Photo: Tabitha Soren – Fantasy Life: Baseball and the American Dream
For photographer, Tabitha Soren, the statistic that only 6% of a major league baseball clubs’ draft class each year would make it to the big leagues was astonishing.
When Soren met the Oakland A’s 2002 draft class with her husband Michael Lewis, author of the bestselling novel Moneyball, she saw “purpose and hopefulness” in the group of 40 men whose dreams were beginning to take shape as Major League Baseball players.
The glimmer in these players eyes as they began their journey inspired Soren to spend over a decade following 21 players in that 2002 class, chronicling their lives through photographs.
Fantasy Life: Baseball and the American Dream, is Soren’s new photography book. It is a compilation of those photographs that reveal how baseball and American society are interconnected.
“Fantasy Life is believing in the fantasy that you’re going to have a life in major league baseball, that’s the short answer,” Soren said. “The bigger answer…we’re all trying to find our place in the world. Is this the sweet spot? Is this what we’re supposed to be doing? Is this my calling?”
It was this perspective that led Soren to a bigger question: “If you look in the mirror and you can’t say you’re a baseball player anymore, what are you…who are you?”
Soren had an outside perspective on baseball when she began the project. Not an avid fan of the game, she was able to see beyond the strikeouts and home runs to the bigger picture.
“It’s much easier to find the metaphor if you don’t know the rules of the game,” Soren said. “I would say having a little bit of ignorance about a subject makes you ask more questions…because I wasn’t all that psyched to go to a hundred games, I would look up at the stands where the fans were going crazy and they were filled with such joy and happiness and it made me scratch my head.”
Throughout the decade Soren was following the 2002 class, she learned a lot about the game, but more so about what it takes to play the game.
“There’s a certain amount of resilience that is necessary to roll with the punches in baseball,” Soren said. “There’s so much failure built into (it) that you have to be able to get up the next day and even if you’re not in the lineup be there mentally, cheer on the rest of your team, and then hope that you’ll be in the lineup the next night.”
During the process of following the players through the Oakland A’s farm system, Soren found her favorite ballparks were the ones in “Nowheresville, America.” The lack of advertising and the size of the parks added to Soren’s metaphor.
“It acts as a metaphor that we’re all struggling through life, we’re all trying to stay afloat, we’re all trying to deal with the curves that life throws us, it’s not just baseball players on a field,” Soren said.
Of all the photographs she took, Soren’s favorite photo is a photo that embodies what she saw at those run down ball parks. At first glance, has nothing to do with baseball, but it’s ambiguity makes it applicable to anyone.
“I’m really keen on the picture of Ben Fritz in the spring training swimming pool,” Soren said. “Having him looking like is he submerged, is he drowning, is he coming up? I feel like all of us in life are trying to navigate the twists and turns of everyday living. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to feel like sometimes you’re just trying to keep your head above water.”