There are three sure signs of spring: 1) The days get longer. 2) The birds return from points south and begin building nests in newly-budding trees.
And 3) master photographer Tom Priddy begins posting fabulous new baseball pictures in his social media feeds.
Guess which one I look forward to the most each year?
Tom is a longtime newspaper guy who’s worked as a reporter, editor and digital innovator. He’s currently the digital products manager of the Spartanburg, S.C. Herald-Journal.
Tom’s sports photography is so good, though, that he sells his work to clients like Baseball America, Sports Illustrated and ESPN magazines and the Washington Post.
And to baseball card companies.
I asked Tom to send me a collection of his all-time favorite baseball pictures. He replied with these gems:
I was fortunate to grab this shot of former Braves manager Bobby Cox and pitching coach Leo Mazzone in the dugout.
It only lasted a second but I think it shows the relationship they had and their personalities. It was shot at a spring training game in 2005.
My bread-and-butter these days is shooting for baseball cards, so most of the images I shoot are of individual players, such as this one that landed on a Topps card.
The tradition at some clubs is to have the rookie pitcher bring the snacks to the bullpen in a children’s backpack.
This was the first time I actually saw something like that in person, and I had to hustle to get in position for it because all I had with me was the 400/2.8. (I’m too old to carry around a lot of gear. I often carry just one camera.) It was pure luck that a teammate was there for the high five.
With the manual scoreboard in Greenville, S.C., the operator sometimes looks through an opening during play. This was just a good, fortunate combination of a face and a play.
The bad news about the scoreboard is that sometimes it takes forever for it to be updated.
Like a lot of photographers, I like silhouettes. This was from a rookie league pregame batting cage workout in Elizabethton, Tenn.
I like to get to the park early. You never know what you might see.
I try to always shoot the ceremonial first pitch if I’m doing nothing else. You never know what you might get. Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you never look at it again.
The low-angle light from early spring is fun to play with. Sometimes it works for you, and sometimes against you.
Getting a good shot of the team mascot interacting with a player is rare, but this is my favorite one.
One thing I love about Minor League baseball is that sometimes photos gain in importance as years pass. Here in the center we have Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward on the bench before a Class A game.
And I can’t swear to it, but I think that’s Craig Kimbrell at the left. All went on to be Atlanta stars.
It’s amazing the number of pitchers I see who close their eyes when delivering the ball. I never would have guessed.
This shot of pitcher Junichi Tazawa aimlessly tossing a ball was taken during a Class A Minor League rain delay. I think it shows the futility of waiting for the weather to clear.
I like the silhouette on this, the determination on his face, and the position of the arms.
This is Julio Teheran in a Class A game. He’s now an Atlanta starter.
Who would not love to photograph a pitcher who kicks his leg up so high it hides his face? I have never seen this before.
Of course, nobody is going to use this for a baseball card, but who cares?
Aside from the fact that there are too many photographers, it’s great shooting an All-Star Game because the players always have fun with it.
This was from the home run derby where a hitter was blasting several shots over the fence and a teammate came over and jokingly cooled him off.
Find Tom’s personal website here, his GoUpstate.com photo blog here and his Twitter feed here.
Tom is an interesting guy. He’s a hero of mine — three times over. By that, I mean for work he’s done during three separate phases of his career.
I love his baseball work. I’m a huge fan of the trailblazing work he did back in the 1980s and 1990s with PressLink and as managing editor of KRT Direct.
But even in the 1970s — when I was still in high school — I used to follow his weekly music column in the Greenville News. I still have a half-dozen or so clippings from that era.
Six years ago, I did a nice Q&A with Tom. Because that was when my blog was still hosted by VisualEditors.com, that post has been MIA for a good five years.
But thanks to the internet archive at the Wayback Machine — and thanks to me for never cleaning old JPGs out of my hard drive — I’m able to repost that here.
Q&A with Tom Priddy, Presslink pioneer,
multimedia editor, photographer
(Originally posted March 3, 2009)
At a time when many of us are wondering what we might have to do for a second career, Tom Priddy of The Herald-Journal in Spartanburg, S.C., is already on his fifth career.
Tom Priddy on the floor at the Republican Convention in
St. Paul, Minn., September 2008. Photo by Harry Walker/MCT.
