Kelly O’Connor is not a professional photographer – but she takes some of the best sports photographs that I have ever seen. And since I started this blog, she’s been kind enough to allow me to pick and choose whatever fits my entries from her online photo gallery.
Her job involves working at Boston University for former president John Silber, but for the last five years, one of her hobbies has been shooting pictures of the Boston Red Sox and their minor league prospects. Nearly all of Kelly’s photos have been taken from the stands as a ticket-buying fan, but she’s managed to grab images of great Red Sox moments and displays a unique ability to capture the personality of the players.
As 2010 winds down, I thought it would be fun to post the “Top 10 Photos of the Year” involving members of last year’s PawSox. With a huge assist from the “Official Unpaid Photographer” of my blog, here goes:
(all photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
10. Gil Velazquez safe at second base on a double. How about the framing in that shot? It couldn’t have been done any better if Kelly had asked the trio to pose.
9. Lars Anderson rides the tarp. This play happened on the day that Josh Beckett made a rehab start at McCoy Stadium. My radio partner Steve Hyder pointed out early in the broadcast that the PawSox seemed to have a little extra pep in their step with Beckett on the hill, and moments later, Lars made a tremendous sprawling catch. Nice timing by Hydes, and a great photo by Kelly.
8. Josh Reddick tagged out at the plate. Josh didn’t have a great year – although his .326 average (.566 slugging) after July 1st bodes well for next season – but hustle is never an issue for the young outfielder. He’s fun to watch on a daily basis.
7. Ryan Kalish follows the path of his first MLB hit. Kelly took several great photographs of Kalish throughout the year, but this is my personal favorite. It’s an unusual angle and I think it somehow captures how the big leagues were not “too big” for this 22-year-old kid.
6. Jacoby Ellsbury smiling while on rehab at McCoy. Jacoby didn’t do much smiling last year as he battled broken ribs. Here’s hoping that he’s healthy and happy in 2011. A healthy Ellsbury could be a bigger addition than Carl Crawford.
5. Daniel Nava belts a grand slam on his first big league swing. Daniel’s father Don didn’t do a very good job of catching the swing on home video, but Kelly nailed the money shot. Oddly enough, she says she nearly missed it too because she was telling the fans seated around her who Daniel was!
4. PawSox relievers break out of jail. Leave it to Chad Paronto to choreograph a hysterical pre-game routine for the Pawtucket relief pitchers as they would sprint to the bullpen at the start of the game and scale the 5-foot tall wall. Classic! That’s Tommy Hottovy on the far right electing not to go with the Fosbury Flop.
3. Outfielders celebrate. Josh Reddick, Bubba Bell, and Daniel Nava celebrate a Pawtucket victory with a flying 3-way hip bump. Let’s hope celebrations of that nature are more frequent next season.
2. Daniel Nava in pre-game prayer at Fenway before debut. Here’s what Kelly had to say about this photo:
I always wonder what’s going on in a player’s head before the game, when he’s just been called up–what it’s like to work so long and so hard toward a goal, and then to have those long moments where that achievement is both in hand–there you are, in the park, in the lineup–and not yet experienced. I knew from McCoy that Nava had a pregame ritual of sorts where he would be out on the field, but clearly gathering his own thoughts, whether praying or meditating–a very private moment in a very public space. I actually debated a little bit whether I would put up that shot, because of that private aspect.
I love that photo and I’m sure that Daniel Nava does too.
1. Chad Paronto proudly displays the WWF Championship belt that he received from his teammates. As I’ve written previously, the veteran reliever kept all of us in stitches last year. I’m still holding out hope that the Red Sox bring him back in 2011.
Those were my choices for a Top 10, but I left out dozens of great pictures. Here’s a link to Kelly’s favorite photos from last year:
Thanks again to the great Kelly O’Connor for allowing me to share her work.
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After trading for Adrian Gonzalez and agreeing in principle on a 7-year contract extension, the Boston Red Sox appear to have their starting first baseman through the year 2018.
Not exactly the best career development for PawSox first baseman Lars Anderson.
(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
“That’s the way the game works – especially with a team like the Red Sox,” Anderson told me. “If you can get a guy like Adrian Gonzalez you’d be a fool not to in my opinion.
