Absolutely Perfect

I bought got my first digital camera (a lovely little 1.3 megapixel Fuji that took photos that looked amazing when displayed on the internet at 300×175 pixels) ten years ago. Since digital photos, unlike film, didn’t cost me an arm and a leg to shoot, I started bringing the camera with me everywhere, including baseball games. Back then, due in large part to the camera I was using and the fact that it had no zoom whatsoever, I shot a lot photos of the beautiful ballpark known as Pac Bell Park. Over the years, as I got more and more into the expensive addiction known as photography, I started shooting more than just the ballpark. I took photos during games, and since I’ve always been a fan of arriving early and watching batting practice, I took a lot of photos of players during BP.

I always tried to take photos of as many different players as possible, but I especially liked to try to take photos of whichever young players had recently joined the team on the off chance that they put together an incredible career and became a superstar. I liked the idea of having my own photos, so when that player became a star, I could pull those photos out and say, “I saw him way back when.”

I had been excited about certain prospects before, namely what was supposed to be the three-headed monster known as Foppert, Ainsworth, and Williams (oh, what could have been), but I have to say the first Giants prospect that I was really, truly excited about was the one and only Matt Cain. I remember being incredibly excited when I found out he was being called up. I also remember being nervous for his first start. I couldn’t even watch the start, but I was excited and nervous nonetheless. I remember rushing home and asking whoever I could how Cain looked and whether the start went well. In keeping with my tradition of taking a photo of the newest player on the Giants, a few weeks later, when I found myself at the ballpark watching batting practice, I took this photo:

Matt Cain in 2005

When I posted it to my Flickr account, I wrote the following:

Seeing that he’s been heralded as THE FUTURE for the Giants recently, I just had to get a picture of Matt Cain. It took awhile to get one where I could actually see his face, because as soon as he approached the wall, he was mobbed by fans. If Matt Cain turns out to be the amazing pitcher that every Giants fan hopes he’ll be, at the very least I can say I got this picture of him the day after he threw his very first major league complete game (in only his third major league start!).

Little did I know that Matt Cain would turn out to be everything we hoped he’d be and so much more.

Yesterday I packed my camera before heading to the ballpark as I always do. I wasn’t sure how many photos I would take, seeing that I was sitting up near the very top of the View Level, but I always like to have my camera handy anyway. Always. Mostly I was excited to be heading back to the ballpark. The weather was perfect. Matt Cain was pitching. Brandon Belt was finally starting against a lefty. The Giants lineup didn’t make me want to recoil in horror, in fact, it looked pretty good (for the Giants, at least). But early on during the game, it was pretty obvious that Cain was going to have a great night. As he blew through the Astros in the first inning, I dared to entertain the idea that he could do something special that night, but I quickly banished the idea, because I’m one of those weird superstitious people who is always afraid they’ll jinx something just by thinking it. (This is clearly why the Giants lost the World Series in 2002 by the way, despite my best efforts to keep the good karma rolling by eating the exact same thing during each and every postseason game. Hey, I never said I was normal.)

Hey, it’s jet pack guy!

I pulled my camera out, at first to take a photo of the jet pack guy in the cove, but as the night rolled on and Cain kept dealing, I realized that this was something I needed to be taking lots of photos of, just in case.

I’ve been to some big Giants games over the years, including the division clinching game in 2010 and a couple of playoff games, but I have to say that I’ve never been part of a crowd at a Giants game that was that loud. It was so much fun and so very exciting and nerve-wracking. The longer the game went on, the more we all lived and died with each pitch. Every strikeout brought on a loud roar of joy. Matt Cain got standing ovations after every 1-2-3 inning. We held our breaths on Melky Cabrera’s catch (from my view point, I was so very sure it was a home run), and we darn near lost our minds after Gregor Blanco’s catch in the seventh inning. That was when I knew, and I’m sure you did, too, that something extremely special was going to happen at AT&T Park last night. I’m pretty sure that whatever invisible force that kept Ian Kinsler’s ball from leaving the park in game two of the 2010 World Series also kept Chris Snyder’s ball inside the park last night and an inning later guided the ball directly into Blanco’s glove.

MATT CAIN!

I have a zillion photos of Matt Cain pitching last night. I am very tempted to post them all here, because MATT CAIN.

Looking through the photos I took in the eighth and ninth innings, I can tell that I was just a tiny bit jittery (hi, image stabilization, I am very glad you are part of my lens), but who wouldn’t be? During the early part of the game, people in my section kept getting up and walking around, but no one moved for those last innings. Between pitches, I heard someone behind me whisper, “He’s throwing a perfect game.” I’d never been so happy to see Emmanuel Burriss swing at the first pitch and hit into a double play. Anything to get Cain back out there for those last three outs.

And then Cain just needed one more out. And it came down to pinch hitter, Jason Castro. Looking back at the replays when I got home last night, I noticed Cain yelled as he threw that very last pitch, as if he knew, or was willing it to be the last one. So very dramatic. So very awesome. So very badass. I held my breath as the ball rolled to Arias and tried not to panic as he prepared to throw it across the diamond. As soon as the ball landed in Brandon Belt’s glove, the entire ballpark erupted. So much joy. So much disbelief. Even twenty-four hours later, I still can’t believe what I saw.

There have only been twenty-two perfect games in major league baseball history, and I was lucky enough to be at the latest one. Matt Cain, the pitcher that I photographed as he followed Matt Morris around as a rookie in 2005, the pitcher that we all watched grow up and handle game after game of poor run support with grace and humor, the pitcher that we rooted for with all of our hearts for all of these years, had thrown a perfect game. You couldn’t script this any better, and it couldn’t have happened to a better guy. Little did I know when I took that photo of Cain the day after his very first complete game that on June 13, 2012, Matt Cain would be perfect. Absolutely perfect.

(Need more photos, because you just can’t get enough of Matt Cain? And really, I don’t blame you, because Matt Cain is awesome. I’ve posted an entire gallery over at my Zenfolio account.)

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