Reno Aces: A Decade in Images

By Reno Aces / Reno Aces | January 6, 2020 5:26 PM

The following is a conversation between Reno Aces communications manager, Jake Trybulski and team photographer, David Calvert. Calvert has been with the club since its inception in 2009 and is one of the longest tenured team members at Greater Nevada Field. With a new decade upon us, Trybulski asked Calvert to look back at some of his favorite Aces photos from the 2010s.

JT: "Ten seasons and you cut it down to 50 pictures? What was your process, how did you choose the photos?" 

DC: "It was hard, but it wasn't. Every year I make a 'best of' gallery with around a hundred photos. Sometimes I post a link on social media, often I don't. The main reason I do that edit is to see how the season went, how successful I was and if I made any strides as a photographer.

For context, I photograph an average of 30 games a season, and each game I take about 2,000 photos. So that's tens of thousands of photos each year.

I deliver, select, crop and tone a few hundred photos from each game. At the end of this season, I had more than 12,000 images in my archive to choose from.

For this, "Best of The Decade" or, decade in review, I chose photos I liked as a photographer: ones that had interesting light and composition. But also photos that are of my favorite memories and people at Greater Nevada Field."

JT: "Were there photos that you knew right away would be part of Aces history?"

DC: "Absolutely. The role of a team photographer is complex. There are daily needs like starting pitcher, game action, and marketing needs but the more important-in my opinion-and more enjoyable aspect, is capturing the history of the club. Baseball is history. And I've always connected with the game's past through great photography.

This photo for instance:

JT: "Cody Decker's career-ending walk-off home run-that's the coolest baseball moment I've seen seen person. Working in the communications department, we knew he was going to retire but the rest of the stadium didn't know. Just his teammates and us. And to watch the crowd go wild for him not knowing it was his final at-bat was a sight to be seen."

DC: "Exactly. I saw his name in the lineup and knew it would be his last game.

I made pictures of him with his teammates in the dugout before the game. I photographed every at bat like it might be his last. I just kind of followed him looking for photos that would be special to Cody and his family.

Obviously, I had no idea it would turn into the kind of moment it did.

Winning the game with a walk-off is memorable. Ending your career on one is a sports movie.

And as much as I love this photo, I have others from that day that are just as meaningful. They just don't have the emotion that you can feel in this one.

It's a classic 'jub-shot.' Or jubilation for the non-photo folks.

And shout out to Archibald for jumping in there and making the frame. Two real Aces icons."

JT: "I watched every single player and coach give Decker a hug after the game. What was it like being next to all that emotion?"

DC: "That's maybe my favorite part of being a photographer. I have access to people's lives in a unique way and being close to a moment like that is a privilege I don't discount. It's also exciting because there's a need to succeed, to make photos that are deserving of the moment."

JT: "Are there any other photos you felt you've taken this decade that can possibly compare to that emotion we saw that night?

DC: "This one is pretty good: 

Mike Jacobs is one of my favorite Aces. And this is from the 2012 championship run.

We had just beaten Sacramento in the first round of the PCL playoffs and the guys were celebrating in the clubhouse.

I feel like Mike's personality really comes through. He seemed like a great teammate and leader. And even though he'd been a big leaguer, he kept things loose and had fun."

JT: "How did that costume develop?" 

DC: "I'm pretty sure he just stripped down and threw on the Lucha Libre mask. It's obviously a side of him the fans didn't see. I think he played the game wearing those Flash panties. Baseball players are the best.

JT: "Speaking of the best, we've seen some pretty great ballplayers come through Greater Nevada Field, both for the Aces and visiting clubs. Who's the best you've photographed?"

DC: "Michael Nelson Trout.

Not my favorite photo but having a chance to see big leaguers on the way up is cool: it's the kind of thing MiLB fans talk about for years. And we've seen way more than just Trout. For example, Buster Posey, Jacob DeGrom, Josh Donaldson, Kris Bryant, La Tortuga...and for the Aces, Adam Eaton, Patrick Corbin, Archie Bradley, Ketel Marte, A.J. Pollock. I could name a dozen more.

We've also had some guys come through on their way down. Which is another part of the minor league experience. I photographed Manny Ramirez, Jamie Moyer, Jayson Werth...and the rehab guys, Hunter Pence, Todd Frazier, Hyun-Jin Ryu.

It's always fun when the big leaguers are here. Fans can get close to the players in Triple-A. And most of them are great about signing autographs, taking pictures.

This was a fun day:"

JT: "Is that who I think it is?"

DC: "Big-time Timmy-Jim. Yeah, it's from June 7, 2016."

JT: "Can you describe that day?"

