With Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game set to take over Cleveland next week, the festivities leading up to the Midsummer Classic will begin later this week. Part of those festivities will have a local feel thanks to Mark Riedy, a Delaware resident and artist.
Riedy, who graduated from and now teaches at the Columbus College of Art and Design, was selected by MLB to commission two pieces of art for the Cincinnati Reds that will be on display throughout the week and then sold in a charity auction held through July. An artist was selected to represent each of the 30 professional baseball teams. The two pieces of art are a custom Louisville Slugger bat, naturally, and a custom Fender Stratocaster guitar to represent the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the host city.
Fender and Louisville Slugger have collaborated to create the event that will honor two of America’s most beloved pastimes —baseball and music —with proceeds from the auctions benefiting MLB charities and going toward the purchase of musical instruments and learning resources for music programs.
“Almost everyone has been influenced by either sports or music in their lives,” said Evan Jones, Fender’s chief marketing officer, in a press release to announce the collaboration.
Choosing Riedy to handle the Reds’ art might have been an easy decision given the organization’s familiarity with his work. Ahead of Great American Ballpark’s opening in 2003, Riedy was selected to commission several pieces of art that have become some of the more recognizable features of the park as fans enter through the main gate.
His 50-foot-tall “Spirit of Baseball” bas-relief sculpture greets baseball fans at the concourse on Joe Nuxhall Way that leads to the main entrance of the park. Riedy also created the digital paintings of the 1869 Red Stockings and 1975 Big Red Machine teams that were then turned into mosaics and placed inside the main gate of the park.
Bats and guitars were a new canvas for Riedy, who said he had to brush up on a skill he hadn’t used in a while. Rather than use digital art, which he typically utilizes today in the digital age, Riedy said he decided to go the route of airbrushing, something he said he hadn’t picked up in more than 20 years.
“I kinda went back to the old school and did things the more traditional way,” Riedy joked. “So, I had to go and dust off my old airbrush and compressor, and go buy paint. I wasn’t even sure some of this material even existed anymore.”
For the guitar design, Riedy said he wanted to include nods to the 1869 Red Stockings team — the first professional baseball team — as well as various elements of Cincinnati’s historical architecture and riverfront. The highly-recognizable smokestacks at GABP are also prominent in the guitar’s design.
He called the design of the bat a “timeline from 1869 to the present” that spirals around the bat, paying tribute to the Reds celebrating their 150th season in professional baseball and the franchise’s five World Series titles.
In total, Riedy said the two pieces took around a month to complete. He said he plans to head to Cleveland this weekend to partake in some of the festivities and be with his work.
The bats and guitars will be on display at Cleveland Public Square’s Midsummer Village July 6-9 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The exhibit will be free and open to the public. The auction for the art can be found at auctions.mlb.com and will be open through July 29.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.