The rise of the painted baseball bat continues.
New York Mets first baseman and defending Home Run Derby champion Pete Alonso has teamed up with artist Gregory Siff to create custom-painted bats the slugger will use in the 2021 Derby in Denver. Alonso used a painted bat to win the 2019 Derby, just as Bryce Harper did the year before that, but these not only push the art form forward — there’s eight of them this time.
Alonso will switch between them during batting practice and each round he reaches in the Derby (HR Derby bracket show, 10 p.m. ET on ESPN), which will take place Monday at Coors Field.
“It’s functional art, which is really, really awesome,” Alonso told ESPN.
Siff — using as his canvas bats provided by Alonso’s sponsor, Dove Tail Bats — painted Alonso’s life story onto the lumber.
“I put all of these kinds of important messages and important moments in his life and kind of interweaved them onto all the bats,” Siff said.
Siff created graphics depicting things meaningful to Alonso, with phrases such as “Family First”, “Truth, Beauty, Love, Baseball”, “LFGM” and “Molon Labe” — a Greek phrase meaning “come and take them” stemming from Alonso’s love of the movie “300”.
“Anytime I’m in the box, that’s my mentality,” Alonso said. “Even though I’m outnumbered nine to one, I’m in my little area, like when the Spartans defended, only 300 of them defended against all odds. That’s how I describe how I play. I have that on my cleats and the inside part of my belt. That’s me transforming into somebody else when I go play because who I am now, there’s a lot different the man I am between the lines. That’s my switch.”
Among the bats is one painted purple, silver and black, dedicated to his grandfather, who moved from Spain before World War II to start a new life in New York City and attended NYU, the inspiration for the colors.
“It’s kind of full circle,” Alonso said. “Because for me, I started my professional career in New York in the big leagues and my dad was born in Queens, so this city is very special to me. I mean, with purple, people may think it’s the Rockies colors, but they’re really NYU colors dedicated to my grandpa.”
While MLB currently doesn’t allow players to use painted bats during games, Alonso said the rise of the sport’s sneaker culture and success of Players Weekend should nudge MLB to allow the functional art in games.
“I don’t see an issue at all,” Alonso said. “There could be a lot of red tape with that one, but I think I have no issue at all with guys being able to use whatever color bats they want.”
Alonso and Siff also created a line of merchandise to complement the bats, with portions of the proceeds going toward Alonso’s charity, Homers for Heroes. Replicas of the bats Alonso will use at the Derby will also be on sale to benefit the charity.
Siff previously teamed up with Topps to illustrate a line of baseball cards and worked with brands like Helmut Lang and Yves Saint Laurent. After Siff painted a mural live at ComplexCon on behalf of Major League Baseball, he got a call from Alonso’s marketing manager, Jon Einalhori, asking if he’d be interested in working together. Siff, who grew up a Mets fan, jumped at the opportunity.
“Pete was down with the vibe that I was painting, this kind of line style, stream of consciousness,” Siff said. “What I’m working on for Pete is that I tell the story of the player and infuse that into the bat. I also wanted to do some gear and I wanted to make something that’s not just what you wear to a game that says, ‘Go team,’ but something you could show up to a party or event, and that’s how it started.”
When Siff sent photos of the bats to Alonso, the reply was enthusiastic.
Said Alonso: “I can’t wait to smash some balls with these things.”