DC: "Lincecum was trying to make it back to the Majors and had just signed with the Angels. I think it was his second start with the Bees and it just happened to fall on a Tuesday. And the stadium was full of kids because it was an education day. It was loud and there was extra media at the game and a bunch of people skipped work to see him pitch. And I just love this photo. The stands are full, you can recognize his delivery...the silhouettes. Reno is a Giants town and there was a lot of excitement to see what was next for him."

JT: "You do a great job of capturing the stadium itself, what other photos of the field stick out to you?"

DC: "I have so many sunset photos, I love our Nevada skies and this is a pretty good one.

I use an ultra wide, 10.5 mm lens to get these stadium scenes. This is from July 8, 2018."

JT: "I've seen a million of them in your gallery. What is it about our skies that makes you keep taking new sunset photos every time you get a chance?"

DC: "I approach every game like it is its own story. Just because I've photographed something in the past, doesn't mean it's not part of that night's experience. The challenge is to make the same thing interesting game-to-game, season-to-season. Even after 11 years, I'm still looking for new angles.

I took this one from the ADA seats at the top of 112. I love photographing from the concourse and this is one of my favorite spots. I like the way it shows the lower bowl and how the sky is framed by the architecture of the stadium."

JT: "Do you see yourself taking the same approach to firework photos?"

DC: "I never photograph consecutive fireworks nights from the same location. Sometimes I'm outside the stadium, sometimes I'm on the field. Finding unique fireworks photos is challenging. The last couple of years, it's been fun to use the HOME sign in the frame, but my favorite firework photo is this one from Fourth of July, 2016:

I took it from the parking garage across the street. I think I was on the fourth floor. I like seeing the city and the crowd. The grass outside Greater Nevada Field is a great place to watch the show.

I've tried a few times to capture the fireworks from higher up in the garage but I don't like the way the stadium frames the field. I'm probably the only one that's ever noticed, but everything is aggressively asymmetrical at the ballpark. I'm a little neurotic about stuff like that."

JT: "The Fourth of July games are always packed, but I noticed you selected a photo of an empty stadium. Why?"

DC: "This one?"

JT: "Yeah. It's our worst nightmare to have an empty stadium. What about the photo makes it an image of the decade?"

DC: "Photographers love bunting and it's only ever hanging for special occasions. This is from Opening Day, 2011. It's a nice detail photo.

I like to get to the stadium early, when it's empty. Everyone that works here is getting ready for the game, but the gates are shut. It's quiet. But you can feel the stadium hum. Also, I love the architecture of a ballpark. The repetition of lines and shapes, all the different building materials, the pattern in the outfield grass. It's beautiful.

JT: "I love the photo of Joe Hill, our head groundskeeper, watering the baselines."

DC: "Yeah, that's another pregame photo. So much happens at the ballpark that isn't just baseball. I try to capture all of it. I've always been a 'get there early, stay late' kind of storyteller, and I love 'getting ready' photos. That's one of the reasons I photograph the grounds crew so often. And we've had two of the best. It's awesome to watch what Joe (and Eric Blanton before him) can do with the field. They're also probably my two best friendships I've made at the stadium."

JT: "Really? I've never seen you pull tarp."

DC: "I document."

JT: "Why did you pick this one?"

DC: "I like making baseball photos that don't have baseball in them. Norman Rockwell painted umpires."

DC: "'Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.'

I've photographed more than 300 Aces games. Anything that looks different, makes me happy. And I love weather. Rain delays are also a chance to see the players just hang out. Sometimes I go in the clubhouse sometimes we just sit in the dugout and talk. We're all just waiting on Mother Nature. I know it's stressful for some staff members, but personally, some of my favorite games are the ones that get cancelled."

JT: "You've had the chance to spend time in the clubhouse. What's it like building relationships with the players?"

DC: "It changes year to year. But the older I get, the more I gravitate towards the veterans.

This is just a snapshot, but it stood out to me when I was putting this edit together.

From left, you've got Bobby Wilson, Mike Jacobs, Andy Marte and Blake Lalli."

JT: "When did you take this photo? Why is it a significant group of players?"

DC: "It's from the 2014 postseason. We had just beaten the Las Vegas 51s and this is from the clubhouse celebration. Jacobs asked me to take the photo.

They were the 'core four.' A group of veterans with big league experience making a run at a championship.

To me, what's special about it is to think about where these guys are now. Wilson is managing the Frisco Rough Riders, Jacobs manages the Clinton LumberKings and Lalli manages the Jackson Generals. You could tell then that they had more baseball left in them.

Andy Marte was killed in a car crash in 2017. He only played in Reno that one season, but he was a big part of that clubhouse and I could have seen him coaching someday as well."

DC: "Yeah, Aces fans will recognize Tyler Skaggs. He was one of the best lefties we've had and along with Trevor Bauer pitched Reno to the 2012 Triple-A National Championship.

