Tuesday, October 1, 2013

July 23- Eugene Emeralds

If you’ve been keeping up with these blog posts I merely need to refer you to my Eugene Emeralds post from March 7th to have an understand of how this story began. Due to the fact that I was living and working in Portland, Oregon from October through the first week of January I had missed the Emeralds’ new logo/merchandise release party in Eugene on account of me having to work. I remember making some comment about “how I wish I was there” when the next thing I know I had a DM from whomever was running the Twitter account that day; I’m pretty positive it was General Manager Allan Benavides. Anyway, it was a reply to my comment which basically said that they wanted to know my hat size so that they could put aside and hook me up with one of their new caps. I wasn’t really sure to what I owed the pleasure, but I’ve also never turned down a free New Era Cap so I made sure to note when I would be back in Eugene for winter term.

When I finally had a free moment to get down to the office of the Emeralds I made sure to give plenty of notice, not to mention I made sure to get directions because I had no idea where I was going. Everyone in the office was especially friendly and excited to meet me, which I totally wasn’t expecting, and everyone had questions about my season-long Major League Baseball stadium tour and my time in the MLB Fan Cave. All of them had been supporters of my time which is what had started the vested interest in getting out to the games upon my expulsion. Besides the alternate Emeralds cap, Allan also hooked me up with an Emeralds pint glass which I ended up leaving in Eugene with my roommate Reed. Totally unintentional. One-by-one I shook hands and thanked everyone for their kindness for not only the hat and glass, but for taking good care of me when I was able to get out for Emeralds games at the start of the 2012 season. Near the end of my visit the subject of my tattoos was finally brought up and, like always, I showed no hesitation in showing them off. This was the lead-in Director of Corporate Events Tyler Tostenson needed to ask, “Have you thought about getting Sluggo tattooed on you?” For those who don’t know, Sluggo is the big neon green bear mascot for the Emeralds. In fact, the person who had been inside the outfit, who was also the man in the suit for Puddles, the University of Oregon Duck mascot, happened to be standing next to me as I answered Tyler question. My response, “To be honest, I have been mulling it over. The only problem is that it doesn’t fit with the theme of MLB logos and mascots so I would have to think of a location of where to place it.” But in short, yes, I was deeply considering it. I said my goodbyes and thank yous once again and headed back to campus to get some writing done. What I wasn’t expecting was to get a call from my tattoo artist a little less than a week later.


Felix “The Tat” Epperson and I have known each other since April of 2011, but the first time we met was on September 6, 2008. I wasn’t at all surprised that he didn’t remember me as the situation that put in the same room together involved my girlfriend at the time getting her first tattoo done by him at Black Lotus Tattoo in Eugene, the same shop where he works today. The only reason why I remember the date so well is because I was originally going to go to the Oregon versus Utah State football game that morning, but put it off to be there while the work was getting done. Also, I had to work at the Hilton that morning from 5 AM to 10:30 AM, which led to me falling asleep in the waiting chair while she was getting tattooed which then led to one of our first arguments in our relationship. I should also point out that I paid the $250 for the tattoo as a birthday present for her. God, I’m such an asshole! Moving on; when the time came for me to finally commit to getting my two-sided MLB showcase tattoo he was the first person who came into my head. Actually, that’s not entirely true. My good friend Nick Porter, who did both of the tattoos on the outsides of my forearms (the quote and the lumberjack/shark) had recommended Reed, my future roommate, to do it as he was a big baseball fan and would probably better understand a lot of the concepts I was throwing out. Not having a problem with that bit of honesty, I hit Reed up and emailed him everything I wanted to do. Originally I wanted only a few of the mascots and I wanted to put it on my left arm as a half-sleeve, something that he quickly shot down because I didn’t have enough canvass to work with. During the time when I mulled over what he his comments I came down with a near fatal case of “what the f--- is wrong with me?” I phrase it like that because I had strep throat, my kidneys were shutting down, I was dehydrated and a staph infection had broken out underneath my belly button which then spread to my neck and both of the tattoos I mentioned above as I had just gotten them done about two weeks prior. In short, I looked like hell. I wrote a much longer piece about this in my other blog, so I’m trying to keep this short. Here’s the link to it if you ever want to read the full detailed account of what went down. What I will tell you is that when I was lying on the hospital bed all I could think about was baseball and how happy it made me. It in these fleeting moments that I came up with the placement and design concept for what I eventually got tattooed on me.

