If you look closely, there’s always a familiar face at bay area 49ers, Oakland A’s, and Giants games.
It’s not an egotistical, overpaid player, an adorable mascot or a high-profile coach.
It’s a non-stop, indefatigable photographer who would make the Energizer bunny proud.
With a face that could have been chiseled by a Mount Rushmore stonemason, Michael Zagaris has been covering the bay area teams for more than 40 years.
Officially becoming the 49ers photographer in 1973, Zagaris, AKA “Z-man”, came from a storied career covering the likes of Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, The Who, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell and other iconic musicians that kids today may not have even heard or know.
There’s one thing you know you can count on from Zagaris - an affable, friendly, gregarious demeanor.
Asking 49ers media manager Mike Chasanoff, “do you have any Zagaris stories?” He smiled and said, ”No, but anytime you see him approaching you know you’re going to get another funny story.”
Whether it’s news or sports, it’s just a job (with a nice office). And, no matter what the job is, courtesy, humility and a sense of humor are qualities that should be embraced, never ignored.
You never have to tell that to the high-water, blue-jeaned, white-socks wearing Zagaris.
He knows better than Bo knows - the photography profession inside and out.
Regardless of the affiliation or allegiance, the common denominator among them is always about his friendliness, professionalism, and respect for a man that has more stories than Dr. Suess.
With more energy and stamina at an age where most men would be looking for a social security check, Zagaris continues at a pace that’s admirable.
During warm-ups and in-between pitches, Zagaris skates from foul line to foul line with the grace of Dick Button and the agility and gait of a Kentucky Derby thoroughbred.
And, like a good umpire, his presence is clearly invisible.
Opening Day in Oakland this past year, I witnessed him having to sprint from home plate, where he was photographing an award ceremony, to the left field warning track to grab a shot of the Division pennant decal that was being unveiled on the left field wall arriving in the nick of time.
He got both shots.
I asked him upon returning to the camera pit at the start of the game. ”That was impressive,” I said. “What?” was his reply with an inquisitive look.
“The sprint to left field!” I said with admiration.
“That’s why we love doing what we do,” he said with a smile.
Any sport, win or lose, rain or shine, the one constant is an infectious smile from Michael Zagaris that makes going to the ball park an enjoyable treat knowing there might be another story from which to learn about information only Zagaris would know, and share without trepidation.
A quote from his webpage:
"The payment for me has always been in the doing. I didn't get into photography for a job." - Michael Zagaris
Follow Al on Twitter @ExaminerPhotog