‘BoniBlog – Taking a shot of Fred Thornhill for a change

Stunned might be the way to describe the look on photographer Fred Thornhill’s face when I told him to smile for the camera, in this case my mini Canon PowerShot A75.
There he was, on one knee with his massive 400 mm sports lens zeroing in on the Blue Jays for their final workout at the Bobby Mattick Complex on Tuesday before their move to Dunedin Stadium on Wednesday for the start of their Grapefruit League season against the Tigers.

Fred Thornhill, Ready for Action

I’ve know him since the early 1980s when he arrived at The Toronto Sun. Sure, he shot SUNshine Girls, fires and news stories among the top photographers anywhere around but as I learned from personal experience he was a terrific sports photographer as well.
Proof of that occurred in 2000 when Thornhill became the inaugural recipient of the Sports Media Canada Award for photography. His photo of Leafs captain Mats Sundin and the scrum of jubilant Leafs celebrating the overtime win over Pittsburgh in a playoff game was spectacular and duly honoured.
So from our days at The Sun, my appearances at Spring Training in Dunedin in recent years always leads to a reunion and reminiscing about the old days at the paper’s 333 King Street East address.
But after I put the camera on Freddie – and then followed up with an interview for this baseball ‘BoniBlog, I rightfully sensed how unusual he felt to be in the spotlight. He spent 25 years at The Sun and his recent works of excellence come through his association with Reuters and the Blue Jays.
He’s been with Reuters for about four years and has been a Jays’ photographer for 22 years. Including his years with The Sun, Thornhill says he’s been at Spring Training here “every other year or every year for about 25 years.”
Now, about that, large camera…
“It’s a standard 400 mil sports lens like we use for hockey or baseball or soccer or football, a standard piece of equipment,” he says. He then adds: “It’s an expensive piece of equipment, $10 grand.”
His game plan, of course, is to come up with the best photos, be they game/practice action or offbeat stuff that pops up from time to time.
“Here we’re looking for the principal guys that are going to be on the roster,” he says. “The starting pitchers, key relievers, key infielders, new guys signed in the offseason. Then there are also guys that have been brought up through the minors that now are getting to the big club and going to make the big club and make the regular roster. So we have to try and keep track of all of those guys out of probably 125 when you consider the number of minor leaguers that are here.”
His favourite baseball shots to this day came, not surprisingly, from the championship seasons for the Jays.
“Both the ’92 and ’93 World Series,” he says. “Robbie Alomar’s Game 5 home run in the ALCS against Oakland in ’92 – was probably I think the best moment in Blue Jays history. We were there for that.” And he’s still here shooting the Jays.
But Freddie, one more time for the camera … smile!