Enthusiasm, wit and a broad knowledge of baseball will matter to the judges selecting the next inhabitants of MLB's Fan Cave. But Oakland Athletics fan Benjamin Christensen knows what's up regarding his own chances. The illustrations on both sides of his torso — a tattoo for each of the 30 teams in the American and National leagues — are probably his best selling point.
"I wanted to get every major league team on my body somehow, and the best way possible was ribs to hips on each side, so American League on the right side, and National League on the other," he said.
The audition video he submitted is pretty good, too. It helped him make a cut of 50 people who are being considered for the MLB Fan Cave, out of thousands of entries. Fans have until Feb. 22 to vote and whittle it down to the 30 finalists who'll go to Arizona for Fan Cave spring training. (Click through the video link to submit your vote for him.)
Given a quick glance, the tattoos might seem like straight-up reproductions of mascots and logos. But in many cases Christensen and the artist — Felix the Tat at Julien's Black Lotus Tattoo in Eugene, Ore. — added personal remembrances, historical anecdotes and often hilarious gags that will make Christensen's canvas forever unique.
Here's a sample: Screech, the Washington Nationals eagle, is wearing the Montreal Expos uniform that the franchise left behind in Canada. So rebellious.
And to think, Christensen's tattoos wouldn't tell nearly as compelling of a story if the 28-year-old hadn't gotten so sick a year ago.
Back in March 2011, Christensen lay in bed suffering from strep throat, a staph infection and dehydration. Doctors told him that his kidneys were beginning to shut down. Christensen felt like he was dying. There was plenty of evidence to support it.
Hooked up to an IV drip, the University of Oregon journalism student started thinking about his life. The happy times, many of which involved baseball growing up in Stockton, Calif. He had planned on getting a tattoo of Stomper, the A's elephant mascot, stampeding over the mascots of Christensen's least-favorite teams — Mr. Met, Billy the Marlin, Wally the Green Monster, Bernie Brewer and Lou Seal.
And the Seattle Mariners Moose, boy, he was gonna get it. There would be mass mascot carnage.
But as he looked around his hospital room at the "questionable art" hanging on the walls, Christensen began to have a change of heart. Once he got healthy (if he got healthy) he would make good on getting the tattoos — they just wouldn't be quite as hateful. His mind went to work, and he began making designs.
So far, Felix the Tat has spent about 33 hours drawing on Christensen, who has spent about $3,500 to pay for it. (He raised the money by creating and selling T-shirts of Cam Newton — make that "SCAM Newton" — priced at $25 a pop before the Oregon-Auburn national championship game in 2011.)
Christensen says he's going in for more in work on Tuesday. Felix will be adding the St. Louis Browns, the Seattle Pilots and the Washington Senators. He'll also add Big Bird as a companion for Paws, the Detroit Tigers mascot. For Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, of course.
Here are some amazing details about the ink already in place:
• The Pirate Parrot is higher than a kite — his eyes are multicolored and stars appear above his head. It's an homage not only to the legendary story of Pittsburgh right-hander Dock Ellis tossing a no-hitter on acid, but also to the person inside the mascot outfit in the 1980s who went to prison for dealing drugs.
• The Chicago Cubs logo is wearing coke bottle Harry Caray glasses.
• Screech's Expos jersey is No. 8, in honor of Gary Carter, one of Christensen's favorite players.
• No, that's not the Frenetic. The Phillie Phanatic, wearing a Mike Schmidt-era jersey, is high-fiving Green Man, who is a made-up superhero/mascot from the TV show "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."
• The Baltimore Bird has a famous Orioles saying on the knob of the bat it's holding — quoting Billy Ripken — that's not safe for work.
• Wally the Green Monster is going to let that grounder go through his legs, just like Bill Buckner. "That's the first baseball memory I have," said Christensen, who was 3 years old during the 1986 World Series.
• He thought about getting a S.F. Giants Crab tattoo, but reconsidered and went with Lou Seal. He didn't do a White Sox mascot because when he grew up it was Ribbie and Roobarb, "Oscar the Grouch's rejected cousins" so he went with the cool '80s logo.
• That's Bonnie Brewer next to Bernie Brewer. She was a real thing until Bud Selig — who then owned the Milwaukee Brewers — gave her a thumb's down. The neatest thing about the Brewers tattoos: He chose to put them on the American League side, where they belong. "They played in the AL when I was a kid," he explains. (And before you ask, the Astros tat is staying put, too.)
• Christensen did get one over on the Moose. The Mariners mascot has a cast on one of its legs, a reference to the real-life ATV accident that broke the mascot's leg once upon a time.
Big BLS H/N: NBC's Off the Bench
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