Once I recovered I emailed Reed with a new plan and ideas which was eventually shot down a few weeks later for two reasons: 1. Reed was pretty booked up. 2. A lot of what I was asking for was a bit too confusing. The latter part made a lot of sense because trying to relay what I wanted via email was not an easy concept for anyone to understand. Had I gone in person to discuss it with him, things might have been different, but because I was itching to get this started, I moved on. It’s something I still feel bad about because there were a few other artists in the shop who would have loved to do an extravagant piece like this, but I didn’t think about that. For some reason the first thing that popped into my head was to go to another shop; which is how I ended up at Black Lotus on a Sunday evening about five minutes before they closed.

Felix happened to be the only person left in the shop when I cracked open the door and walked inside. Hey greeted me and politely told me that they were just closing up. I told him I didn’t have a problem with that and that I was merely there to get a recommendation on an artist. He told me he might be able to help, so I asked him if he was a baseball fan. He quickly responded with, “totally.” It’s kind of a useless question for an artist, I suppose, but my focus was on making sure that he or someone else would have an understanding of what I was after. I then rattled off the concept I was going for and that I would be coming back with a ton of notes, etc., etc. Felix was hardly miffed by what I was saying and told me to come back with photos, notes and anything else he needed to get a sketch up.

For a week I toiled. Searching everywhere for pictures of mascots dating back to the 1960s, collecting important historical stories that could be told through cartoonish shapes that wouldn’t mind carving into my body for the rest of my life. At the end of my research campaign I had about 15 total pages worth of material to hand over. All of which he assembled perfectly in two pieces on the first take. To make a long story short it took roughly six sessions of four to four-and-a-half hours per session to get the first wave done.

Since then we’ve spent another four sessions of four hours each adding more including additional mascots, my Major League Baseball heart piece and the totally badass bowtie right below my neck. 52 hours worth of bloodless, sweat, a few tears and hard earned dollars later my canvas has become a remarkable tribute to the game I love… and we still have a lot more work to go.

Over time Felix and my friendship built and I even went out to take a few photos of him carving pools during the mornings when the weather was fair in Eugene before he had to go to work and I had to go to class.

Without him I wouldn’t be where I am today. It’s kind of crazy to think that tattoos helped me achieve some sort of position of providence, and for that, I will always be in his debt.

Back to reality

I was working in the library on the campus of the University of Oregon when I got a message over Facebook from Felix. Apparently Tyler had hit him up and presented a promotional idea that the Emeralds were curious if he wanted to take part of called “Bats and Tats” Night (clever). The promotion in a nutshell was discounted tickets for anyone who came with a tattoo as well as a tattoo competition for local artists on who could come up with the best Emeralds-themed tattoo. Based on everything we had collaborated on together it was a no-brainer for Felix. I of course said yes as well. Felix and I had all ready had an appointment set up near the end of January (the bowtie tattoo) and we decided to mull over some ideas when I dropped by.

The only problem that arose with this promotion, in my head at least, was trying to figure out a way to add original elements to an incredibly clever, but brand new logo. When Felix and I talked it over during my ink session I still couldn’t come up with anything. Of the three logos that the team had affixed to their hats, two of them were ones that I wasn’t considering. This one. And this one. Nothing personal against them, I just felt like we could do more with a different design. After the session wrapped up I told him I would do some research and try to find something that we would both like, because; after all, the other part of this assignment was to get Felix as much business as possible, something I have been very dedicated to since I was first getting interviewed for the MLB Fan Cave.

