Six months I saw a really cool MLB baseball shot where the photographer captured the ball mid-way to the plate. You could see the ball in razor-sharp focus, but the pitcher was out of focus, and I really liked the way the ball popped out of the image and puts you in harm's way. Sadly, I wasn't able to locate the image again (I thought I saw it on SportsShooter, but I couldn't come up with the right search terms).
So, I decided to try to mimic the shot.
Turns out it is pretty hard, especially in a little league game where pitchers aren't that... consistent.
The key is to use a very fast shutter speed; the shots on this page are at 1/2000s, and honestly, I could (should) have gone to 1/4000s to really stop the ball. Even at 1/2000s, there is visible blur on the top of the ball (but not the bottom) due to the ball's rotation and motion. A 100% crop of the ball is at right.
The second key, probably harder than the first, is timing the ball. 9-year-olds pitch slow enough that there is a lot of arc and the window to capture the ball is pretty small. It was weird -- I knew I got the ball when I didn't even see it in the viewfinder because the shutter blacked it out.
Other important details: I pre-focused on a spot about three feet in front of the plate because that's where the ball seemed to drop into range. I also used a 1.4x teleconverter at nearly 200mm to get the right perspective, an aperture of f/8 (the camera said f/5.6, but the TC adds a stop) to give me larger depth of field (and make it easier to catch the ball), and ISO 800 to enable 1/2000s. Obviously, this is all in manual mode, and I metered the grass at -2/3 stop to gauge my exposure.
The best image is at left -- note I missed the composition, but I'm ok with that. A rotate and a crop later, some sharpening on the ball, smoothing on the rest to reduce noise, and you end up with the image that started this post. Click any image to see larger.
Below is another shot I liked -- this one was around 130mm, and I liked that I could include more of the pitcher (but, as a tradeoff, the ball is smaller).
Next up in baseball shot gimmick department: long shutter speeds or multiple exposures!
(FYI I love that first shot with the long shutter speed, and the second link describes how to do multiple exposures)