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Original Issue

Having a Ball Grown men become giddy schoolboys in these baseball portraits shot by SI staff photographer V.J. Lovero, whose infectious enthusiasm--for baseball and life--is reflected in the joy exuded by his subjects

A 20-year-old Yankees farmhand named Derek Jeter, far from home
while playing in the Arizona Fall League in 1994, drifts off to
dreamland on sheets his mother gave him. Cardinal Mark McGwire
gives son Matthew, 10, a noogie 11 days before hitting his
record-breaking 62nd home run, in '98. Photographer V.J. Lovero
was diagnosed with cancer 15 months ago, and since then McGwire
has called periodically. "He always says he's thinking of me and
praying for me," says Lovero, "and that's a powerful thing.
Baseball is such a huge love in my life. Now it's also my
therapy. How blessed am I?"

Padres cutup Doug Bochtler performs sleight-of-tongue in 1997.
That same year, two-year-old Kacy Clemens spars with old man
Roger, then a Blue Jay, at home in Houston. Dad Jay and son
Chase, 2, grab a bite before bedtime at the Buhner house in
Seattle in '96. "Buhner is the most fun-loving guy I've ever
worked with," says Lovero, himself a father of two boys. "We were
in his weight room when Chase wandered in after a bath." When
Buhner, a Mariner, put a bat in his own mouth, the boy aped his
father, and the image became a cover.

A baseball summits a biceps of Dante Bichette, then a Rockie.
"Dante brought that little ball with him," says Lovero,
recalling the 1998 photo session. "I got the feeling he'd
practiced that pose in front of his mirror." Randy Johnson
frightened neighbors in Seattle when he was with the Mariners in
'92. "Here was this giant man in a tiny apartment, with this
giant drum set," Lovero says. "He plays well. Also loudly. It
was 11 in the morning."

Angels (from left) Jim Abbott, Chuck Finley and Mark Langston
hang out in 1995; flatmates (from left) Eric Karros and Mike
Piazza feed their Dodgers skipper breakfast in Manhattan Beach,
Calif., in '93; Will Clark (with McGwire) goes 0 for 7 in a
14-inning spring training game in '88 and still has a belly
laugh, so contagious is Lovero's joie de vivre. "Actually,"
demurs Lovero, "a 12-pack of Bud was involved." It was the first
SI cover shoot for Lovero, who shot his most recent one--of the
A's Jason Giambi last summer--between radiation treatments.
"Those of us with cancer don't just stop our lives," he
explains. "It's important to be around what inspires us, whether
it's work or family or friends. I'm blessed to have all three."