We’ve had several Dave Schofield blog posts up here over the last few weeks (here, here, and here) that originated from Florida. This one originates from the Jersey Shore, talking about one of the best and worst parts of spring training – coming home.
After a month of beautiful weather and brilliant sunshine, my time in Florida was drawing to a close. I had photographed college baseball and college softball and Major League and minor league games and headshots. Twenty college baseball and sortball games, seven major league games and 9 minor league games. I shot over 250 headshots for the Yankees, over 200 for the Philies and 65 for the New Hampshire FisherCats. It has been a busy spring and I was tired.
Before rest though I had to drive the nearly 1500 miles from Clearwater to Belmar. I had done it many times and knew the way.
As I looked at the map, I realized that this drive would take me through many of the towns I have worked in during my 40+ years of photographing Major and Minor league baseball. I found this exciting and thought provoking.
The road from Clearwater to Loganville, GA where I would visit with my daughter for a few days before resuming my journey home, is I-75 North.
Throughout Florida, I was impressed by the way the terrain changes as the road goes north. Leaving Florida and entering Georgia the land becomes more fertile and the pine trees higher.
The first old stomping ground I passed was Albany, GA. The home of the Albany Polecats in 1994. I passed through there to photograph them for their baseball cards for the Fleer Company. It was in Albany that I met lefty pitcher Shane Hale. I saw and photographed Shane throughout his rise through the Baltimore Orioles farm system. Sadly Albany no longer has a minor league team.
The next stop on the ride was Macon, GA up until 2002 the South Atlantic team of the Atlanta Braves. In 1995 future major leaguers Wes Helms, Derrin Ebert, Andruw Jones, Kevin Millwood, Damian Moss, and John Rocker toiled for the Macon team.
Of course trip then took me through a major leage town, Atlanta.
After a few days in Loganville and a wonderful visit with our daughter Casey and her husband Mike, I set out for the final 14 hours of my journey.
The first minor league town I passed through, Greenville, holds many happy memories for me. It was the sight of several baseball card shoots when they were affiliated with the Mets and as a AA team for the Braves.
More recently it was the sight of the 2009 SAL Championship game for the BlueClaws 2nd SAL Championship.
A bit farther north is Spartanburg, SC the home of the Phillies SAL team for many years up until 1994 when the team relocated to Kannapolis, NC. No less a major leaguer than Scott Rolen played the final year in Sparty in 1994. Gastonia, NC came up next, a mere 40 miles from Spartanburg. I was sent to Gastonia in 1993 to photograph a Rangers #1 pick Donald Harris for Baseball America. Unfortunately this #1 pick never made it past AA for the Rangers.
Charlotte, NC has for many years been a wonderful minor league baseball town. I saw Billy Ripken and Curt Schilling play in Charlotte in 1988 as minor leaguers for the Baltimore Orioles. Bob Milacki, current Reading Pitching coach was also on that team. In 1994 while the AAA team for the Chicago Cubs, current Phillies GM, Ruben Amaro patrolled the outfield in Charlotte. BlueJays manager, and former Shore Regional pitcher, John Farrell was also on that team.
In keeping with the Philllies theme, the first baseman in ’93 for Charlotte was Jim Thome, pictured on the right. His manager that year? His current manager. Charlie Manuel.
The rest of the trip up I-85 through North Carolina reads like a South Atlantic League travel guide.
Kannapolis, Greensboro and so on. On the right is a photo of Ricky Williams (yes, that Ricky Williams, then a Piedmont Boll Weevil – in Kannapolis, and soon to be U of Texas and NFL star running back).
For good measure throw in Durham from the International League and Winston Salem from the Carolina League, Richmond from the Eastern League, but formerly from the International League, Bowie from the Eastern League (see below) and Wilmington, DE from the Carolina league.
Coming over the Delaware Memorial Bridge I thought to myself that the baseball fan could do much worse than to do a minor league baseball trip down I-95 and I-85 to follow the BlueClaws on one of their road trips this year.
Exiting Rt 295 north onto I-195 East I see the sign for Belmar and soon enough for Route 9 and Lakewood and I knew that in a few short weeks, we will start the 2012 BlueClaws baseball seaon, and like you…I AM READY!
We’ve put some additional photos below, beginning with a picture of Jayson Werth, then a catcher for Bowie the Orioles system.
Below find Billy Masse of the Carolina League’s Prince William Cannons, then a Yankees affiliate.
And below, then-Durham Bull Randall Simon.