The promotion wasn’t slated until July 23rd so I had a bit of time to finish up my last term of school, fly out to Florida to visit Angie as well as have some time with her in Portland as well. Before I graduated for the U of O I had pieced together a design concept based on two photos I had come across on the internet. The first part was the alternate logo which, at the time, was not featured on any of the team’s hats.

This, of all of them, is hands down my favorite based on the historical context behind it. The Emeralds are a short season-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres and the company that designed their new logos, Brandiose, took a classic Padres concept and perfected it.

The second part was that I wanted to somehow incorporate Sluggo into the design as well. So, I did the best, funniest thing possible and made Sluggo the tree in which Sasquatch is swinging.

In all of my hat-related exploits I came across a cap on the Hat Club Web site which happened to feature the Swingin’ Sasquatch logo with an original color scheme to back it up, this one. With little hesitation I scooped up and kept it away from being worn until the big day. Meanwhile, Angie ended up paying me a visit in the middle of June before she headed to Wisconsin to see her family. Angie had never seen me get a tattoo so I made sure to hold out on the piece until she arrived to sit next me. Tyler dropped by Black lotus to get some video and some photos together for the event and was blown away by what we had come up with. He had also mentioned that he saw the logo on the hat on the Hat Club Web site, but I made no mention as to whether or not I had seen it, even though it was kicking it on a shelf in my closet. It didn’t take us too long to get it done (roughly two hours), but it was finished, and set to be fully-healed by the time July 23rd came rolling around.

7/23/13: Due to the fact that I didn’t have a car I ended up footing the bill for gas to get my friend Sean Davis to roll down to Eugene from Portland with me for the game. Felix had an extra ticket for me to use and couldn’t think of anyone better to spend the game with than one of my really good friends. Felix greeted us near the first plate entrance and we hugged it out. The tattoo had healed perfectly, I made sure to give it a good shave and the weather was spectacular. Felix had ended up snagging a suite, as did the other tattoo parlors involved in the contest. All that was really left to do was see how many people would come out for the event.

Tyler greeted a little ways up the stairs and noticed that I was rocking the Emeralds hat he had talked about back at Black Lotus. He also asked for a peek at the finished product which I had no problems with. “That’s sick!” he exclaimed, a pretty common response I’ve gotten from everybody. Tyler had to bounce, as he was still coordinating a few things, but Felix, Sean and I headed up to the suite to meet up with Felix’s friends and family.

One of the really cool perks of the night was that all of the artists were called down to the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Felix got the honor of going first and lobbed one up and across the plate.

Contrary to the arch of the ball in the photo, he was the only one to find the strike zone. Another thing to point out with this is that, like myself, Felix plays baseball/softball regularly. Throwing out a first pitch without warming up is not a picnic in the park. Trust me; check this out if you don’t believe me.

With food and beers in hand we all settled out on the patio to watch the game. The Emeralds were hosting the Boise Hawks which was cool because the Chicago Cubs’ 2013 first round pick (second overall) Kris Bryant had just signed his contract and was making his professional debut for that game.

On the other side of the plate, the Padres’ first round pick (13th overall) Hunter Renfroe had already been digging it out for the Emeralds in the outfield, so it all made for a rather compelling game.

As the game went on the Emeralds showed the photos and videos for all the artists, tattoos and canvases who were in the running for the Best Emeralds Tattoo. Of all the ones shown Felix and I had the only one that looked spot on to what the actual logo looks like, while the other artists took to their own creative devices. Fans voted on Facebook for the winner, in which we finished in second place by the time everything sorted out at the end of the week. Winning wasn’t really the objective as much as it was about more business for Felix.

One thing that I definitely have to tip my cap to is the Emeralds’ front office for putting this night together. PK Park was borderline sold out, and the crowd was definitely into the game. Sluggo came up and paid us a visit

And Felix and I toasted our accomplishments.

Sadly the Emeralds lost 0-6, but the loss certainly didn’t spoil an amazing night.

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