I remember years of my childhood spent at the ballpark watching my dad play baseball. Those days are marked in my mind – the sun on my face, running around under the bleachers, eating as many hot dogs as I wanted and sticky orange Faygo in a glass bottle, the crack of the ball on a wooden bat, my dad's white uniform stained with clay brown dirt from sliding into home.
I remember summer afternoons, my grandpa carrying a small radio in the front pocket of his button down shirts with Ernie Harwell's soothing voice calling out the Detroit Tigers hits and misses. To me, baseball has become synonymous with some of the best memories I can muster, and I'm sure it's the same for thousands of kids – young and old alike – across America.
But you know, baseball is more than just America's pastime. It's the sign that warm weather is right around the corner, it's family-friendly, it's easy to follow, there's about 4560 games in a season so you always have something to listen to at a picnic, barbeque or party, and it's the stuff that dreams are made of.
Safe to say, I love the Detroit Tigers. I love the games, I love the players, and I love the furvor that the fans work themselves into over a game – well played or not. But my love of baseball is miniscule compared to that of Emily Jones. Not only is she a fan of the game (she even has a tattoo of the iconic Detroit Tiger "D" logo), but she's one of the most amazing photographers I have ever come across.
While many sports photographers do their job well, Emily brings something more to each picture – definitely something more than her peers. Dare I say, love? She gives you an insight to the game that most people miss the first time around. The discarded glove on the step of the dugout, the smile of a player as his teammate gets a hit to first, the laughs, the jokes – she sees humanity behind the game. It truly is "for the love of the game" for Emily and her pictures make you feel it too.
There is a particular series on Emily's site that I love called "The Railing"- images players leaning on the rail of the dugout, closeups of their arms and hands – the tools of their trade. But the thing I love most about it is that it changes your focus. It's not about the game being played, it's not about who is winning or losing – it's about the players, the hardworking guys who give us their blood, sweat and tears for 162 games in a season. It's about the tools of their trade, their hands that catch and throw the ball, their legs that run from first to home, their feet in the dust and their smiles to show you the hard work is all worth it. It humanizes the game, and makes you fall in love with it.
Maybe I'm romanticising it a little too much; I've been known to think with my heart over my head from time to time. But there's no denying. Baseball is in our blood, Tigers are the Detroit team (even at their worst, we love 'em all the more) and Emily makes you see it for more than just hotdogs and scorecards. Thank god for baseball.
Emily also shoots for the West Michigan Whitecaps, a minor leage team affiliated with the Tigers and based out of Grand Rapids. You can check out some of her baseball photography at flickr (which unfortunately due to picture theft she's been forced to remove several images) or on her personal photography site (includes some of her non-baseball photography of which I am also a HUGE fan.)
(Photos used by permission of Emily Smith. Copyright Emily Smith.)