A 1973 graduate of Clemson University, Tom started out as a reporter for the nearby Anderson Independent and then a reporter, features editor and music writer for The Greenville News. At the latter, very impressionable young minds *ahem* read his work regularly.
After nearly nine years as graphics and design editor of The State in Columbia, S.C., Tom joined PressLink, eventually rising to managing editor. His official bio says he…
…helped develop PressLink into a major online news service in the 1990s. He was a pioneer in digital photography, supervising groundbreaking digital photography projects with Kodak and Nikon, including coordinating the very first worldwide online distribution of news images (from the 1991 Super Bowl). He trained NBA and NFL photographers in digital photography and brought the first news service photos (from KRT and Reuters) online for sale worldwide.
Later, he helped build and manage KRT Direct and NewsCom.
In 2005, Tom moved back to South Carolina to become multimedia editor of GoUpstate, the Web site of the Herald-Journal (average daily print circulation: About 48,000).
On the side, Tom works as a freelance photographer. Among his clients: Baseball America, Sports Illustrated and ESPN magazines and the Washington Post.
Whew! Just typing all that wears us out!
For a while, now, we’ve been meaning to invite Tom for a Q&A. He was gracious enough to spend some time last week answering our questions…
Q. So tell us about the early days of PressLink. How did you go from visuals guru in Columbia, S.C., to managing editor of Knight-Ridder’s wire service?
A. No matter where I was working, I always wanted to play with the toys.
When I started in the business I had a summer job that included setting Tempo Italic headlines in hot metal for the women’s pages. (It was a Ludlow machine, for all you old folks who remember.)
An example of hot type, set with a Ludlow,
widely used at newspapers through the 1970s.
I poured pigs for the Linotype machines. I took obits over the phone (very badly, I might add). When I went full time I started out with a Teletype machine in my bedroom for sending stories back to the office. I always figured there had to be a better way.
A Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100. Eight kb of RAM
and an audio cassette in lieu of a hard drive.
Cost in 1983: About $600.
So when we got Telerams I tried them; they were awful. I used the Radio Shack Model 100s (the “Trash-80s”) and loved them. I still have one. I talked my way into getting portable computers (no way they would be called laptops back then; they were suitcases) and digital cameras.
When you work with Teletype machines, hard copy, put your film on the bus to get it to the office, have to drive like crazy to find a phone or get back home to file — then you always are looking for a better way. At least, I was.
The Apple Lisa, introduced in 1983. One meg of RAM,
an external 5 mb hard drive for just under $10,000.
In December of 1983 when a Columbia computer dealer came to the office to show off the new Apple Lisa computer, I had to have one. Fortunately, at the time I was working for a terrific, visionary executive editor at The State, Tom McLean, and he forked over the 10 grand for the Lisa, and graphic artist Scott Farrand and I were off to experiment.
One thing led to another, we traded the Lisa for a Mac when that was introduced, and Scott and in 1986 I discovered Roger Fidler and PressLink — a revolutionary way to exchange Mac graphics. As soon as I met Roger and saw what he was doing with electronic communication, I knew I wanted to work with him. I eventually wore him down and he hired me. PressLink employee No. 3.
Tom Priddy in 1988.
We had fun dreaming things up. For several years Mitch Koppelman of Reuters and I would scheme about how one day we would be able to deliver photos electronically the way PressLink was delivering graphics. We experimented with scanners, JPEG compression and so on — and one day PressLink was able to distribute Mitch’s digital files. We got a lot of satisfaction out of that.
A couple of guys who worked with Tom at PressLink: Left:
Roger Fidler, now program director for digital publishing at
the University of Missouri’s Donald W. Reynolds Journalism
Institute. Right: Jeff Glick, now director of publications
for Advance’s Alabama Media Group in Birmingham, Ala.
Q. You guys were definitely cutting edge back then. In graphics, for example, we had AP, too, but KRGN offered elaborate stuff that was always pushing the limits of what one could do with MacDraw. How did y’all get so good, so fast?
A. I can take very little credit for all the excellent graphics. I never claimed to be an artist. Back then we had some spectacular artists in Knight Ridder, including the outstanding Jeff Glick. I just worked with Apple and Claris and Adobe and Aldus beta testing and trying new techniques, and those folks created the amazing graphics. I had the ear of the MacDraw product manager, and he listened to my ideas and fed me beta copies.
