Mark McGwire.

"St. Louis Cardinals batting coach Mark McGwire adjusts his cap in the dugout during the start of an interleague basebaseball game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards Thursday, June 30, 2011."

Authors Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams famously identify Major League Baseball as a “Game of Shadows.” 

Here’s Mark McGwire, former baseball hero turned center of a steroids frenzy. He’s back in baseball as the Cardinals’ batting coach. 

To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t help but feel for him. I know absolutely nothing about his state of mind, so perhaps that’s an unfair statement coming from a 21 year old photographer seeing him for the first time. But from what I observed, he seems to consciously remain “in the shadows,” as invisible as possible throughout games. He certainly kept out of the way of cameras. His face looked older, his hair grayer. 

Watching him converse with his hitters as they belted home run after home run at Camden Yards all series just made me think. When you see someone in person, particularly someone involved in controversy, it’s not as easy to be so relentlessly unforgiving as we tend to be, say, when we watch a report on ESPN or listen to an interview. The human quality goes unaccounted for in our media world.

I don’t know a thing about any of these players, what they do or don’t do, or what kind of people they are. But simply seeing that they are, in fact, living, breathing human beings rather than objects on our TV screen is pretty powerful in and of itself.