The rise of the painted baseball bat continues.
Pete Alonso, the New York Mets’ first baseman and defending champion of the Home Run Derby, has teamed up with artist Gregory Siff to create custom painted clubs that the club will use in the 2021 Denver Derby. Alonso used a painted racket to win the 2019 Derby, just like Bryce Harper the year before, but these aren’t just driving the art form – this time it’s eight of them.
Alonso will alternate between them during punch training and each round he reaches in the Derby (HR Derby Bracket show, Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN), which takes place on Monday at Coors Field.
“It’s functional art that is really, really great,” Alonso told ESPN.
Siff – with his canvas bats provided by Alonso’s sponsor Dove Tail Bats – painted Alonso’s life story on the wood.
“I placed all of these important messages and important moments in his life and somehow woven them into all of the bats,” said Siff.
Siff has created graphics that represent things that matter to Alonso, using phrases like “Family First”, “Truth, Beauty, Love, Baseball”, “LFGM” and “Molon Labe” Alonso’s love for the movie “300”.
“Every time I’m in the pits, that’s my mentality,” said Alonso. “Even though I’m nine to one outnumbered, I’m in my small range, like when the Spartans were defending, only 300 of them defended against all odds. That’s how I describe how I play. I have that on my boots and the I transform into someone else when I go to play because who I am now is the man I am between the lines, very different. This is my switch. “
Artist Gregory Siff shows off one of his custom 2021 Home Run Derby clubs for Mets bat Pete Alonso. Andy Choi
Among the bats is a purple, silver and black painted one dedicated to his grandfather, who moved from Spain before World War II to start a new life in New York City and visited NYU, the inspiration for the colors.
“It’s kind of coming full circle,” said Alonso. “Because I started my professional career in New York in the big leagues and my father was born in Queens, so this city is very special to me. I mean, with purple, people might think it’s the Rockies colors but they are really NYU colors dedicated to my grandfather. “
While MLB does not currently allow players to use painted rackets during games, Alonso said the rise of the sport’s sneaker culture and the success of Players Weekend should see MLB enable functional art in games.
“I don’t see any problem at all,” said Alonso. “There could be a lot of red tape involved, but I think I have no problem at all with the fact that guys can use any color of bat.”
Alonso and Siff have also developed a range of merchandise to complement the bats, with portions of the proceeds going to Alonso’s charity Homers for Heroes. Replicas of the clubs Alonso will use in the derby are also sold for the charity.
Alonso won the 2019 Home Run Derby with a bat depicting Halley’s Comet. Gregory Shamus / Getty Images
Siff previously worked with Topps to illustrate a range of baseball cards and worked with brands such as Helmut Lang and Yves Saint Laurent. After Siff painted a mural live at ComplexCon for Major League Baseball, he received a call from Alonso’s marketing manager Jon Einalhori to ask if he would be interested in working with him. Siff, who grew up a Mets fan, took the opportunity.
“Pete was down with the mood I was painting, that kind of line style, stream of consciousness,” Siff said. “For Pete, I’m working on telling the player’s story and putting that into the racket. I also wanted to do some equipment and do something that isn’t just what you wear to a game that says, ‘Go Team ‘but something to show off at a party or event, and that’s how it started. “
When Siff sent photos of the bats to Alonso, the response was enthusiastic.
Alonso said, “I can’t wait to smash a few balls with these things.”