Here’s a two-minute promotional video for
Apple Computer from 1988 or so in which
Tom discusses the importance of Macintosh
technology in news graphics.
Scott was a joy to work with. He and I were on the same page. If I could dream it up he could execute it. I’ve always loved learning new things and then teaching them to people more talented than me.
I hired Tim Goheen right out of college, and, boy, talk about a talented guy. He could do anything, and it was always just right.
Two guys who worked with Tom at The State in the 1980s:
Left: Scott Farrand, now a professor at the University of
South Carolina. Right: Tim Goheen, now director of the
school of visual communication at Ohio University.
Q. It must have been crazy in those days, basically making up products and services as you went along. What’s the most surprising anecdote you can tell me from that era?
A. I’ll tell ‘ya two stories, including one that makes me look bad.
When I was with The State I was also systems manager for the Atex system, and graphics committee chairman for the Atex Newspaper Users Group, an international users group. So I got to work with some of the Atex developers. I was so excited to be able to use Atex messaging within the building and remotely on my Trash-80 that I tried to get them to develop a system for exchanging messages with other Knight Ridder properties through an Atex interface.
“I might want to exchange messages with, say, the photo editor in Detroit,” was the way I phrased it. Remember this was way before the Internet, so the only way to send a message was CompuServe or a similar service. I wanted them to take messages and re-route them to other Atex sites.
I had a hard time selling that notion. PressLink came along soon after that, so I dropped the idea. It was never developed.
Story two: When I was with PressLink we were supported by the General Electric Information Services (GEIS). They were a little slow developing new products because they were so big, but one day they showed us a project they were working on whereby one computer user could open up a window on another user’s computer and type a short message.
I remember thinking, “Why would I want to interrupt a friend when I could just send an e-mail?” Roger agreed. We told them we didn’t think we’d need it. I don’t think it ever went anywhere with GEIS.
Of course, AOL released Instant Messenger much later on, and that became a hit — so people are interrupting colleagues all around the world now.
I guess maybe we missed the implications of that tool. Win some, lose some.
We always had more ideas than we could have possibly implemented. Someone asked me in a job interview what I enjoyed doing most, and I said, “I like making something from nothing.”
Q. So at some point, you moved up the ladder at KRT and then eventually got out of the wire service business. Why?
A. I probably would have stayed with PressLink forever, because by this time I was the longest tenured employee, and I had much of the institutional knowledge. I loved my job.
But in 2001 Knight Ridder sold all the company’s assets to the Tribune Co. and NewsBank and closed us down. I was laid off and was out of work for five months until Jeff Lawrence and Jane Scholz gave me a job with Knight Ridder/Tribune.
I had worked with Jeff and Jane when I was at PressLink, so they knew me. (When you’re over 50 there are very few places that want to interview you.) I handled Macintosh support and built Web sites for KRT.
Q. What brought you back home to South Carolina?
When I was in D.C. with KRT I made the mistake of volunteering for a new assignment within the company. I thought it would be just like PressLink all over again, and I thought it would be a great fit. I was wrong. It was
They tried to turn me into a marketing administrator, and I stunk at it. I hated just about everything, particularly writing long-range planning documents. They weren’t happy with me, either. (Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you the rest of the story.)
By this time I had accumulated 25 years with Knight Ridder. So one day my wife and I said, “We don’t have to be doing this any more; let’s just go back home.” So we did.
I quit, she quit and we sold the house and moved back near family in South Carolina. We had enough money to live on for a while, until we found work or decided what to do. By this time it was more important where we lived than what we did. We have brothers, sisters and parents nearby.
After we were settled, I was very lucky to see a job ad at the Spartanburg Herald-Journal for an online producer. I was very fortunate to be hired by a great group of editors: Andy Rhinehart, Greg Retsinas and Carl Beck. I count my lucky stars every day.
The site Tom edits for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.
Q. You’re the multimedia editor for the Spartanburg paper, but you also shoot baseball on the side. Have you always been a baseball nut, or is this a fairly recent interest?
A. Baseball and rock ‘n’ roll. Always loved ‘em both.
I did the rock ‘n’ roll for 14 years, and then just got worn out. Pop music changed and I didn’t have a clue what they were trying to do, so I quit that. I’m not a hip-hop kinda guy.