A lot of us were gutted when we found out about his death last season."

JT: "Why did you choose this photo of Tyler in particular?" 

DC: "I chose this photo of Tyler because it reminds me of the movie 'Little Big League.' There's a montage where 'Blackout,' played by former Major League Brad Lesly wraps a wad of tobacco in gum and when I was nine I thought that was hilarious. And disgusting. But also, kind of 'Big League.'

And catching a 22-year old Tyler Skaggs in this photo, it kind of feels like something a kid would do. He was so young and he was still figuring out what kind of ballplayer he was. Looking back, it's also a sad photo."

JT: "A sad photo, but a necessary one. He will surely be missed.

Got any photos to liven the mood?"

DC: "My favorite thing to photograph at the ballpark:

It's so Minor League. I laugh every time.

Also:

This is from Opening Day, 2014. We're always looking for new ways to introduce the players and this is peak Reno. That's actually my friend Talia (on the right). We went to high school together. And Ender Inciarte."

JT: "2-for-5 with two runs scored that game for Ender, just saying." 

DC: "This is the 2012 Kentucky Derby:

Reliever Jensen Lewis had asked the control room to put the race on the jumbotron during batting practice. He was "invested" in the outcome. This is the moment "I'll Have Another" crossed the finish line. I bet they could hear Lewis cheering at Harrah's.

Here's one Eric (Edelstein) won't like:"

JT: "Mr. Baseball is a staple in this ballpark, tread lightly."

DC: "This is from a game in 2017 when 'Ballsy' got stuck. I thought the umpires would have a problem with it but they didn't delay the game and we played on. Imagine hitting into that. What a weird batter's eye.

Speaking of weird, I'm not sure I'll ever understand the connection between baseball and Star Wars. But I love it."

JT: "Any other theme nights that stand out?"

DC: "In 2014 we officially recognized Jackie Robinson and retired his number. All of the guys wore 42 that day."

JT: "What an awesome day of recognition that must of have been."

DC: "I studied Robinson's career when I was a kid-his autobiography, "I Never Had It Made" was one of the first 'chapter books' I remember reading-and loved seeing his number in the outfield."

Jt: "Interesting side note, Branch Rickey III., the President of the Pacific Coast League, is the grandson of Branch Rickey, who originally signed Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945.

DC: "Yeah, it's fun to hear him talk baseball. He visits Reno occasionally. I think I met him for the first time at the 2013 All-Star Game."

JT: "What do you remember about All-Star weekend in 2013? Not every city is privileged enough to host. It must have been a proud moment for Reno." 

DC: "It was wild. We threw a huge party at Rancharrah for the players, FanFest was at the event center. I don't think the stadium has ever been as full.

My favorite thing to photograph was Aces third baseman Matt Davidson winning the Home Run Derby.

Also, I like this photo because it reminds me of the first Sports Illustrated cover. It's a big, wide stadium photo with a strong sense of place."

JT: "Any favorite Aces to photograph?"

DC: "[Ildemaro] Vargas is great. He clearly loves the game. And is having fun playing it.

 

This is a photo of him with his son, AJ. I like seeing the players with their families. I can only imagine how special it must be for them and I try to document moments like this whenever I can.

Here's another one like that:

This is from 2012 and is of one of our "Brett's Big Leaguers."

JT: "What was "Brett's Big Leaguers?"

DC: "Our first 'Skipper,' Brett Butler started a program where sick kids got to come to the ballpark and hang out with the team. Bugsy really set the tone for this organization and getting to know him is one of my favorite memories of the decade.

We used to talk in the dugout after batting practice. He's a very kind man. I loved hearing him talk about meeting his wife, Eveline. Sometimes he'd give me relationship advice."

JT: "This is an interesting photo of Braden Shipley." 

DC: "I really liked photographing Shipley. He has a beautiful delivery and I was excited when Arizona drafted him out of Nevada.

I bought a special lens to make this photo with. It's a 500mm mirrored lens meaning it uses a mirror to create the focal length. The result is little donut-shaped bokeh. Lots of classic baseball photos were made with this lens."

JT: "Lastly, what's the deal with this photo?"

DC: "That's Kevin Jepsen. He pitched for the Angels and the Rangers. And went to Bishop Manogue High School. He was drafted in the second round and is one of the best baseball players to come out of Northern Nevada...and when I was a sophomore at Reno High School, I got a bunt base hit off of him."

JT: "Seriously? Photo of the decade?"

DC: "He threw very hard."

For the complete album, visit:

https://calvert.photoshelter.com/gallery/Reno-Aces-Best-of-The-Decade-final/G0000VeDl5YHZLVU

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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