MiLBYs are the end-of-season awards that honor the best players, teams and performances of the Minor League season. For three weeks, fans chose their favorites in 11 categories, and now we're announcing the Fans' Choice winners as well as MiLB.com staff picks for the major awards.
Baseball and thunderstorms don't typically get along, but on one July evening in Rochester, in one fraction of a second, the combination painted a remarkable picture.
Morrie Silver was sitting below the press box at Rochester's Frontier Field on July 25 as storm clouds moved in on a Triple-A game between the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees and the Toledo Mud Hens. Not only are thunderstorms a little unusual for ballpark scenery, but this was one of many games in 2012 where the Yankees were temporarily calling Rochester their home while their ballpark in Pennsylvania underwent renovations.
Silver, a 15-year-old public relations assistant with the Red Wings, was sitting in the stands with his mother, Naomi, the president and CEO of the team, when he saw the sky lighting up in the distance. He pulled out his iPhone and tried to time it just right.
"I noticed that there was a ton of heat lighting above us, but this was no heat lighting," he said. "I was trying to capture this picture for the sheer coolness of it, but I did not think it would be this cool."
Despite using just his mobile phone, Silver, the grandson of former Red Wings owner Morrie Silver, managed to capture a perfectly timed image of a lightning bolt breaking through a dark blue sky over the center-field fence.
He looked down at his phone and was shocked.
"When I saw my image, I was stunned," he said. "I didn't think I just took this. I thought, it looks like something that was Photoshopped. The first person I showed was Shea O'Gallagher, an intern, and he thought it was Photoshopped and immediately put it as his work computer's desktop. I definitely thought it was an awesome photo, one that I could put as my background for my phone and computer."
But this photo would be worthy of more than just a cell phone wallpaper. Silver submitted the picture to MiLB.com about a week later, and through fan voting, it was selected as Photo of the Year in the annual MiLBY Awards.
"I have never captured anything like this before," Silver said. "This storm was probably pretty far away but obviously noticeable. This storm did not delay the game, and it didn't even rain until after the game and after our guys pulled the tarp."
The storm appears pretty close by, but players don't appear to notice what's happening -- the scene shows runners on the corners with a batter about to step into the box for Toledo. Four distinct lightning bolts are captured reaching down from a flash of white in the sky, just to the right of a set of ballpark lights over Frontier Field.
"Obviously, this picture is one of my personal favorites," said Silver, whose gameday responsibilities include gathering press clips and helping Red Wings media relations director Mark Rogoff with game notes. "The lighting bolt behind the great game just makes for a great picture. But it's not the picture that amazes me about this, but rather the fans that voted. I didn't think that many people would vote for it, but the fans in Rochester are just so amazing. This award is not a win for me, but rather a win for the Rochester Red Wings and the city of Rochester. And that means a whole lot more to me."
Silver's photo beat out a variety of action shots taken over the course of the 2012 Minor League season, from homeplate collisions to championship celebrations, umpire arguments, diving plays and mascot antics.
"When I submitted it back in August, I was just hoping for [MiLB.com] to re-post it on its Facebook or Twitter feed. I didn't even know the photo was up for an award until Nick Sciarratta, Director of Corporate Development for the team, saw it online on the voting site. And as for the fans, that's exactly who the fans are here in Rochester: the best. They are the ones who deserve this honor. All I did was take the picture. With out them, there's no chance."
As for Silver, the Red Wings organization is in his blood, and his passion is for being around the ballpark. In fact, even the ballpark's address, One Morrie Silver Way, honors his family's impact on the club.
"I love taking pictures of anything baseball," he said. "I always love going to the office, whether there is a game or not, offseason or not. I love being there. The front office is like my family, and Frontier Field is home."