My dad introduced me to baseball when I was a kid, and that’s a treasured memory I’ll always keep. I became a big fan.
When I found myself in need of another personal challenge (why do I do these things?), baseball photography seemed to be perfect for me. I had the challenge of learning photography all over again with the then-new auto-focus cameras, and I’d spend time at the ballpark. What could be better?
Tom drove to Atlanta on March 29, 2008, for an exhibition
game between the Braves and the Cleveland Indians. “This
exchange early in the game almost made the trip worthwhile
on its own,” he wrote in his blog. “Kelly Johnson slid into
second to break up a double play, and slammed into
Asdrubal Cabrera — who kept applying the tag even after
he got the call.”
“If I had my way there would be a lot more sidearm pitchers,”
Tom blogged. “I love these guys. It’s hard to take a bad photo
of a guy who contorts his body like this and nearly drags his
pitching arm on the ground.” This is closer Joshua Papelbon
of the Greenville Drive, September 2007.
22-year-old Lee Hyde pitches during a Spring Training
game in Kissimmee, Fla. in March 2007.
All three photos by Tom Priddy.
Q. Do you go down to Florida to shoot any spring training? Or do you wait for the minor-league clubs to come home to roost for the season?
A. I’ve spent a week at Spring Training just about every other year lately. I’m going again this year.
Then, throughout the season, I try to get to as many minor league games as I can. These days I may only have time for one game every couple of weeks. I try to research who the top prospects are, and cover them when possible. I do what I can.
“One of the hardest batting shots to photograph is the instant
the ball hits the bat,” Tom wrote in his blog. “It happens so
quickly that you have to shoot even before it occurs. You never
see it until you look at the pictures The next hardest thing is a
broken bat just after it splits. You never see that, either. You
just hear it and wonder. So I can’t take any credit for this one.
In Saturday’s Class AAA game between the Atlanta affiliate
and the Houston Astros team, Diory Hernandez split his bat
on this pitch.” March 17, 2007.
“Anybody who has seen the baseball movie ‘Field of Dreams’
knows where the inspiration for this scene comes from,” Tom
blogged. “It’s the start of the Southern League All-Star Game,
and because stalks of corn weren’t available in the outfield
gate, the players are emerging from man-made clouds.”
Miss Greater Greer, Stephanie Vaughn, throws out the
first pitch at a Greenville Drive game, April 24, 2008.
“No disrespect to the queen, but I had to laugh when I
saw the hair,” Tom blogged. Click for a larger view.
All five photos by Tom Priddy.
Q. You say in your bio that some of your photos have been used on baseball cards. How, exactly, does one get a gig like that?
A. For some reason, I’m unable to stop dreaming.
I was a baseball card collector when I was a kid, and have always loved the photos and the graphics. When I started shooting baseball, I said, “Hey, I can do this as good as those Topps guys.” So I kept shooting, kept taking chances by sending out proposals, and kept getting picked.
I’ve had my photos on a few hundred cards by now. I love it. Unfortunately, I don’t know a soul who can make a living at it, but its a great part-time gig.
Examples of baseball cards for which Tom has supplied
photos. Click for larger views.
Q. South Carolina is home to a number of notable college baseball teams. Do you ever get over to Clemson or down to Columbia to shoot any of them? Or are you professional baseball only?
A. I like to joke that I shoot as much baseball as my wife allows.
Okay, that’s not much of a joke, but yes I shoot some Clemson baseball. I shot two games there last weekend. The photos get used frequently in the Herald-Journal with player profiles.
And I get some additional practice shooting. I still have a lot to learn.
Clemson baseball, March 4, 2008. It’s a tradition: before
each game, Tiger coach Jack Leggett plows into his team.
“I keep looking back at this one, and enjoying it more and
more,” wrote Tom of one of the few football photos he’s posted
in his blog. “Photographers look for shapes and patterns, and
I was fascinated by the way the three Clemson quarterbacks
went through their drills.” Left to right, Cullen Harper,
Tribble Reese and Willy Korn, 2007.
Both photos by Tom Priddy.
