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Best Seat in the House

Photography, sports and life as seen through the lens of Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar.

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March 16, 2008 11:23 PM

Good Luck, Chuck!

Posted by Rod Mar

I think it was Thomas Edison who famously said, "Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."

Among all of his other accomplishments (the lightbulb...whatever), Edison must have not been a sports photographer.

Because if he was a shooter, he'd have said something more along the lines of, "Success is 50% really expensive equipment, and 50% luck".

Today, I had a measure of success that was pretty much all luck. But luck is what's worked in my career so far, so really, who am I to argue?

Let me set the scene. I was shooting the Mariners spring training game against the visiting Milwaukee Brewers. It was cold (for Arizona), and windy, which made it worse. I was as cold as I was during the Seahawks' loss to Green Bay in the snow last January. Okay, I lie, but I was kind of chilly today in my shorts and t-shirt.

By the sixth inning, most of the regulars had left the game, and I could hear a cup of coffee calling my name somewhere. But today was my last day in the desert, and I still had one major player left to shoot — Seattle closer J.J. Putz.

And so I waited around, hoping Putz would enter the game before the ninth, since it was starting to snow (just seeing if you're paying attention).

Putz entered in the eighth, and I set about shooting file stuff of him for use in our upcoming baseball preview section. A Milwaukee batter fouled one back of home plate, slightly towards the Seattle dugout. Jamie Burke was in at catcher, and so I followed him as he tracked the ball, knowing I'd probably need a photo of him, too.

Burke's back was to me, which wasn't helping, but he was getting neared to the stands, so I started shooting in case he fell over the little railing while trying to make the catch.

Just as Burke reached over for the ball, a fan sitting in the first row got up and tried to catch the ball. The fan wasn't leaning over into the field of play, but you could see that he and Burke made contact, and the ball ricocheted away (I can't spell richocet, should I just use "bounced"?).

Mariner fans immediately booed, and the visiting Milwaukee fans behind me were instantly figuring the guy was a Brewers fan. One man in a Chicago Cubs hat said it was probably Steve Bartman, drawing laughs all around.

Now, I was shooting from well up the right field line, and so this play happened quite a ways from me, and in the shadows.

I was pissed because now the game would be one out longer, and my cup of coffee was getting cold somewhere.

I checked the LCD screen on the back of my camera to see the play, and discovered that the interfering fan was none other than Mariners team president Chuck Armstrong!

Upon closer inspection, the man standing up behind him and across the aisle was owner Howard Lincoln.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 500, 1/1600 sec.,f2.8)

Armstrong gestured towards the Mariner dugout, which was no doubt ribbing him.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 500, 1/1600 sec.,f2.8)

Myriad questions ran through my mind:

— Did Armstrong reach into the field of play? (He didn't appear to.)
— What must have Jamie Burke thought when the guy in his way of a possible out was his bosses' bosses' boss?
— If I show people this photo, will Chuck Armstrong ban me from Safeco Field this year (for the record he has a GREAT sense of humor and is a funny, well-liked guy)?.
— And finally, how does the team president have better seats than the owner?

After the game, I was back in the media room on the Mariners side of the joint complex they share with the San Diego Padres, and no sooner had I downloaded the cards when Mariners officials came in asking if I had gotten "The Shot".

I showed them, they laughed, demanded prints and one executive told me, "that's the best shot you've ever taken!".

I've never seen Tod Leiweke (Seahawks president) down a punt, and I've never seen Karen Bryant (Storm president) deflect an inbounds pass, but now I can say I've seen Mariner president Chuck Armstrong cost his team an out.

Ah, Spring Training exhibition games...the fun and frivolity of it all.

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