Gators’ Schwarz keeps things in focus
To a softball player, it's the mecca. The place that validates years of wind sprints, push-ups, practice swings and bullpen sessions. Every May, eight buses caravan up to Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, each carrying a team full of hope and emotion as it vies for the Women's College World Series title.
On each bus, you'll find that emotions manifest themselves differently. Some players will get tingly. Some will shed a tear. Some will bang their heads into the overhead storage compartments as they leap with joy and excitement. All of these players, however, will gaze at one of the prettiest palaces they've ever laid eyes on.
This week, one of those players will be Florida freshman first baseman Taylor Schwarz. Like so many players before her, Schwarz will undoubtedly have her own "Field of Dreams" moment, but what she sees may be unique.
"I always find myself looking at things through a lens," said Schwarz, whose nine home runs and 37 RBIs have cemented her in the starting lineup of one of the nation's most potent offenses.
Since her early teenage years at Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, Fla., Schwarz has shown a penchant -- and an eye -- for the visual arts.
"One of my teachers at the Middle School of the Arts had a Nikon camera that I thought was so cool, and I went through middle school always wanting a big camera. In ninth grade, I saved all my money and was able to buy myself a Nikon DSLR."
Since then, Schwarz has become fond of focus and an analyst of aperture, bettering herself each time she snaps a shot. She's fine shooting anything, but admits her portfolio is people-heavy, as she tends to use photography as a way to meet new people and expose them as subjects.
"I love it because you can be so expressive," said Schwarz, who looks to lead the Gators when they take on Tennessee Thursday afternoon. "I find it very relieving when softball or school become stressful to just go out with my camera and try to find a beautiful shot. It gets me away from everything."
While developing her photography skills in high school at Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.), Schwarz decided to take her passion to another level and began to work with video cameras. She entered two video production contests and won them both. One, a faux commercial she shot featuring Nike shoes, was recognized at Florida's Student Showcase of Films. The other was a public-service announcement for good health in which her little brother drank a smoothie and turned into a superhero.
Video or still, Schwarz has found a passion she will carry far beyond softball. Often she'll be sitting in class when an idea for a subject will come up. She'll scribble a reminder in her notebook so she can bring her artistic vision to life after the lecture.
Soon, she will be able to bring her artistic talents to fruition in class, as she plans on majoring in telecommunications production.
"I just think it might be fun after college to focus on the production of movies and news documentaries and things like that," Schwarz said.
Until then, she'll spend the better part of three years training and developing her eye in all sorts of environments.
"It's weird," she said. "When we're warming up before a game, my mind will sometimes wander to subjects or visuals that might make a really good photo."
If Schwarz's Gators continue their recent success, Oklahoma might become the budding photographer's favorite landscape.