid-June, this season I could travel up to Hagerstown MD Friday, May 1st, Sunday, May 3rd, and Monday, May 4th for two beautiful day and one early evening ball games.

The Greenville Drive has the likes of 3B Rafael Devers on their team, who clobbered two homeruns in one game, balls which are still probably in flight over Hagerstown now as they were blasts and a half.

(Rafael Devers Hits the 1st of Two HR at Hagerstown)

I was in my glory getting great posed and action shots of Rafael, as well as the other Red Sox prospects 3B/SS Michael Chavis, SS Javier Guerra, RHP Michael Kopech, SS Maurico Dubon, 1B/OF Nick Longhi, and a young outfielder, Carlos Mesa, whose numbers and demeanor also impressed me a great deal..

Wednesday, May 6th, I topped everything off by getting the opportunity from Baseball America to shoot the major league Miami Marlins/Washington Nationals game at Nats Park, in Washington, DC I thought for a moment when I saw the ball hit high towards right field again, that I was going to shoot a record setting four homeruns by Bryce Harper that day but unfortunately the ball dried midway and he was stopped at three.

(Bryce Harper Hits 3rd HR of the game)

It was great seeing my old friends from the minors, my old body guard, Nats bullpen coach, Matt Lecroy, who protected me once when the going got tough one time in Ft. Myers, FL, Nats bullpen coach, bench coach Randy Knorr, young outfielder, Michael Taylor, pitcher Jordan Zimmerman, 2B Danny Espinosa, 1B Ryan Zimmerman, RF Jayson Werth and other players I got to know in the minors.

Yes! The Latin teacher truly did me a favor – I have seen eighteen ball games already as of May 14th , sixteen day and only two early evening ball games, fifteen different teams, including two major league teams, at least half of the games ones, which I wouldn’t have been able to see if I was teaching Monday – Friday. While I miss the high school students, who kept me younger with their high energy levels, I enjoy getting to the ballgames earlier, to mingle, and feed off of the dreams of the young minor league ball players.

My photography is already at mid season form, I have improved my hitting and action shots by following a more self disciplined “see the shot first, then shoot” approach, and believe my pictures are more worthy of a major magazine cover or two because of their improved quality.

The sun has been shining bright for me – I am getting my second wind when most aging folks are putting down their cudgels, and all of a sudden, my dear wife is saying my photography is again the driving force in my life.

Howerter Knocks In Winning Runs for Walk Off Win for JV Raiders

With ducks on the pond in he bottom of the 8th inning, Loudoun County/Heritage JV game tied 7-7, RF Kooper Howerter stepped up to the plate, worked himself to a full 3-2 count, and rifled a walk off game winning double up the left/center field gap to win the last game of the season for his Loudoun County Raider teammates, 8-7.

If you want to view action shots of this game winning effort, check in on this link http://photos.woodsportsphotography.com/p104993694

1974 Lower Loudoun Champions Coming Home!

by Rodger M. Wood

The Sterling boys who thrilled Sterling, Loudoun County and the Washington Metropolitan Area with their winning exploits the Summer of 1974 are coming home to roost in their laurels.

Friends, fans, supporters, coaches, and players are all invited to remininse with them at a 40th year reunion, 8 -12 PM, Friday, April 25th at O’Malley’s Pub, Sterling Holiday Inn, 45425 Holiday Drive, Sterling VA 20166.

The next day, the team will be honored at a special opening day ceremony at the Little League Field at the Sterling Golf and Tennis Course, 8:30 AM, Saturday, April 26th and all are invited to attend that gala affair too.

Starting in early July, 1974 and lasting to late August, these fifteen, then 14 and 15 year old Sterling VA Lower Loudoun Little League Senior Division baseball players, won 6 straight ball games against long odds and established senior division little league teams from the Shenadoah Valley, Norfolk, Richmond, and North Springfield to win district and State of Virginia championships.

Not ending their winning streak there, they traveled on by airplane to Louisville, KY to beat the odds again by defeating strong State of West Virginia and Kentucky State Champions in a 3-game series to win a Division title.

With no time to lose because of rainouts, they flew out of Louisville after the last game to Atlanta GA, then rode an old rickoty school bus to a little hamlet 20 miles northwest of Athens GA, called Elberton GA where they beat a mighty state of Texas champion but lost twice to a strong Florida team out of Tampa that went on to the National World Series in Gary IND.

Newspaper headlines and articles in the Loudoun Times Mirror, Washington Post, and Evening Star touted the feats of these boys.

Crowds heralded them at “ticker tape” parades and ceremonies twice at Bill Allen Field upon their return from the state and regional tournaments.

The Loudoun Board of Supervisors recognized their outstanding sportsmanship in a proclamation they presented to them at a special session in Leesburg.

These boys who were special in many ways on and off the diamond are coming back home after forty years to enjoy their fields of dreams. The Sterling Community would do well to celebrate their return and special goodness all over again.

1974 Lower Loudoun Little League, Senior Division Roster

Manager: Ben Anch
Bench Coach: Rodger M. Wood
Coach: Hubert Goode
Pitching Coach: Dan Fritz
Coach: Tommy Thompson

Players:
Brent Byer
Billy Dellinger
Chris Donaldson
Danny Fritz (dec.)
Jim Hamrick
John Keesling
Mike Kegley
Tom Meredith
Kevin Miller
Kevin O’Malley
Tom Schray
Curt Sieber (dec.)
Mark Smith
Matt Smith
Skip Young

2013 Season in Review, Part 12. Josh Bell, West Virginia Power

I spotted him hitting in the batting cage hours before a playoff game at

Hagerstown September 6th, and noted instantly from the way he conducted
himself around the cage and stroked the ball inside, I’d need some posed
shots of him that day.

