Bush League

Some people just don’t get it.

 

I was supposed to be in Salt Lake City this weekend to cover the four-game opening series April 11-14 between the Salt Lake Bees and the Portland Beavers.  The Bees were going to get four days of free publicity, and you were going to get four days of video footage showing you Nick Adenhart, Brandon Wood, Nick Green, Matt Brown, Terry Evans, and all the other Angels minor leaguers.

 

But thanks to the unprofessionalism of Bees management, that trip has been cancelled, costing me $275 in non-refundable plane fare.

 

I called the new media relations staffer about two months ago to introduce myself, explain what I do, and tell her about the long history I’ve had since 2001 helping out the Bees (known as the Stingers from 2001-2005).  I’ve shot photos for them, written articles for their game programs, helped local press with media content, and given the Bees lots of free publicity.

 

Without monetary compensation.

 

All I ever got in return was a media credential and an understanding that reprints of the photos would be available through my web site.  Most of the photos — probably over 90% — are purchased by the players, their parents and their loved ones.  It was understood this is for the general benefit of everyone — the team, the players, and their families.  I also performed an archival service for the teams; staff may come and go, but I was protecting their history by storing photos independently.  I did it all for free, knowing that I’d never come close to recovering my expenses.

 

This is the model I’ve practiced with all the Angels affiliates since 1998, when I began shooting photos for Lake Elsinore.  Most minor league operations don’t have the money to pay a team photographer, so they’re more than happy someone is willing to do it for free in exchange for looking the other way on a license.  In ten years of FutureAngels.com operation, it’s never been an issue.

 

Until now.

 

I was informed today by e-mail, three days before my flight, that they’ve changed their minds and I won’t be issued a credential after all.

 

Mind you, I was told two months ago I could come shoot.  I double-checked a month ago, before I ordered my plane tickets, to reaffirm I could come shoot.  Both times I was told yes.

 

But now I’m told I won’t be allowed to shoot because only the staff photographer is allowed to shoot at Franklin Covey Field.  I won’t be credentialed because my photos might be for sale, which is the worst kept secret in eight seasons I’ve been working with Salt Lake.

 

To add insult to the injury my pocketbook just took, I was told that for my trouble they’d leave a free ticket for me to sit in the stands at each game.  But I won’t be allowed to shoot photos.

 

Yeah, right, as if I’m going to spend $500 between plane fare and hotel and rental car to sit in the cheap seats at Franklin Covey twiddling my thumbs for four days.

 

I pointed out that two of my photos were currently on the Bees’ home page, including the feature story about last night’s game at Tucson, more evidence that they benefitted from my work.  They removed the photos rather than acknowledge that mutual benefit.

 

Part of the problem, I think, is that Bees’ management doesn’t understand how minor league baseball works.

 

The Bees are owned by Larry H. Miller, who also owns the NBA’s Utah Jazz.  When he bought the team in 2005, some of the front office staff were let go.  Some of the survivors were transferred to the Jazz’ front office.  In fact, the Bees are pretty much run out of the Delta Center, where the Jazz operate, instead of Franklin Covey Field.  The media staffer’s e-mail address is utahjazz.com, not slbees.com.

 

In the Salt Lake City sports pecking order, the Bees seem to be way down the list below the Jazz, BYU football, and the professional soccer team Real Salt Lake.  I don’t live there, but my aneecdotal impression is that the Bees are an afterthought for the Jazz staff and with the local press.  The Salt Lake Deseret Morning News doesn’t even have a Bees link on its Sports menu.  To be fair, though, locals have told me the Jazz have helped raise the Bees’ visibility with crossover promotions, and Larry H. Miller is one of the most prominent businessmen in Salt Lake City.

 

But minor league baseball teams are not NBA teams.  If you’re low on that pecking order, you shouldn’t be alienating the few people who are willing to help publicize your product, especially when they do it for free.

 

Apparently Bees ownership doesn’t see it that way.  Maybe they think that if they act like they’re big league, that makes them big league.

 

But today’s duplicity shows they’re just bush league.

9 Comments

Get a clue, the reason that you can not get a photo credential in SLC is because you are selling the pictures. If you will take the time to read the terms and conditions on any MiLB media pass you would read that all photos and videos are for editoral use only. In other words photos can not be sold! I’m not allowed to sell any pictures that I take at any MiLB park, so why should you be allowed to?

Get a clue, THEY TOLD ME IT WAS OKAY. THEY TOLD ME IT WAS OKAY FOR SEVEN YEARS. THEY TOLD ME TWICE IN THE LAST TWO MONTHS IT WAS OKAY. THEY TOLD ME TO GO AHEAD AND MAKE MY PLANE RESERVATIONS, IT WAS OKAY. THEY CHANGED THE RULES THREE DAYS BEFORE I CAME OUT.

Clear enough for you?

NO, the rules I’m talking about are MiLB and MLB rules, not rules that have been set by the Bees. The question is why should you be able to sell pictures when MiLB terms are clear and state that photos taken at any MiLB or MLB park are to be used for editoral purposes only.

I have been doing this for ten years. The MiLB rule has been addressed by treating me as if I were staff. My compensation is to sell reprints if I get an order. They get free publicity. This has been the arrangement with every Angels minor league affiliate I’ve worked with since 1998. I am aware of photographers for other Angels affiliates, and photographers for other minor league teams I’ve worked with, who have a similar arrangement and sell reprints through their own web sites. So it’s not just me, it’s a widespread and common practice.

