The Wide Angle: They might be out to get me

Published 7:01 am Sunday, October 9, 2016

My job is not a glamorous one and I certainly don’t make the contention I’m a hero for covering some of the events I cover, but you have to be of a certain mind to cover sports.

Not that me or any other photographers are running from cover to cover just to get the shot, but there is enough going on to make you more than a little nervous on any number of occasions.

Nine times out to 10 it’s simply being observant. Moving out of the way when the action is nearing you, but more often than not you would think, it’s not that easy.

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Former Blooming Prairie softball catcher Hunter Henderson tagged me a total of three times with physics-busting foul balls even after coach Ali Mach warned me.

Even with all this time removed from those foul balls I can remember Alli’s words.

Ali: “You might want to move; she pulls it every time.”

Me: chuckle followed by a dive behind a shed.

Ali: “Told you.”

Granted I’ve been drilled a number of times. Another BP softball player,  Trisha “Wheels” (that was her nickname, not making that up) DeBoer punch one in my direction in what seemed like a safe spot in the dugout doorway.

Assistant coach Chad Gimbel only chuckled. “Glad you were there and not me.”

Now that I think about it — is there a trend there? Never mind.

The fact of the matter is with the equipment we carry around it would pay to keep an eye on everything, especially considering that a vast majority of sports have balls that can reach incredible velocities. Yeah, you can brag and joke when you make a sterling kick-save on a rogue soccer ball or an Odell Beckham Jr.-style one-handed catch on a overthrown football.

But that bravado can easily be taken away in an instance.

A number of years ago when I first got behind the lens in Huron, South Dakota, I was on my way to a Huron University volleyball game. Now, it should be said up front that yes, high school girls can hit a volleyball awfully hard. College players? Well they are on a different level.

The team I was covering on this night would eventually make it to the NAIA semifinals so yeah, they had themselves a team.

I strode in, did my celebrity-best waves and small talk to people as I walked in and then surveyed the land. Huron was warming up at the net, hitting what I could only assume were bullets. There’s a sound a really hard-hit volleyball makes when struck and this was just a machine gun string of those sounds.

For the most part every ball was hit nearly straight down so I began crossing the back of the gym with a purposeful stride of a man who new the routine, where he was going and … where did that ball just come from?

In mid-thought, mid-stride a force struck the side of my head, sending my hat frisbeeing through the air and my vision spinning.

Just leave it alone. For now, “frisbeeing” is a word.

Gaining as much dignity as I could I scooped up my hat and tried to target the sniper.

Lucy Figueroa was from Brazil, South America, if memory serves me right and she was easy to spot. She had a smirk that was either, “Whoops, sorry,” or “Boom! Five points.”

The side of my face was a brilliant red the rest of the night while stinging for a vast majority of it. Needless to say, I crossed the gym from that time forward like a World War I soldier crossing no-mans land and still do to this day. I know more than a few players in this area that would claim bonus points, albeit with a smile, but still.

But it’s not just the errant balls you need to concern yourself with. The players themselves can be equally, if not more so, dangerous and aside from a semifinal football game featuring Blooming Prairie (seriously, is there a trend here I didn’t see before?).

How I came away from this without a concussion I’ll never know.

Gabe Kartes had just hauled in a catch and tried to turn and run, but he was off balance and coming like a freight train directly at me. In my viewfinder though I saw a great action, award-winning shot. What I didn’t see was Rocky Hulne stepping away to his right and BP’s trainer moving to his left.

Why is everybody moving? Oh, hey … stars!

There was a jostle of equipment, flashes, lights and then Gabe’s face in mine asking if I was okay. I didn’t register the concern in his face at that exact moment, but he was looking at me closer than a player playing for a chance to go to the state title game should.

What, my hat on crooked?

He helped me up and then trotted back onto the field and then the BP trainer was checking me out. As it happened, I was probably lucky it was at Macalester College in St. Paul. The field was artificial turf and so while it sucked and hurt, I bounced more than anything. Had this been in Blooming Prairie I might still be laying there, honored by the now L-shaped monopod lying with me.

The point of this is always pay attention — especially, apparently, when Blooming Prairie is involved.

Seriously guys … I thought you liked me.