Chris Tejeda’s favorite spot to shoot photos at Guaranteed Rate Field is down the third-base line, in the stands between the base and the foul pole.
This isn’t exactly a coveted spot for other sports photographers who typically shoot from the photo well adjacent to first and third base.
But this spot, shoulder-to-shoulder with fans, is special to Tejeda.
This is the section where he debuted as a photographer the same summer the White Sox called up Tim Anderson. Having a career as a photographer was a fun dream then, an escape from his overnight job unloading shipment trucks for Target.
Tejeda never imagined that a year later, his passion would turn into a part-time gig with the Sox and later evolve into an unbelievable opportunity as Anderson’s exclusive photographer, capturing the quintessential bat flip moment that ended up being a turning point in both of their careers.
“I was looking for things to shoot, so in 2016, I started bringing my camera to games,” Tejeda said. “The next season, I bought a Ballpark pass. I had one ticket to every home game in May, and I would shoot from the stands. By the third game I shot, TA started posting my photos and giving me photo credit.”
The Bridgeport native grew up playing baseball, and the Sox were always his favorite team.
A vivid Sox memory for Tejeda is from 2005. His dad, Gabriel, handed him and his two siblings brooms after the Sox swept the Astros to claim their third World Series championship and the first in 88 seasons. Gabriel marched his kids outside to South Archer Avenue to celebrate, brooms in tow.
His memories of the Sox and baseball are the reasons he started at 35th and Shields when he embarked on his new career in photography.
Tejeda’s instincts were right because before his Ballpark pass expired in 2017, the Sox offered him a position with their influencer program, which evolved into a social-media photographer position in 2019.
As he developed his photography skills and established a unique style of editing, Tejeda formed a supportive relationship with Anderson.
The pair worked together at random events, mostly autograph signings, and Anderson would share Tejeda’s photos on his social-media platforms.
“I always liked his work,” Anderson said. “I liked that his style, the dark effects would make my body pop a little bit more. All of his work all around was just different.”
Tejeda and Anderson solidified their working relationship in January at SoxFest.
Anderson, who was staying at a hotel near McCormick Place, called Tejeda and invited him up to his room to hang out with him and his family.
Tejeda walked in and nearly tripped over an unmistakably large box on the floor. Anderson told him inside was his 2019 Rod Carew Award, given to the American League batting champion, and asked if Tejeda would take a few photos of him with it.
“As we were taking those photos, our vibe was just flowing,” Tejeda said. “That was our first time interacting on a personal level, and we related to each other so much more than we ever thought.”
After taking the photos, the two came to an agreement that Tejeda would be Anderson’s full-time photographer. Tejeda gave his two weeks’ notice to Target, and a few weeks later, he was at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, shooting behind-the-scenes content of Anderson during spring training.
Tejeda and Anderson have developed a signature style. Tejeda credits Anderson for encouraging him to embrace the editing choices that set him apart.
The turning point in Tejeda’s career came April 17, 2019 — the Bat-Flip Game.
Tejeda captured Anderson’s bat flip on a home run against the Royals with a sequence of photos that ended up being shared on Major League Baseball’s social-media platforms and by media and entertainment company Complex. Tejeda recalled feeling like his signature dark edit was being acknowledged and appreciated for its uniqueness. Much like Anderson was embracing what set him apart in baseball, so was Tejeda in photography.
“TA is breaking down that barrier and showing kids just be you,” Tejada said. “What can they say? You put the work in; you’re in control. Once they realize that, they’re deadly.”
Thanks to Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, fans are no longer consuming exclusive content strictly through team outlets, and the list of professional athletes who are producing their own content is lengthy.
Whether it’s the Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird and U.S. women’s national team forward Megan Rapinoe creating their own Instagram Live show, “A Touch More,” or the New Jersey Devils’ P.K. Subban racking up over 70,000 YouTube subscribers, athletes are taking ownership of their stories.
There might be no greater example than LeBron James and business partner Maverick Carter, who founded SpringHill Entertainment in 2007. Earlier this year, the pair combined SpringHill Entertainment with their other media companies, Uninterrupted and The Robot Company to create The SpringHill Company.
For Anderson, who said he has drawn inspiration from James, controlling his narrative is what he finds so appealing.
“I always respected the way [LeBron] handled his business on and off the court,” Anderson said. “I’m the person doing these things, so it’s only right that I control [the content] and allow people to see me how I want them to.”
Anderson recently wiped his entire YouTube channel, leaving nothing but a button to subscribe. He already has over 13,000 subscribers and plans to show them a more personal look at who he is off the field.
One of Anderson’s driving forces for sharing personalized videos on his platforms was to inspire his young fans and fans back home who he said don’t watch baseball.
Anderson had plans to bring Tejeda to his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to shoot a video showing fans where he grew up. The pandemic put that on hold, but Anderson hopes they’ll make the video this offseason.
As for the relaunch of the TA7 YouTube channel, Anderson said fans should subscribe because more exclusive content is on the way.
“I got their attention,” he said.