I’ve worked with affiliates who have tried to obtain photos shot by independent photographers of their players, but been told no because the team won’t pay for the photos. Quite clearly the free-lancers have the right to shoot photos and sell them to media, and don’t owe the teams or MiLB a dime. That’s for a news purpose in theory, but I’ve also run across plenty of uses that were not for news but for product and no license was ever obtained.

Beyond that, the courts have ruled that selling individual works of art is legal so long as they are not produced. If I were to mass-produce and sell 1,000 photos of Brandon Wood without a license, that would violate copyright. If I sell one reprint, that is considered a protected work of art and does not require a license.

The Bees have a right to restrict who has access to photographer credentials. I’m not arguing that. What I *am* arguing is that they told me twice I would be credentialed despite the MiLB rule, and then three days before my flight they told me I would not be credentialed. In fact, I wasn’t even told until I e-mailed the staffer and asked to confirm the arrangements had been made. If I hadn’t e-mailed her, for all I know I would have shown up in SLC Friday evening only to be told I had no credential and had just wasted a $275 ticket plus hotel and rental car.

Are you arguing that is right?

There is no excuse for that. It’s unprofessional in the extreme. And that’s my complaint.

At the very least, what they should do is send me a check for $275 to make up for the lost plane fare. But so far I haven’t seen they have the integrity to even tell me they’re changing the rules, so I don’t expect them to have the integrity to pay for my loss due to their unprofessionalism.

For the record, I’m looking at the credential issued me last Sunday by the Lake Elsinore Storm. No, it’s not a Bees credential, but if there were some rule involving MiLB you’d think it would be on the credential.

It’s not.

Here’s what the Storm credential says:

“This pass is issued subject to the condition, and by use of this pass each person admitted hereunder agrees that he/she will not transfer or aid in transmitting any report, description, account of reproduction of the baseball game or exhibition to which he/she is admitted, except as expressly authorized by the Lake Elsinore Storm Professional Baseball Club. Breach of the foregoing will automatically terminate this license.”

So what that says is that if it’s okay with the Storm, it’s okay.

No mention about having to get a license from MiLB.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have been critical of your comments/opinions in the past. But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect all the hard work you put into giving fans information they can’t find anywhere else. So here is my e-mail to the Bees. 10 bucks says I never hear a word back.

“I just read on futureangels.com that you revoked Stephen Smith’s photo credential. Are you guys crazy?!?!!? Stephen does more for the Angels minor leaguers than the Angels themselves! The man loses thousands of dollars a year traveling to the various affiliates so he can bring information you can’t find ANYWHERE to the fans of Angels baseball. You think you can find more information on your site? Yeah, right. You banned him because he was making money on the photographs. REALLY?!?! He was selling them to the players and their loved ones! You really think at the end of the year the money he makes on the photos pays for travel expenses? Not even close. This was easily the worst thing you could have done. And I sure am glad Orem, Cedar Rapids, Rancho and Arkansas still allows him to shoot photos of a MINOR LEAGUE baseball game. This isn’t the major leagues and this isn’t the Utah Jazz, although that’s how you guys perceive yourselves. You guys seriously need to reconsider this decision because now you look like a bunch of fools. Feel free to call me if you want to chat more. This is the most outrageous thing I’ve ever heard. IT’S MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL!!!!!!!!!”

Thank you, I appreciate the gesture, although I agree you’re unlikely to hear anything from them.

I ran into a similar situation years ago in Sacramento, when the River Cats first opened for business. Edmonton was our PCL affiliate at the time. The Sacramento folk put the “freak” in control freak. They wouldn’t even let people stand still on the concourse, you had to keep moving, and they were making dead sure everyone was in their assigned seats — even randomly checking ticket stubs!

They were almost obsessive about where photographers stood. They wouldn’t let me shoot through the net behind home plate because they said I might obstruct someone’s view — although there was only a runway behind home plate and no one there.

I distinctly remember one guard trying to shove me and another photographer onto the field DURING PLAY. I tried to explain to him that photographers only entered the field between innings or during a time out (e.g. pitching change) so as not to become a potential obstacle. But he had someone screaming in his earpiece to have us go on the field and run down the third base past the dugout to the camera well — NOW. This was in the middle of an at-bat. Journalistic ethics aside, I sure as hell wasn’t going to risk being nailed by a line drive or otherwise interfering with play. Luckily, the pitching coach decided to go to the mound so we bolted for the camera well.

I left that night and said I’d never be back until they changed their attitude, and so did the other photographer. We were told they didn’t care if free-lancers came back or not, as they wanted to control their photos and would hire a photographer if they wanted one.

So it happens occasionally. I’ve shot in a lot of parks over the years and probably 99% have welcomed me with open arms, even the ones who aren’t Angels affiliates. I always offer to shoot for them for free and tell them how I operate. They see it as a win-win, and besides that’s how the minor leagues work — we all help each other.

Hopefully the Salt Lake management will eventually figure it out. If they alienate their local press, they’ll lose their free coverage and maybe they’ll wake up to reality. Arrogance will carry them only so far.

And it worked out well for me anyway, although I’m out the plane fare. As mentioned upstream, I have a slight ankle sprain so I stayed home today. I have a political project I’ve been working on and used the time to research some corruption in my local politics. I found some nifty evidence which might turn into a news story. Silver lining in dark cloud and all that.

So if SLC doesn’t care for it’s affiliation with the Angel’s I’m sure we could support a AAA franchise here in Ventura County! Bring it on!

They don’t owe you a thing. They have done you a favor for years and all you can do now is bellyache because they decided to play by the rules? Grow up.

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