First of all, I’m glad to report that Mark has signed a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds. If he makes it to the major league roster, and I have the chance to see Bronson pitch with Mark and Gonzo behind him, I will actually brave the snarky security staff at Great American again.
It’s not a stretch to say that I owe the entirety of sittingstill.net to Mark Bellhorn.
It was just after the World Series win in 2004, and I was a regular on the Remy Report message board, when a poster started a new thread and called it "My Wife Loves Kapler." In the thread, he noted his wife’s preference, and asked the rest of us lacking a Y chromosome whom we would choose. He offered a choice of Kapler, Arroyo, Schilling, Pokey Reese, and Johnny Damon. Well, most of us had various other choices, and proceeded to hunt down photographic evidence to back up our various choices. And so a thread was born–one singularly free from ********, infighting, contradiction, etc.–devoted to the visual image.
I had posted not a few photos of my own nominee, one Mark Bellhorn, when in Spring Training Jim Davis of the Boston Globe took a particularly nice shot of him. For the first time, I thought, I want to take a shot like that.
I had a decent digital camera, and come Opening Day, I did my best.
… which wasn’t really all that good. But I kept trying…
And I started to get the hang of things.
And in the process I discovered a niche: two, really. One was that of "Bellhorn photographer," as clearly demand to see the guy was inadequately served by the available photos and photographers. And the second was of observer/photographer in general. I didn’t shoot many game photos, but I took a lot of the guys just hanging around, goofing off, relaxing, being themselves. And people enjoyed seeing them!
In July, I upgraded my camera…
but in July, as well, Mark got hurt, and went on the DL. He did rehab at Pawtucket…
but on a dark day for me, he was released, and on a darker day still, he signed with…
the New York Yankees.
Well, now I was stuck, and I decided to have a little fun with my reputation. So I followed him, into the belly of the beast, alone, for a game against Tampa Bay, and then again with my buddy the Yankee fan for a game against Baltimore.
"I can’t believe it! She followed me again!"
And of course I applauded him when he returned to Fenway.
In the offseason between 2005 and 2006, he signed with San Diego. San Diego! Well, they were certainly putting together Red Sox West… could I be adventurous enough to follow? I looked at the April calendar for dates. Then I asked another fan in New Mexico whether she’d go to Spring Training in Peoria… and suddenly…
I went to San Diego in April anyway…!
and between Red Sox West and the terrific group of Padres fans I met, I found I had acquired an NL team.
I saw six games at Petco in 2006, the Mets series in April and Pittsburgh in September, and I saw eight Padres road games in Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, New York, and Cincinnati. Checked a decent number of parks off my list, saw some new cities, and enjoyed myself thoroughly.
I’m asked all the time whether I’ve met Mark, and the answer, really, is no. Maybe it’s better that way. But I’ll always be grateful to him for the people I’ve met, the places I’ve gone, and the photos I’ve taken, all because I just had to see that scruffy face and cheer on that underdog who just keeps on trying.