The former MTV News VJ spent 15 years documenting the lives of draft picks for the Oakland A’s, tracking their dreams, successes, and—more often—failures
Baseball is nothing if not all-American: families coming together, stadium lights, and dreams coming true. What the game doesn’t often represent, at least for fans, is pain, frustration, and failure. That’s what photographer Tabitha Soren wound up capturing over 15 years, though, as she followed draft picks for the Oakland A’s. In 2002, Soren (yes, of MTV News fame) began photographing the 23 young men who became the subject of her new book, Fantasy Life. (Soren’s husband, the author Michael Lewis, wrote the book Moneyball about the team.) Once she realized the unprecedented access she’d been granted—“I was in the showers, the dugouts, in their homes,” she says—she knew she had something unique on her hands.
What emerged over the course of that decade and a half were photographs, not just of the players, but of fans, ballparks, the lonesome road, and the evocative American sky, all of it conjuring the sweeping feelings of hope and endless possibility that marked the young men’s lives. And thanks to the length of time she spent on the project, Soren captured something even more profound; for some players, she documented the slow, painful process of their hopes being dashed.
“I thought they would all be part of the major leagues, but it turns out that only six percent get to the majors,” she says. “The series became a work about fallibility, the consequences of falling from grace and really losing the one thing that gave your life meaning, the thing you loved the most.”
For Soren, it all ties into the American dream. “I feel we have this optimistic but hypocritical idea in America that it can happen to you,” she says. “I saw these guys do everything right, and (in some cases), it still didn’t work out.”