Q. Back in my high school days (Long Cane Academy, McCormick, S.C., Class of ‘80), I used to read your album reviews every Sunday. I still have a few of your Beach Boys clips from The Greenville News and your John Lennon column from The State. Does anyone else ever ask you about this stuff, or am I pretty much the only one?
A. I appreciate you remembering that. That’s died down to a trickle. Nobody much remembers that anymore. I’m proud of what I’ve done, but I’ve come to accept that fact that people only really care about what you do today.
You’re the first person to ask about the old days in, oh, like forever.
Three examples of pages Tom produced as features editor
of the Greenville News. Click each for a larger view. The
page on the bottom, illustrated by Kate Salley Palmer,
is from 1980. The other two are from 1978.
Q. I decided not to attend Clemson because they didn’t have much of a journalism program. Granted, my choice — Winthrop — wasn’t much better at the time. But a Clemson education hasn’t seemed to hurt your career any. Did you get the newspaper training you needed there or did you have to rely on extracurriculars?
A. I went to Clemson because I wanted to be an architect, but after six weeks in the program I knew I had made a mistake. I have zero aptitude for math. Calculating a tip is challenging.
But by that time I had published my first music review, saw it in print in the school newspaper, and said, “Hey, I kinda like the way this looks . . .”
I might have continued to just write music reviews, but one day the editors mixed me up with another freshman and gave me a reporting assignment. I thought, “Hmm, that’s odd, I didn’t volunteer for this, but they must know what they’re doing because they’re editors.” So I covered the assignment and they kept giving them to me.
Actress Jane Fonda, before an anti-war rally speech at
Clemson in the fall of 1970. Photo by Tom Priddy.
We had an outstanding adviser at the time, Dr. Louis Henry, and Dr. Henry basically taught me everything I needed to know abut being a better journalist and a better human being. I owe him a ton. We had no journalism program, but we had Dr. Henry, and he was gold.
Q. You played in the Clemson marching band? What instrument? Do you still play?
A. You keep uncovering things I’m very bad at.
I played drums, had played drums since fifth grade, and wanted to be in the Clemson Tiger marching band as a freshman. Again, this was pre-journalism, and I had no clue what I wanted to become. I played bass drum, enjoyed the heck out of my year in the band, but by sophomore year I was a journalist and had no time for it.
Today I just drum on the steering wheel.
Q. Are you a South Carolina native? Where are you from, originally?
A. Born on Long Island, N.Y., grew up for the most part in New Jersey, wanted to get the heck out of Dodge when I graduated from high school, so I went South.
Fellow Long Islander Billy Joel at the Bi-Lo Center in
Greenville, S.C., Feb. 24, 2007. Photo by Tom Priddy.
Q. So who was your coolest interview as a music writer?
A. Roger McGuinn of the Byrds at Carolina Coliseum was cool, James Taylor (with Carly Simon flitting in the background) in a darkened locker room at Littlejohn Coliseum was cool, the original Allman Brothers in the adjacent locker room on another night (another long story over a beer someday) . . .
But I’d have to say the three days I spent traveling with the Marshall Tucker Band was tops. I have a lot of treasured behind-the-scenes photos. Someday maybe someone will need them for a book.
“As a reporter in the Upstate in the ’70s, I wrote a lot of
stories about the Marshall Tucker Band, and spent time
photographing them backstage at a few concerts,” Tom
blogged. Here is the late Toy Caldwell, backstage at
Carowinds in the early 1980s. Photo by Tom Priddy.
Q. Music writer… Cutting-edge wire service manager… baseball card photographer… Which was more fun?
A. Actually, being a parent is the biggest trip of all. I have two incredible daughters and two great sons-in-law and a wonderful granddaughter. That’s really the most fun. There’s no adrenaline rush like seeing your daughter in the delivery room. The other stuff is fun when I can’t be around them.
The best e-mail messages I ever got were the first ones my daughters sent while at college. Nothing beats that.
Q. Is there something else you really wish I had asked you about?
A. My wife is my secret weapon. She edited every column I ever wrote, starting in college. She’s made me a better writer and a better person.
Okay, sometimes she did it with me kicking and screaming, but she did it. She gets 50 percent credit for everything. Sometimes more.
She almost got thrown out of Carolina Coliseum while I was backstage with McGuinn . . . and she still stayed with me.
Again: Find Tom’s personal website here, his photo blog here and his Twitter feed here.