OAKLAND – In trading for infielder Jed Lowrie in the offseason, it seems the A's acquired a player with a sharp eye.
That's on the field – where Lowrie's .365 batting average entering Friday night's game against Baltimore was third in the American League – and behind the lens of a camera, where Lowrie has spent considerable time the past few offseasons.
"He has real passion for the subject," said Joel Leivick, a professor of photography at Stanford, who taught a course Lowrie took while earning his degree in political science. "What was really great about him – probably what's great about him as a player, too – is he takes instruction from someone who knows more about something and uses it to get better at what he's doing.
"It's developed into quite a bit more (than a hobby). He has a sort of natural ability."
Lowrie said he first tried photography as a kid at the behest of "my mom saying, 'I want you to be well-rounded.' "
He didn't really delve into it, though, until he came down with mononucleosis during spring training in 2010.
"I was in Fort Myers (Fla.) for about three months and sleeping 16 hours a day. It was miserable," Lowrie said. "Eventually, the doctors said, 'Hey, on Sundays, you need to get outside and walk around a little.' So I bought a camera and found some places outside Fort Myers, some nature trails, and enjoyed it."
That led to Lowrie taking a photography course while wrapping up his degree the following offseason. He learned more about the technical side of the subject, which he has since put to use on offseason trips to Canada, Tanzania, Peru, Ecuador and London – among other places.
"That's been really fun, just to document the travels, but also to try to improve my photography skills and just develop a creative outlet," Lowrie said. "Baseball can be very black and white."
Lowrie publishes his photographs on a website, jl4photography.com, and said that has allowed him to "learn a little business along the way."
Among his favorites is a streetcar in Toronto, passing in the foreground of a nighttime cityscape, titled "Life's a Blur." He also has a gallery documenting youth baseball in areas of harsh climate.
"A lot of amateur photographers, and I think he kind of fell into this at one time, think by going to some exotic locale, you're going to get good pictures," Leivick said. "And there is some truth to that.
"But it's like really good photographers can make really good pictures of things that are right around them, wherever they are. That's really where Jed has developed."
Lowrie said he doesn't carry his cameras during the season – "It's baseball when I'm playing baseball," he said. But they aren't far from mind, and Lowrie still hopes to travel to Australia, Kenya and South Africa, the latter "to see the great whites jump out of the water."
As for whether this could become a more serious pursuit after baseball, Lowrie said he isn't sure.
"It's a hobby, and it's something where I get to do what I want to do, whereas if it becomes a career, I don't necessarily get to do what I want to do," he said.
Lowrie has time to think about it. At 29, he has emerged as an everyday player for the A's and their most consistent hitter for the first month of the season. After playing his first 23 games at shortstop, Lowrie made his first start at second base Friday night.
Lowrie has experienced hot starts before – he hit .368 in April 2011 with the Red Sox before finishing with a .252 average. Lowrie spent his first four major-league seasons in Boston from 2008-11.
One teammate in his rookie season was A's first baseman Brandon Moss. After Lowrie arrived this spring via trade from Houston, the two got to catching up.
"I started talking about hunting and where I want to go, like Alaska and Africa," Moss said. "He got on Africa and said, 'Hey, I've got some pictures.'
"They were amazing. He's really good at working with the light and stuff, and the colors – but obviously, it's a beautiful place."