PV Wins a Big Game in the Bottom of the 7th!

Shortstop, Dan Hrbek, charges a slow roller to make an excellent play in the field as PV went on to win 3-2 in seven innings

Shortstop, Dan Hrbek, charges a slow roller to make an excellent play in the field as PV went on to win 3-2 in seven innings

It wasn’t easy and it was just what the doctor ordered after a tough loss in their last game. PV went up 1-0 on an RBI single by catcher, James Shank. But the fightin’ Indians came back heartily to go up 2-1 in the middle innings.

First baseman, Jordan Caffrey, flips to pitcher, Howie Stevens to record the out.

First baseman, Jordan Caffrey, flips to pitcher, Howie Stevens to record the out.

Howie Stevens pitched a great game, pitching out of trouble in several innings to keep the game close. Without his effort, this game would most likely have ended up much differently. As it was, he pitched 6 strong innings by mixing an effective curve ball in with his fastball to keep hitters off balance just about every time it was needed.

Pitcher, Dan Hrbek, flips to first baseman, Howie Stevens, to record an out in the 7th inning. Hrbek threw hard and recoded outs on all three batters he faced.

Pitcher, Dan Hrbek, flips to first baseman, Howie Stevens, to record an out in the 7th inning. Hrbek threw hard and recorded outs on all three batters he faced.

Dan Hrbek came in to pitch the 7th inning with the game hanging in the balance, tied up 2-2. He threw hard stuff and recorded 2 Ks. His fastball was arguably as fast as its been all season. He was hitting his spots and throwing hard, which resulted in 3 up and 3 down in the top of the 7th inning. Then it was time for the PV Bears to have last dibs!

James Shank went 3-4. He lead off the 7th inning with a double down the 3rd base line.

James Shank went 3-4. He led off the bottom of the 7th inning with a double down the 3rd base line.

The bottom of the last inning was started off by a line drive double down the 3rd base line by James Shank. He rolled into the second, representing the potential winning run if PV could get him across the plate. Howie Stevens earned a walk and Troy Van Houten also earned a base on balls to load the bases with one out. Nick Domenici hit a fly ball to right field, but Shank did not tag up at third base, so the bases remained loaded with two outs. That brought up third baseman, Austin Yoffredo, who hit a wickedly spinning ball down the first base line. Somehow it snuck through the legs of the Lehighton first baseman. Shank crossed home plate and the Bears snagged the much needed victory!

James Shank celebrates the PV victory after crossing home plate.

James Shank celebrates the PV victory after crossing home plate.

PV Baseball Team Goes 11-2

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Pleasant Valley’s baseball team was propelled by James Shank as he went 2-3 at the plate and recorded 2 RBIs. Howie Stevens and Jordan Caffrey contributed well-placed hits in the line-up to score 6 runs in six innings.

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Dylan Pasnak, pitched a masterful 1-hitter to secure a solid defensive game and record the shut-out.

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In the above photo, #3 Adam Raseley is running to first base. PV’s record is now 11-2 for the season!

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Here, shortstop, Dan Hrbek, turns a self-assisted double-play as #13 Zack Werner slides into the second base for East Stroudsburg South.

PV Bears Win Against Nazareth

Dan Hrbek recorded 10 Ks in a complete game against Nazareth

PV pitcher, Dan Hrbek, recorded 10 strikeouts in a complete game to propel PV to a 4-1 win over Nazareth.

Howie Stevens had 2 hits in a 4-1 vicotry over Nazareth

Howie Stevens, first baseman, had two of PV’s 6 hits.

Shortstop, Travis Van Houten, throws to 1B

Shortstop, Travis Van Houten, throws to 1B in the win over Nazareth. The early season victory shows PV has enough talent to compete against any team this season.

Howie Steves (1B) receives a pickoff throw from pitcher, Dan Hrbek

First baseman, Howie Stevens, receives a pick-off attempt from Dan Hrbek.

Stevens makes the tag to complete the pickoff and record the out

Stevens makes the tag on the pick-off to complete the play and record the out. PV featured solid defense behind Hrbek’s masterful presence on the mound.

PV Baseball @ Northampton

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A cold and blustery day was the setting for Pleasant Valley’s second baseball games of the season. It seemed more like fall football weather instead of spring! In the photo above, Adam Raseley is tossing his bat toward the dugout after he walked at his at-bat.

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The weather did not stop the players from putting their game on the field. Here, Adam Raseley is throwing a ball he gobbled up on a grounder to record an out. Jordan Caffrey is playing first base. The PV infield was strong all through this game!

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Here, Travis Van Houten is eying up a pitch coming into his zone. PV strung together some good hits and capitalized on some costly errors made by Northampton. PV stayed on top to earn the victory and go 1-1 in the early 2013 season.

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Third baseman, Austin Yoffredo, is throwing to 1B to secure another out on defense.

