Camera keeps Cuddyer cool and collected

Camera keeps Cuddyer cool and collected

Camera keeps Cuddyer cool and collected
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- New Rockies right fielder Michael Cuddyer appreciates his privilege. Playing the game allows him to go where most folks can't.

But don't worry, he'll take you along as he makes his discoveries.

Cuddyer, 32, signed a three-year, $31.5 million contract to solidify the batting order and bring veteran leadership to the Rockies, after having spent his entire 11-year career with the Twins. Coming to a new league means a longer look at unfamiliar places. And for Cuddyer, a lifelong stadium admirer who last season became quite the hobby photographer, it means new sights that he can bring to fans.

"Photographs say different things to different people," Cuddyer said. "For me, even as a little kid, I've been so enthralled with stadiums. They're such amazing structures. Some are plain but yet beautiful. Some got so much stuff going on that I think they're ugly.

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"It's cool to be able to get different perspectives. Through photography, if you're good at it, you can almost translate what you see and make somebody else see what you see about the same subject."

For the Rockies, the season begins at Houston's Minute Maid Park. There's the train that runs high above the left-field wall, a terrace in left field, plenty of little treats.

Cuddyer has gained quite the following for his photos on Google+ and on Flickr, where he has pages devoted to his photography.

His subjects aren't limited to the game. He also displays strikingly lit shots of countryside, rustic homes and animals. But it's in and around the ballpark where he is most at home with the camera.

He clearly enjoys little quirks in statues around ballparks, like the old Spot-Bilt spikes of George Brett outside of Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, or the way the ball is coming off the edge of Nellie Fox's fingertips on the double-play flip that he and Luis Aparicio are executing in bronze at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.

Some perspectives can be experienced only if one were on the field. There's one taken at ground level from right field in Oakland, directly down the first-base line. You would imagine making a diving catch on a ball slicing off a right-handed bat and skidding to rest right there.

There's also a quirky one of a Mickey Mouse in Red Sox gear. The statue had been at the All-Star Game in Anaheim. Someone decided to injure the statue's arm. By the time it was moved to Fenway Park, the arm was wrapped in a cloth bandage.

Cuddyer's interest in photography all started with a family gathering.

"It was going into last season," Cuddyer said. "My brother-in-law shot some photographs on a vacation one time and I thought they were nice photographs.

"I started thinking to myself, 'We get to go to some pretty incredible places, places people pay to go see. There are cities people long their whole life to go to, stadiums that people love to go visit.' I figured why not try to take advantage of it."

The schedule will provide plenty of lens candy. Last season with the Twins, Cuddyer went to Arizona, San Francisco and Milwaukee. Now there is a whole new league to picture, both in the ballpark and beyond.

"If we stay downtown, I walk around the city and try to take photographs of the city," he said. "If we go to Texas we stay right near the ballpark, which is really in the middle of nowhere. Other than a stadium, there was nothing to take pictures of. But if we stay in a city or somewhere I think is cool, I try to venture out and take pictures of the city."

Cuddyer has found like-minded folks within the game. At last year's All-Star Game, he compared equipment and photos with Angels infielder Howie Kendrick, who lives in Arizona and has shot animal and plant life in the desert. Cuddyer said Hall of Famer Rod Carew likes stadiums as much as he does, and dreams of shooting every Minor League park in the land.

The lens lets Cuddyer go all kinds of places, but some places are off limits.

"It gets annoying seeing the guy with the camera all the time, so I made a promise never to take pictures of [teammates] -- except for [then-Twins teammate Jim] Thome," Cuddyer said. "I took a few pictures of him black and white. It was some action. He was doing some running or something. I gave him one, but I don't know if he kept it or not. He gets stuff from everybody."

Cuddyer comes to Colorado facing a high level of expectations. He has three 20-plus home run seasons and is coming to Coors Field, where the ball is known to travel. Cuddyer's 180 extra-base hits since 2009 led the Twins. Numbers like that from the No. 6 spot with the Rockies could help a club that plays in the National League West, where the majority of the parks favor pitchers, and the team could benefit from run producers below the middle of the order.

It's a prospect Cuddyer enjoys. But if there is pressure, there's always photography.

"It's funny, because last year when I started doing it, I thought I was just going to go take photographs," he said. "It ended up kind of like a therapeutic thing for me. I'd get to the park by myself at about noon, walk around the park, collect my thoughts and get myself ready. It actually was really, without trying to sound off the wall, peaceful."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.