The Best Places to Photograph Baseball Games: Old Stadiums

Wrigley and Fenway provide unique environments for photos.
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Like pitchers prepping for a start, the work of a photographer covering a baseball game often begins hours before first pitch. Ahead of 2020 World Series games at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, Erick W. Rasco arrived five hours ahead of time to set up cameras to cover the Rays and the Dodgers. Rasco is Sports Illustrated’s director of photo operations.

Due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rasco and the other photographers were assigned specific spots from which to shoot. They couldn’t roam throughout the new stadium, which hosted its first game last summer. That meant that Rasco and Greg Nelson, a photographer also shooting for SI, had to strategically place remote cameras, prefocused on different areas of the field.

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Rasco was assigned an outfield spot while Nelson was locked into a spot near third base, creating holes at first base and above home plate. These cameras were prefocused and set up even before maintenance crews got on the field to not break with MLB’s COVID-19 protocols. A remote is then attached to a handheld camera, and when a button is pressed on that camera, the remote cameras are triggered.

“The way we always approach it is: You put a remote where you can’t get access to supplement your handheld coverage,” Rasco says.

That allowed Nelson to capture this shot from Game 1: a bird’s-eye view of Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts sliding into home. The remote camera enabled SI to make an image of a key moment of the game while focusing on two principal characters: There’s the sliding Betts and Rays catcher Mike Zunino, who is trying to apply a tag.

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But some of SI’s best baseball photography doesn’t just focus on the action, according to Rasco.

“In addition to the game itself,” he says, “you have the extra added element of the stadium or the neighborhood playing a role in whatever story you’re trying to tell.”

But at last year’s World Series, the pandemic and the new stadium combined to limit opportunities to tap into that feature element.

“There is no vibe to the area,” Rasco says. “There is no neighborhood that surrounds it. It’s a brand-new stadium so the stadium doesn’t really play a character.”

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There was just no comparison to covering the 2016 World Series games at Wrigley Field, for example. SI was able to incorporate the neighborhood surrounding the Cubs’ home field into its coverage of the franchise’s first championship since 1908—the fans, the bars, the people watching on rooftops and in yards or drinking a beer while sitting by a window.

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“It really gives you a much deeper perspective and allows you to tell the story much deeper,” Rasco says. “You don’t get that from your modern ballparks—these megastructures that cost billions of dollars. They just don’t have that quaintness to them.”

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And once you’re inside one of these older parks, the experience of making photos completely changes. At Fenway Park (the oldest ballpark that hosts an MLB team, ahead of Wrigley Field), the shape of the field and the stands allow for angles and lighting that you can’t find anywhere else.

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There are also the architectural features that make Fenway stand out. Its unique outfield, marked particularly by the Green Monster, stands out, of course. But you can only take so many pictures of the Green Monster before they start to blend together. So, when Rasco covered a Red Sox–Angels game earlier this season, he looked for another way to capture Fenway.

“It’s a much more intimate experience at Fenway,” Rasco says. “You’re closer to everything and you just get angles that you can’t get anywhere else.”

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Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Rasco wasn’t allowed in a traditional photo spot along the first or third base lines. Instead, he was able to roam. He went out to the bullpens and focused on a catcher who had a mirrored panel above the face mask. Rasco’s tight shot reveals the person’s eyes and also the reflection of Fenway’s outfield stands, making for a frame that tells a multilayered story that incorporates its environment.

“Our best baseball coverage is at those parks that have some character,” he says. “Then, we get to flex our feature muscles. It’s not just straight-up action.”

Full Frame is Sports Illustrated’s exclusive newsletter for subscribers. Coming to your inbox weekly, it highlights the stories and personalities behind some of SI’s photography.

To get the best of SI in your inbox every weekday, sign up here. To see even more from SI’s photographers, follow @sifullframe on Instagram. If you missed last week’s edition on painting athletes in gold, you can find it here.

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