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James Shank worked a count deep and received a base-on-balls twice in the late innings.

Opening Day!

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Opening Day of the Pleasant Valley Baseball Season took place today at Freedom High School in Bethlehem, PA. The wind was blustery and cold, but there was excitement in the air as the 2013 Baseball Season got under way!

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Howie Stevens took the mound for the PV Bears. The senior pitcher mixed it up with fast balls, curves, and change ups. He provided a very solid performance for the first game of the season and went the distance!

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Dylan Frankenfield took the mound for Freedom and also pitched a great game! He overcame a slight defensive problem in the first inning and pitched out of the trouble. His complete game was very solid, too!

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The game was scoreless through three innings. Then Freedom put together a good inning when PV committed a few errors. Freedom mixed in some well-placed hits and scored three runs to take the lead.

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Frankenfield came to the plate later in the game and hit an rbi single to go up 4-0.

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PV made a valiant effort in the bottom of the last inning to make a sizable threat. Hits by Stevens, Hrbek and Domenici helped to put a crooked number up with only one out in the inning!

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The Bears produced three runs to make it a one-run game. What an exciting Opening Day for both teams!

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To view more photographs from today’s game click on the following links:

Pleasant Valley Baseball

Freedom Baseball

Baseball Season is Coming…. I Think!

Today we got three inches of snow on the mountain! I am beginning to wonder if that groundhog was just doing some wishful thinking! And still, even while shoveling the white stuff, my thoughts are turning more and more to the upcoming baseball season!

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I captured this moment on the day I realized my son was right–he was meant to be a catcher. I was not in favor of this position change because catchers get beat up. They have to block bad pitches, throw hard to the bases to stop basestealers, and  block the plate from incoming hard and vicious slides! Ouch! And yet, on the positive side, the catcher is literally involved in every pitch of the game. He calls for each pitch, learns to know a batter’s tendencies, and calls the plays as they unfold. He commands the game in a way like no other. James is indeed a catcher. He’s been a student of the game since he was little.

I remember the very first time I went out and bought him a bat, ball, and tee. It was one of those big, over-sized plastic sets that serve as the entry into the game of baseball for most little guys. Well, James hit two or three balls off the tee and then said proudly, “Daddy, pitch to me!” Now mind you, he was only three years old! I tried my best to use reason and convince him that a three-year-old needs to hit off the tee for more than two or three times before he could ever hope to hit a pitched ball thrown at him. I told him that even the great Cal Ripken, Jr., who was our mutual hero, hit off a tee at least a hundred times a day even as a big leaguer!

All of my fatherly wisdom and coaching rationale was not enough. So I succumbed and pitched the big plastic ball his way as this three-year-old stood proudly in the batter’s box. I think I threw over a hundred pitches to him that day and he hit maybe five of them. Each time he connected his bat with that ball, he would run around, touching every base, and declare he hit a homerun! I would try to tag him as he slid into homeplate, but he was always safe. And a love of the game was born for both father and son!

James is now seventeen years old and started eight games as a sophomore on his high school team last year. I still try to take my turns pitching to him, but now instead of hitting five out of a hundred, he connects on each and every one I throw anywhere near the strike zone. Then, I duck, hide behind my glove, and scream for my mommy as the baseball comes straight back at me!

James will be starting behind the plate this year as a Junior and he is looking forward to a good season. He’s been working hard in the off-season and can’t wait for the weather to break so he can get out on the diamond!

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I realized when James was 12 years old that I could no longer be his coach. He was developing a mind of his own, it was the proper time for  him to be coached by someone other than his dad, and he knew more about the game than I did! Admittedly, it was very hard for me to step down from coaching baseball, so I coached middle school football for three years, which I thoroughly enjoyed! But eventually, I had to give that up, too, to be available to get James where he needed to be as he continued developing his baseball quest. I do miss coaching but decided to take up a new spot–behind my camera. Now I’ve been photographing the Pleasant Valley High School Baseball Team for four years and I enjoy the challenge and opportunity to capture the action on the field.

Yep, it’s still February, and there is a lot of snow on the ground, but James and I are thinking BASEBALL! Aren’t you?

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Pleasant Valley Wins Over Allen High School in a Character Builder!

It took two nights, eight innings, and a come from behind rally to win, but Pleasant Valley won a character building game on Friday night!

Howie Stevens took the mound in a suspended game due to darkness the previous night. Allen had rallied from being three runs behind to tie the game in the top of the seventh inning. The game was called due to darkness with runners on 1st and 2nd and no outs. This situation was inherited by Stevens to re-start the game on Friday. The first batter battled in the count and then drove a ground ball down the 3B line. PV’s Travis Van Houten made the play at the line and threw a bullet to first basemen, Chris Burke, to record the first out.

A walk in the inning and an errant pick-off attempt, left a runner at 2B. A stolen base and another error scored the first run of the evening, but it wouldn’t be the last. Stevens got out of the inning with good stuff and then it was PV’s turn to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning.

