Sunday, March 15, 2009

Roger (Clemens) and Me

Roger Clemens throwing a fastball to me during the shoot
Myth Busters is a reality show on the Discovery Channel about proving or disproving myths and urban legends. I was hired to shoot the publicity stills for the episode. When I arrived for the photo shoot at Tinker Field in downtown Orlando, I immediately knew something was wrong. All the producers for Myth Busters were running around crazy.
Roger (Clemens) and me - after the 4 hour taping of Mythbusters
This episode would feature future Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Roger Clemens. They wanted to prove if a curve ball really curved, if a fastball can actually rise or if a slider really slides, etc. Despite all of the planning for talent, location permits, flights and lodging, it seems that the producers forgot to hire a catcher. Who was Roger Clemens going to throw to? I think they assumed Clemens would bring his own catcher, but they soon realized that they were in a bind.
They only had four hours to tape the segment with Clemens. At nine o'clock in the morning, they had no idea where to find a catcher who could keep up with Roger's 90 mph pitches. I jokingly told the production crew that I had played college baseball 16 years ago and that maybe I could catch for him. To my surprise the producer said, "Great. Do you have any gear?"

After a frantic phone call, I was able to find a friend who drove out to the location and delivered the catcher's gear to me. When Roger arrived, I introduced myself and told him I would be taking publicity photos.

Clemens met everyone else on the cast and crew and then asked, "Where is my catcher?"

I replied. "That would be me. I am pulling double duty today." Clemens looked at me incredulously...
I spent the next four hours alternating between catching his arsenal of pitches and taking photographs of Clemens in full catcher's gear. Catching for a Major League Baseball pitcher is an amazing experience. I couldn't believe the accuracy of his fastball. When I set up my target, I didn't have to move my glove - he would just hit the target.

His slider was difficult to catch because he throws it so hard. It starts out almost as fast as a fastball, but has a late break down and to the right. You really have to watch the spin (and see the tell tale "red dot") to have a chance to hit it. Roger's curve probably was the most effective pitch that day. Real tight spin and it broke very late in the strike zone. It was an 11 to 5 break.

However his most impressive pitch is his splitter. He releases the ball with a flat wrist (just like his fastball) and his arm action is still really quick, so it is very deceptive. Your instincts tell you the ball is going to come in real hard, but then it is there 10 MPH slower and dives down hard and to the left.

At the end, Roger Clemens thanked me and told me I did a great job. Four hours later, that "great job" I did translated into a numb and bruised left hand, two sore legs, an achy back and wild cave man hair.

I need to give special thanks to photographer Jimmy DeFlippo who helped me on the shoot. The more tired I became, the more work he had to do...

(Originally posted on, 03-05-2007)

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