Well, it’s finally come and gone. A few weeks ago, the final home game of the season for the Lexington Legends was played against the Lakewood BlueClaws, which they won, 5-2. The team traveled to Lakewood to finish the series, which they won, becoming South Atlantic League champions for the first time since their inaugural season. It’s also the first time they’ve played a championship series to its conclusion, as the 2001 SAL Championship was canceled due to the September 11th attacks.
This has been, without a doubt, the most memorable team I can recall in my time following the Legends. The amount of sheer raw talent on this team is, in my estimation, the most promising ever collected on a single roster for this club, and it’s likely that many of the players here will form the core of the next contender for the Kansas City Royals.
I realize that I have to check myself, sometimes; after all, it can be very easy to get caught up in a team that you’re following as closely as I have followed these kids. I’ve never seen so many teenagers on a Class-A roster. Including the 2017 season, we’ve had an opportunity to watch 20 of the top 30 prospects in the Kansas City Royals organization here in Lexington, and they have certainly lived up to their advance billing, in most cases.
Of all the teams and players I’ve seen come through Lexington, this year’s version has become my favorite, without question. The camaraderie and chemistry present on this roster since day one was readily apparent. Most of you know that strong chemistry isn’t an easy thing to come by, and when you have a team that hits it off from the beginning, the games just become that much more enjoyable.
I have been fortunate to have the access to these players that I’ve had, this year, as well as the previous two years, and I cannot thank the Lexington Legends organization enough for that opportunity, especially when I consider the fact that there were likely other photographers with far superior equipment (and, perhaps, experience) to that which I possess, who may have been afforded the opportunity that I was given, so graciously.
This season was also especially memorable because, for the first time, I received a great deal of feedback from the players regarding the photos that I took of them. At the risk of accidentally excluding someone, I want to thank Nick Pratto (and his family) and Brewer Hicklen, especially, as well as Tyler Zuber, MJ Melendez, Jeison Guzman, Dennicher Carrasco, Andrew Beckwith, Sebastian Rivero, Seuly Matias, and Charlie Neuweiler, for the feedback and positive reinforcement they gave me this year. I had an opportunity to meet and speak with the parents of Khalil Lee, last year, and they thanked me for the (numerous) photos I was able to capture of their highly-talented son. That was a special moment, for me.
I have had some players compliment me on the photos that I took of them, in the past several years, but this year’s feedback was even more encouraging and, for reasons that I’ll not bore you with here, unquestionably more timely.
As a side-note, I’ve always wondered why more players didn’t receive photos from the photographers. I know that many MiLB photogs have a job to do; some of them work for card companies, others for major print publications. But it seems like such a little thing to share at least a few of the many thousands of shots that the typical photographer takes, each year. Maybe I’m being too idealistic. I have been known to do so (occasionally), in the past.
Anyway, I’d like to share with our readers some of the photos that I took during the season. I had the opportunity to shoot 26 games this year, a personal high for me, and only remotely noteworthy when you consider that many writers and/or photographers have day jobs and freelance/beat positions to which they must attend. While I dearly wish that I could have attended all 70 home games, it just wasn’t in the cards for me. Still, it was a great joy for me to be able to attend the games that I was able to make it to, and a much needed respite, on so many occasions.
So at this point, if I haven’t already bored you to mind-numbing despair, here’s a bit of what I was able to capture in the 2018 South Atlantic League season. I dearly hope that you enjoy it as much as I have. As many of you photogs out there already know, this is a labor of love; without credentialing, we’d do it, anyway. I feel like, in most situations, I got the most out of what my camera can do. That was the biggest challenge, to be honest.
Presented for your consideration.
- Seuly Matias finds my camera (as he often did) as he waits on deck vs. West Virginia.
- The Bowling Green Hot Rods celebrate their first championship in the ten-year history of the team. Clinton Riddle
- Bowling Green Hot Rods reveling in their Midwest League Championship win; 9-16-2018 Clinton Riddle
- The champagne flows as Bowling Green celebrates their Midwest League Championship win; 9-16-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Bowling Green Manager Craig Albernaz soaked in celebratory champagne after winning the Midwest League Championship; 9-16-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Travis Jones hits his first home run in Class-A competition; Charleston RiverDogs @ Lexington Legends; Gm 2 of DH; 4-8-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Yefri Del Rosario on the hill vs. Kannapolis; 8-13-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Brewer Hicklen swipes his 16th bag of the season, as Greensboro SS Jose Devers loses both the throw and his balance; 7-7-2018 Clinton Riddle
- 3B Carlos Diaz hits his first-ever homer run in professional baseball; Rome Braves @ Lexington Legends; 7-29-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Carlos Hernandez brings it; Rome Braves @ Lexington Legends; 7-27-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Charleston 1B Dalton Blaser swats a single vs. the Legends; 4-8-2018 Clinton Riddle
- David “The Bullet” Smith, human cannonball, gets shot out of his cannon at Whitaker Bank Ball Park; 7-7-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Charleston IF Wilkerman Garcia slides into third, as 3B Dennicher Carrasco awaits the throw; 4-8-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Dennicher Carrasco, Jeison Guzman, Seuly Matias, Ricky Aracena, and Oliver Nunez pose for a group photo, as OF Vance Vizcaino sneaks in and photobombs them; Charleston @ Lexington; 4-6-2018 Clinton Riddle
- OF Emilio Gustave, Bowling Green Hot Rods, poses triumphantly behind the team’s first championship trophy; 9-16-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Greyson Jenista, Rome Braves, takes a big hack; 7-27-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Jaseel De La Cruz, RHP, deals vs. Lexington; 7-27-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Lexington SS Jeison Guzman, attempting to score from second, is gunned down at home on a throw from Greenville CF Cole Brannen to C Samuel Miranda; 5-13-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Hagerstown RF Juan Soto takes a big cut vs. Lexington RHP Andres Sotillet; 4-21-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Hagerstown IF Luis Garcia, taking pre-game grounders; 4-21-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Lexington C MJ Melendez warms up the starter; 4-19-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Nick Pratto steals home for his 14th SB of the season; Rome @ Lexington; 7-27-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Ricky Aracena, Jeison Guzman, and Seuly Matias play pepper with Dennicher Carrasco; Hagerstown @ Lexington; 4-19-2018 Clinton Riddle
- C Sebastian Rivero, 2B Ricky Aracena, and SS Jeison Guzman pose for a quick photo, pre-game; 4-19-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Seula Matias takes off for first; Rome @ Lexington; 7-29-2018 Clinton Riddle
- SS Frankie Rios throws out the Lexington base-runner; 5-13-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Greenville pitching coach Bob Kipper holds back RHP Devon Fisher, who had just been tossed by HP umpire Forrest Ladd after drilling Seuly Matias; Greenville @ Lexington; 5-13-2018 Clinton Riddle
- MJ Melendez gets congrats from Dennicher Carrasco after MJ’s 5th homer of the season; Greenville @ Lexington; 5-15-2018 Clinton Riddle
- Fireworks on display after the Legends beat the Rome Braves in Game One of the first round of the SAL Playoffs; 9-5-2018 Clinton Riddle