A walk to Connor Cardenas, started the inning. Cardenas was then awarded 2B when a pickoff attempt went past the first basemen, who then interfered with Cardenas. Cardenas was then awarded 2B. Adam Raseley lined out to center field, which brought catcher,  James Shank to the plate. After three straight fastballs, the count was even at 1-2. Then Shank crushed a ball over the left fielder’s head to get the game-tying RBI and send the game into extra innings!

Here Shank is celebrating as he coasted into 2B with a stand-up double.

Stevens again took the mound to start the top of the eighth inning. He rolled through the inning with only one walk. That runner stole second base and then got to third base. With two outs the Allen batter laid down a bunt to first base. The runner on 3B broke for the plate and 1B Chris Burke fired home. Shank put the tag on the sliding base runner for the final out!

Chris Burke was walked on four pitches to start the bottom of the eighth inning for PV.

Cardenas was hit by a pitch, so there were runners at 2B and 1B when Shank came to the plate again. Shank’s first swing was a bullet down the third base line, but foul. Then, with another crack of the bat, Shank hit a walk-off, game winning RBI single.

Burke scored the winning run and was mobbed by his teammates after crossing home plate.

Games like this can be nerve-racking, but they build character in a team. These players stuck together and overcame the obstacles to win the victory. It’s not always easy, but winning games in this fashion build character that can take a team to many more victories. Go Bears! To see all the photos of this game, click here.

Pleasant Valley vs. Notre Dame – Fall Baseball

Two good teams faced each other on October 8th in a baseball showdown. The fans were treated to a true fall spectacle as the teams battled it out in fall-like weather. The above photo shows the second baseman, Adam Raseley, throwing a runner out at first. He cleanly fielded the ground ball and made the throw to first to record the out.

Here, pitcher, Chris Burke, waits for the signs from the catcher with eager anticipation! He’s ready to get into his windup but he needs the sign first. You can see the 4-seam grip in his hand as he awaits the sign for the proper pitch. Then, if needed, a slight turn of the baseball gets him ready to deliver the pitch.

Connor Cardenas gets safely back into first base as the late tag is applied. Connor extended his lead on the next pitch and stole second base with ease!

This swing by James Shank produced a double that went to the fence.

Howie Stevens’ swing produced the game-winning RBI, to lift the Pleasant Valley Bears to a 1-0 victory in a closely contested and very competitive ballgame!

To see all the photographs of this game, click here.

My New Baseball Portfolio

I was long overdue for an update on my Baseball Portfolio, so today I spent some time sifting through new photographs, comparing them to old ones, and refining my Baseball Portfolio. The images in this blog entry are just a few of the photographs that made the cut.

I need to be very picky to keep getting better with the wonderful subject of sports photography. Some of my primary goals are clean, clear backgrounds; tack-sharp focus; catching the action (hopefully peak action); and telling the story of a great play with an image. These goals are important to me because they keep pushing me forward. I want to get better so I have to be demanding of myself.

Paying attention to the quantity, quality, and direction of light sometimes keep me on my toes as the sun moves during a game. Keeping a chain-link fence out the background is very difficult at some fields, too. Then there are other times when a base umpire or another player steps right between an exciting play and my camera! Tenacity and a never-give-up-attitude are all very helpful. Another important tip is to never get lazy or give up on a play. Stay behind the viewfinder until you are positive the action of that play is complete. Besides, some of the player’s emotions after a play can make for some real interesting subjects, too. But stick with it because you don’t want to miss any action!

The game of baseball provides hours of enjoyment for the players, coaches, and fans. But I strongly believe the great game of baseball also provides endless hours of enjoyment and even excitement for us sports photographers, too! Time sometimes seems to stand still during a baseball game, but if the photographer gets lured into this false sense of boredom, he or she is sure to miss some of the action! Keep alert and keep shooting!

You can see my new Baseball Portfolio with all the photos that made the cut here.


PV Baseball Champions!!!

The Pleasant Valley Baseball team traveled to Sports at the Beach, near Rehoboth, Delaware to play in the Seaside Storm Tournament on September 22-23.

Saturday was a gorgeous day for baseball. The sun was shining brightly and this September day felt more like one of the dog days of summer.

PV lost the first game in a close battle  that went extra innings, but won the second game to position themselves in seventh place in the Championship bracket.

The first game on Sunday was a nail-biter. Superb pitching from Howie Stevens and an incredible defensive double-play by James Shank and Travis Van Houten proved to be the difference in a 1-0 game!

The team kept rolling and every player contributed to the cause as the second game on Sunday was declared a victory to place PV in the Championship game!

The Championship game wasn’t even close as the PV Bears won the game in four innings as they captured the championship! Way to go PV Bears Baseball team! You all worked hard and came out champions!

View more photographs here.