“He’s one of the best players in the game and it makes total sense to me that they acquired him when they had the opportunity to. Barring some injury, I don’t think it really changes where I was going to start the season. It might change what happens during the season, but there’s really nothing I can do about it. Obviously, it’s not ideal for me personally, but it’s really good for the ballclub so that’s cool.”
The Red Sox sent another of their best minor league first baseman – Anthony Rizzo – to San Diego in the Gonzalez trade, and Anderson knows that he is a logical candidate to be included in a future deal.
“It feels kind of inevitable, you know?” Lars said. “How many guys get to stay with the same team for their whole life? That being said, if I get dealt at some point it’s going to be startling because of all the great connections that I’ve made over the last four years. But that’s another thing that I have no control over.”
It’s been an eventful off-season for the 23-year-old slugger. So far, Lars has spent 2 ½ weeks driving across the United States, taken a vacation to Puerto Rico with close pal Ryan Kalish, and even become friendly with his favorite author.
“His name is David James Duncan,” Anderson said. “He’s written some great novels that I really like. I talked to him while I was fishing on a river in Montana so that was really cool.”
Montana was one several states that Lars visited when he drove from Boston to California immediately after the season. The conversation with Duncan was the result of a fortunate coincidence.
“I was hanging out with my sister and her family in Virginia,” Anderson said. “They have friends that used to live in Montana and we were all eating dinner one night and talking about who everybody’s favorite author was. When I said, ‘David James Duncan,’ one of her friends said, ‘No way – we have a friend who is really good friends with him.’ David lives just outside of Missoula, Montana and I had planned a pilgrimage to go there and check it out because I love his work and wanted to see the area. So I e-mailed this friend of his to see if there was any way he could help me get in touch with David. I didn’t hear back from him for a long time, but the night before I was set to arrive in Missoula, he e-mailed me back and said, ‘Call me tomorrow and we’ll set something up.’ He gave me David’s number and told me to give him a call. So I called him and we chatted for an hour. It turns out he’s a big Red Sox fan.”
Anderson’s favorite book by Duncan is called The Brothers K.
“It has a lot to do with baseball – it’s a really fresh take on minor league baseball which I appreciated when I read it,” Lars said. “How many times do you read a book and you’re like, ‘I would love to ask this author how he or she thought of that.’ I got to do that. I was able to ask all of these questions that I had and it was really wild.”
Anderson is coming off a solid season between Portland and Pawtucket as he batted .274 (.349 OBP, .461 SLG) with 37 doubles, 3 triples, and 15 HR. That resulted in a September call-up and Lars went 7-for-35 (.200) in his first taste of major league action.
“It gave me a lot of confidence,” Anderson said. “I know that I can play there. Before you get there you always wonder, ‘Can I hang at the major league level?’ I think I can. The environment is a little bit different, but it’s the same game and I never really felt overmatched or overwhelmed. The only overwhelming part was trying to get people tickets to the away games in Oakland.”
That’s close to his home in Fair Oaks, CA where Lars has started to prepare for the 2011 season.
“I hit today and I’ve really been working hard in the gym,” Anderson told me. “I’ve been thinking about what I want to focus on this year but it feels a little forced right now to really concentrate on one thing. When I hit today, it was the most thought-free that I’ve been and it was by far the best that I’ve hit the ball. That’s something that I really tried to do last year – really get my mind out of the way and let my body do its thing. I know how to hit a fastball, but my mind wants to get in there and ask questions about how I’m doing it or why I’m swinging at a certain pitch.”
In other words, he’s trying not to think too much – whether it’s at the plate or when it comes to job opportunities in Boston.
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Kevin Youkilis gets it.
He’s 31 years old, about to make $12 million dollars next year, and realizes that he’s in a position to use his fame and fortune to help others.
So he does. It’s really that simple.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to play golf with my friend Paul Daugherty, an outstanding sports columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer and Sports Illustrated. During the course of our round, Paul mentioned that he had heard that Youk was heavily involved in charitable efforts and was considering writing about it. Knowing that I live in Boston and work for the PawSox, he asked me if Youkilis was visible in the community during the off-season.
I told him that was definitely the case and mentioned that Kevin had personally appeared at a fundraiser for Raising a Reader – an organization that my wife is involved with that provides books to the children of low-income families.
Paul Daugherty wrote his story today and it’s tremendous.
And here’s a link to Hits for Kids – Youk’s charitable organization.