Behind the Scenes, On Assignment

Dream Project – The 2016 Chicago Cubs


Every once in a while, an assignment comes along that you absolutely can’t refuse. Even if that means having to bring family in from across the state and across the country (thanks everyone!) to help with the kids while the wife was sidelined for over six weeks and unable to walk/drive thanks to a broken foot and the ensuing surgery, you find a way to make things happen. Such was the case for me this summer. But first, a little history.

I am a product of the WGN effect. Despite being from Texas and growing up with my Texas teams, the Astros and the Rangers…I was also a Cubs fan. As a kid I would wake up in the morning and have cereal while watching Bozo and Cookie. In the afternoon, when I would get off the bus and get a snack, I would turn on the small television we had in the kitchen and watch the Cubs because they were always on and I would rather watch baseball than play video games before it was time to go to either soccer or baseball practice. I listened to Harry Caray and Steve Stone, watched with interest the craziness that was the bleachers, the ball hawks on Waveland chasing down every ball hit out of the stadium. I grew up rooting for Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, Shawon Dunston and Andre Dawson. Each afternoon I was always curious as to whether or not the wind was blowing out or in off the lake. I felt close but at the same time, Chicago felt like a million miles away.

In 2003, I graduated from Texas A&M. I had never been north of the Mason-Dixon or east of the Mississippi River. I was offered a job at a small paper in northeast Indiana and took it blind over the phone because there was no budget for me to come visit and I knew that this is what I was meant to do. I found myself near Chicago and in the region of Cubbie blue.

I also met my wife, Maria, soon after I moved to Indiana. Our first trip together after dating a couple of months was to Chicago…to go watch the Astros and the Cubs. It was my first trip to Chicago and Wrigley was still a mythical place to me. We bought tickets from a scalper as soon as we got off the red line at the Addison stop. It was one of the most memorable trips I have ever had with Maria. I still have a photo from that trip on my nightstand next to the bed. I still have the ticket stub from that game.

We married in 2005. Soon after we got our first dog. Her name? Wrigley.

In 2012 when we were expecting our first child, Maria finally was starting to feel better and wanted to have a weekend trip with just the two of us and asked me to skip shooting the Kentucky Derby that year. I complied. Where did we end up? In Chicago watching the Dodgers and the Cubs.

Despite all of that, I only covered two games in my career at Wrigley…both were while I was working for my first paper. In my years shooting assignment for Sports Illustrated, I never covered a game on the north side, but multiple games with the White Sox on the south side. Fast forward to 2016. It was June and I was in Galveston with the family, Maria sidelined at the beach house with a foot and ankle she managed to break the night before we left. The phone rings with a number from Bristol, CT and despite chasing both girls around the beach house, I knew I had to answer.

It was Tim Rasmussen, the Director of Photography at ESPN, who brought me into the fold last fall. The conversation in its simplest terms went like this:

Tim: How flexible is your schedule for the summer and into the fall?
Me: For the right project it can become flexible.
Tim: Good. We want to put you on the Cubs for the rest of the season.
Me: Lets do it.

I would shoot at least one game a week (sometimes seven games in a week) for the duration of the season. A rare opportunity to create a large body of work in covering one of the most talented, deep and fun baseball teams that has been assembled. It has been written that it has been over a half a century since baseball has seen a team this loaded with talent.

My first game was against the Reds on July 5. Since that time, armed with two Nikon D5 bodies, a D500 a D4s and on a couple occasions adding a D750 and a D810 to the mix, I have amassed 3TB worth of photos in covering the team and the Wrigleyville community.

Some of my season work would manifest in the September issues of ESPN The Magazine and online at ESPN.com. As the Cubs keep rolling, so will my coverage. Now that the Cubs are about to begin the NLCS, I wanted to share some of my favorite (not necessarily my best, but my favorite) frames from the regular season.

While you are at it, check out some of the finished product as well!

THE MASTERMIND — Theo Epstein

WELCOME TO WRIGLEYVILLE

JAVIER BAEZ – His Story Through Tattoo

AROLDIS CHAPMAN – A Day In The Life

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A special thanks to Cubs team photographer and all around fantastic shooter and guy, Steve Green and Cubs Director of Media Relations, Peter Chase for all of their help this season and for putting up with me and my continued barrage of questions, ideas and requests.

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