This young Texan turned out to be special in other ways too. He went to a
Jesuit High School (Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, TX) so you
know he got an outstanding education and learned a few values that would

sustain him in a very secular baseball environment.

Signing with the Pirates for 5 million dollars in August, 2011, he turned
down the dream of every young Texas youth, a full ride scholarship to play
baseball at the University of Texas (Austin).

And after a serious partial meniscus tear the first month of the 2012

season at West Virginia Power, he came back successfully the following
season to hit 279 BA in 459 AB, 75 RS, 37 2B, 2 3B, 13 HR, and drive in 76
RBI to lead his team, the Pittsburgh Pirates Low Class A West Virginia

Power affiliate to SALLY League championship playoffs.

Seeing Josh swinging a bat in the batting cage that hot summer day, working
with him on the photo shoot before the game, and focusing on his all out
hustle, and timely bat in the first playoff game at Hagerstown that

September day was another highlight for me during the 2013

Season 2013 In Review, Part 11. Dave Machemer, Richmond Flying Squirrels

I can’t let a season go by without seeing my favorite manager of all time,

Dave Machemer, who in 2013 was at the helm of the San Francisco Giants, AA-
Eastern League, Richmond Flying Squirrels.

It took me until July 11th this season, but finally I caught up to my old
buddy at Bowie, MD. I first met Mr. Machemer back in 1986 at the old
Stockton CA stadium, where he was managing the Milwaukee Brewers Fast A –
Stockton Ports to a California State League Championship.

In the past 28 seasons since, I have seen Dave at least once a season, and
many seasons more times, helping him to weather the phenomenal 1,604 wins
of his minor league managerial career.

At Bowie this season, I had fun showing his young ball players an old postcard
HOF photographer JD McCarthy took of him in 1978 at old Tiger Stadium when
he played for the Detroit Tigers. The players couldn’t believe that Dave had
so much curley hair sticking out from beneath his cap in his younger days.

I also gave him a reprint Bowman baseball card of old Satchel Paige, whom
he has admired since he met the old HOF RHP back in Kansas City many years
ago.

With over thirty years as a manager and a player in the minors and the
win-lost record he has under his belt, let’s hope the Giants or some other
major league team gives this man a chance to coach or manage in the majors.

I’d sure love to terrorize him next time I see him at at the Nationals
Stadium or somewhere else in the Show, which is exactly where he deserves
to be.

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2013 Season in Review, Part 10. Jake Johansen, Hagerstown Sun

I always like taking the 178 mile round trip down Route 15, past a
“Saturday night,” motel where I count the cars, the little house for sale
in the mountains that like Walter Mitty, I dream about living in, across
the upper Potomac into Maryland, down alternative Route 40 through the
mountain hamlets of Middletown and Boonsboro to Hagerstown, MD, the home at
least for another year, to the Washington Nationals Low A – SALLY
Hagerstown Suns.

Seeing the home club Suns make the playoffs, and beat West Virginia three
straight games in the semi-finals could have been the highlights of my
season in themselves, but my supreme pleasure was seeing an unknown 22-year
old right hander, Jake Johansen, come out of nowhere to pitch 5 innings of
shut out ball to beat the Savannah Sand Gnats in the first game of the
South Atlantic League Championship Series.

The Nationals drafted 6-6 Jake out of Dallas Baptist University in the 2013
draft and assigned him initially to Rookie A- Auburn where he was 1-1, with
a 1.06 ERA, in 10 GS, walking 18 and striking out 44 batters in 42.1 IP.

They then sent him up to Hagerstown where the first week in September, he
got two starts, pitching 9.1 IP with an undistinguished 5.79 ERA.

After he had opened my eyes with his distinguished performance against
Savannah, I made a note of asking Jake to pose for a photo shoot before
the next playoff game. He turned out to be a personable, clean cut, young
man, who personified the type of person you want to see succeed.

And if there’s any justice in this hard world of professional baseball,
you’ll see him succeed, and me get the house I want high up in the moun
tains.

2013 Season Review, Much Promise at Aberdeen, Part 9

After watching them end their regular season on schedule their first 12 seasons, it was pure pleasure seeing the Baltimore Orioles Rookie A youngsters at Aberdeen win their first ever McNamara Division championship, and finally compete in the NY-PA League postseason playoffs.

I had several special days during this stellar season but best recall a day late in the regular season when I shot posed shots of the Iron Birds leading hitter, OF Conor Bierfeldt, and both of the Orioles’ 2013 18-year old, #1 draft picks, RHP Hunter Harvey and CF Josh Hart.

I got a chance for my favorite posed shot, “Racing Back for a Line Shot,” with the two outfielders, Conor Bierfeld and Josh Hart who went through my photography gyrations enthusiastically, without question or complaint.

Being a pitcher in whom the Orioles have a lot invested, and just off a long throwing session in the bullpen before I arrived, Hunter was limited to my standard poses of “Pitching from the Stretch with a Runner at 1B.”

During the regular season and playoffs, Bierfeldt punished NY/PA pitching, hitting 262 BA, 15 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 36 RBI in 231 AB in 62 GP.

At GCL until September 1st, Harvey got a chance to show his wares in only 3 GP for Aberdeen, but still showed much promise, striking out 15 and walking only 4 batters in 12 IP.

Josh Hart played in only three games for the Iron Birds, but the speedster showed a lot of promise with some sensational catches and timely hits at GCL

I felt good about my experience at Aberdeen this season. The youngsters never played harder, and won more ball games with smarts and hustle than ever before. I left Aberdeen after each game believing the Baltimore Orioles had much promise at Aberdeen this season.